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Big names in £1bn Forth Bridge duel

Two heavyweight consortiums will compete for the main construction package for Scotland’s largest infrastructure project: the £2.3 billion Forth Replacement Crossing.

It will be an international duel, with the British, French and Dutch team Forthspan taking on Forth Crossing Contractors, which is made up of British, German, Spanish and US firms.

The two consortiums were the only teams to submit expressions of interest for the fixed-price contract – worth between £900 million and £1.2bn – to build Britain’s most significant new bridge in 20 years.

But both make for worthy adversaries. Forthspan, which comprises Balfour Beatty, Bam Nuttall, Morgan Est and Vinci Construction Grands Projets, has a combined group turnover of £50.8bn.

All four contractors have a solid record of delivering major infrastructure schemes, and they claim that together they have the “full range of skills, resources and technical expertise required for such a large-scale project”.

Vinci Construction Grands Projets, which was responsible for the second Severn crossing, is currently building the Friendship Bridge, a 40 km causeway linking Qatar and Bahrain in the Gulf.

Bam adds to the consortium’s international bridge-building experience, with projects such as the famous 2.8 km Rion Antirion Bridge in Greece. Balfour is already involved in costly corrosion repairs to the existing Forth bridge, while Vinci worked with Morgan Est on the Clackmannanshire bridge in Scotland.

Forthspan has appointed a team of Halcrow, Cowi A/S and WA Fairhurst and Partners to design the bridge and extensive roadworks on the scheme.

Forth Crossing Contractors, made up of Hochtief, ACS, American Bridge Company and Morrison Construction, have a combined group turnover of £33.6bn, as well as their fair share of experience on major infrastructure schemes around the world.

American Bridge Company built the world’s longest cablestayed bridge, the 9 km Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Florida.

Spanish infrastructure and energy expert ACS has signed a £450m contract to build the 11 km Mid-Currituck County Bridge in North Carolina.

Hochtief subsidiary Flatiron this year won the design and build contract for a £1.3bn cable-stayed bridge over the Fraser River in Vancouver, Canada. In 2005 it finished 36 bridge structures under a £186m contract as part of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link.

Meanwhile Morrison Construction, which was bought by Galliford Try in 2006, provides a strong Scottish element to the Forth Crossing Contractors team.

Morrison is already working for Transport Scotland on a job to replace the Achnambeithach Bridge on the A82 at Glencoe.

There are many suggestions as to why only two teams fronted up for the scheme, but one source said it could be down to the clout carried by the two big hitters. “It’s probably that they’ve taken a look at those going for it and thought ‘are we able to beat those teams?’

Both teams are very strong and it would be difficult to get the quality in to overhaul them. You need multi-billionpound turnover for a job like this.”

Transport Scotland is carrying out due diligence with the two consortiums, which is scheduled to last a couple of weeks. It is expected that the teams will be invited to tender next month.

The final contract will be awarded in spring 2011, with work starting later that year.