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Costain awarded troubled bypass

COSTAIN has been confirmed winner of a 73.7 million contract to build the controversial Newbury bypass in Berkshire.


This is the third time that the firm has been in pole position to land the high profile contract and top staff are keeping their fingers crossed that a start on site will be made later this summer without further disruption.


The job first went out to tender in June 1994 and the original list read: Amec, Wimpey, Alfred McAlpine, Costain, Mowlem and Kier/Hochtief.


By November of that year Costain was being tipped in Construction News to land the job, which then had an official estimated price tag of just 46.4 million, but the firms price was reckoned to be 60million-plus.


On December 15 the firm had its tender acceptance period extended until January 8, but a week after this the then transport secretary, Brain Mawhinney, pulled the plug on the scheme just half an hour before Costain was due to sign the contract.


The official reason for this was that Mr Mawhinney wanted to carry out a review of all road schemes but informed opinion at the time suggested that he had bowed down in the face of anti-road protester pressure.


Then, in an equally surprising move, just an hour before quitting his position as transport secretary on June 13, 1995 Mr Mawhinney reinstated the project.


Costain, which had submitted the lowest tender first time round, was being lined up to take on the reinstated project but then the scheme fell foul of a DoT fear that it would breach the European procurement directive if it awarded the scheme directly to Costain.


This meant a retender and in August the DoT announced it would embark on a fast track tendering process. The list was similar to the first time round with the exception that Tarmac had replaced Wimpey.


The fast track tendering process did not really materialise with tender documents not being issued until December and the formal award being made six months later after at least two extensions of the tender acceptance period.


Even before the second rebid, contractors were estimated to have spent around 250,000 each on the tendering process and by now this bill is reckoned to be approaching 500,000.