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Network Rail director: contractors must improve to win work on £2.3bn programme

Network Rail’s programme director for Crossrail has told contractors to improve their performance if they want to win a chunk of the £2.3 billion joint programme.

Jorge Mendonca told CN he was “worried about contractor competence” ahead of the award of several major contracts from the programme during the next six months.

He said: “I have seen some examples of where some relatively straightforward jobs haven’t gone as they should have gone.

“That’s a concern when you consider the volume of work we have a head of us.”

In May, the two rail bodies agreed the funding package for Network Rail to carry out infrastructure and surface works to enable Crossrail services to Maidenhead, Heathrow, Abbey Wood and Shenfield.

The strict timetable imposed by the need for Crossrail to open in 2018 meant Network Rail had to be “very careful” in its procurement process, Mr Mendonca said.

“I am a bit worried about contractor competence,” he said.

“I have experience in my four years in this job of relatively straightforward work not going well when a supposedly experienced contractor has come to take the piece on.

“This whole thing has to be complete by September 2018 and in Christmas and Easter to a large extent while we keep the operational railway going.

“One of the key determinants for people winning major bits of this work is the demonstration that they understand how to deliver work in a live railway environment – that’s absolutely key.

“It’s the quality of the people, the team that’s put forward.

“At the end of the day I’m not going to pay people to supervise contractors that don’t appear to know how to make it work. That’s the challenge.

“We have experience of having to hold the hand occasionally and bluntly, that’s not what we pay for.”

Contracts update:

  • Acton Diveunder main civil work: to be awarded end October 2012
  • West outer signalling: invite to tender issued November 2012
  • Stockley flyover main civil work: to be awarded December 2012
  • Contracts for track works and overhead line equipment: to be awarded December 2012
  • Western stations detailed design and construction: contract awarded spring 2013
  • North-eastern stations detailed design and construction: to be tendered spring 2013


Mr Mendonca said while he didn’t want to discourage innovation, he would be seeking contractors who were reliable, as “scope for doing things differently is more limited” due to the intense schedule of works.

Among the high-profile jobs being sought is the main civils contract for the Acton diveunder, worth up to £30m, which CN understands is between Bam Nuttall, Carillion, Laing O’Rourke and Skanska.

VolkerFitzpatrick and VolkerRail have previously won contracts on the site for work including line track renewals, installation of new switch and crossings, associated switch operating mechanisms and modification to the overhead line system.

CN revealed in May that Carillion, Morgan Sindalland Skanska are the final three to build a flyover near the existing Stockley Flyover in Hillingdon, west London, in a scheme worth up to £50 million.

Both contracts are due to be awarded in the next six weeks, while Balfour Beatty, Costain, Kier, Skanska and Vinci will fight it out for two contracts to design and build 13 stations on the western section of Crossrail’s Acton Main Line to Maidenhead route.

Those deals will be awarded early next year, and Network Rail is currently considering how to include joint incentives, including financial incentives, to ensure both contractors work together to keep the programme of works on time.

Network Rail’s Crossrail programme includes upgrading 43 miles of track, improving 27 stations and renewing 20 bridges.

On the western spur, new station buildings are required at Acton Main Line, Southall, West Ealing and Hayes & Harlington and a major renovation at Ealing Broadway including an enlarged ticket hall, new footbridge, new lifts and pedestrianised forecourt.

The North-east section of Crossrail will include renovations at 13 stations, with station designs due to be formally submitted to the local authorities late this year or early next year.

Mr Mendonca said he is sure the supply chain can deliver the works on time, but that challenges will include plant capacity for Network Rail nationwide.

He added that talks are ongoing with Crossrail about the capacity of the supply chain and key ‘dependency dates’ that Crossrail expects to hit to ensure works progress on time.

Current work:

  • Acton dive-under: Acton Freight Yard is being developed to ensure freight trains can leave the yard without conflicting with passenger trains. A new dive-under at the west end of the yard is being built and is due for completion in 2016.
  • Stockley flyover: As part of the Crossrail works, a new flyover is being built at Stockley Flyover to provide conflict-free crossing of the main line. The Stockley Flyover is located in the busy Heathrow Airport Junction area, servicing trains to and from Heathrow as well as along the Great Western main line. When Crossrail services begin in 2018, even more trains will travel along the lines so work is needed to improve capacity in the area. Enabling work started on site this year.
  • Bridge work: Several bridges along the route will need to be adapted to ensure they can accommodate the overhead line equipment needed for the electric Crossrail trains. This includes the reconstruction of Old Stockley Bridge and Horton Bridge in West Drayton and Trenches Bridge and Middlegreen Bridge in Langley, Slough, over Christmas 2012 and Easter 2013.
  • Platform extensions: Platform extensions currently taking place at West Drayton and Langley stations to allow for the new Crossrail trains. This work will be completed in December 2012.
  • Maidenhead: The Crossrail work around Maidenhead Station can be broken into two areas: the site compound work and station work. Work on the site compound began last month. In its final state this area will be utilised for six stabling sidings and staff accommodation for drivers and cleaners. However, in the period before this area is operational the site will be used as a compound for Crossrail works.

Crossrail tunnelling update:

Meanwhile, tunnelling has restarted on one of Crossrail’s two active tunnel boring machines after both were brought to a standstill last week.

Tunnelling resumed on Monday at around 10.30am. Stockpile levels of tunnelling spoil at Royal Oak have been sufficiently reduced and tunnelling can now recommence.

CN revealed earlier this month that Crossrail had temporarily halted ‘Ada’, one of its tunnel boring machines, as investigations continued into the collapse of a hopper at Westbourne Park.

It was then forced to halt ‘Phyllis’ last week to allow the site team to focus on excavated material removal at Royal Oak.

A Crossrail spokesman said: “Tunnelling has now recommenced with Phyllis progressing from Paddington towards Bond Street.

“Ada will recommence tunnelling next week, as will the direct loading of rail freight wagons ahead of transport to Northfleet.”

More than 1 million tonnes of earth will be excavated during the tunnelling construction of Crossrail’s 6.4 km western tunnels between Royal Oak Portal and Farringdon station.

Excavated material is transferred from Northfleet by ship to regeneration sites, including a new RSPB nature reserve at Wallasea Island, Essex.

The rail client has said that the work programme for the western tunnels will not be affected by the machines being halted. The tunnels are due to be completed in late 2013.

An investigation into the cause of the collapse of the hopper, which feeds excavated material into wagons at Westbourne Park,is ongoing with contractors BFK (a joint venture of Bam Nuttall, Ferrovial and Kier).

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