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Crossrail sets strategy with early procurement expert

Former Highways Agency director Steve Rowsell to advise on huge London rail project

Crossrail has drafted in former Highways Agency procurement director Steve Rowsell to help define the type of contracts to be used on the £16 billion project.

Cross London Rail Links chair-man Doug Oakervee wants an Early Contractor Involvement-style procurement strategy after being impressed with how they work at the agency.

Mr Rowsell was the architect of the ECI deals. Mr Oakervee sat on the committee of the otherwise damning Nichols Review in March of the agency’s major roads programme which came out in support of the ECI method.

Rowsell Wright, the consultancy Mr Rowsell set up earlier this year with another ex-agency man, former supply chain director Gary Wright, is expected to be working with CLRL over the next 18 months.

ECI was introduced to bring contractors on board at a much earlier stage and so avoid constant redesigns.

One potential Crossrail bidder, who has worked on ECI schemes before, said: “The whole point of ECI is to use our expertise in finalising designs, make sure we can build what we’re asked to and do it on time.”

Crossrail tenders will comprise a technical bid followed by a financial pitch which Mr Oakervee said would alert bidders to the risks involved.

He added: “We have big contracts and there is bound to be foreign involvement. We are using this process because we cannot afford any more than £16 billion.

“The industry has the opportunity to make this work and I certainly have no other option.”

Mr Oakervee said he is liaising with clients leading other major projects to avoid a labour shortage in the capital once work on Crossrail starts in 2010.

Meetings have taken place with utilities companies to ensure poor logistics do not bring London to a standstill.

CLRL is holding more discussions with utility firms next month. It will talk to Thames Water, EDF Energy, National Grid and BT.

One of the biggest concerns is the £2.2 billion Thames Tideway sewage tunnel which runs from Beckton in the east to both Abbey Wood to the south and Hammersmith in the west.

Thames Tideway, designed to prevent the overflow of sewage into the Thames, is due to be built at the same time as Crossrail’s central tunnel section.

Mr Oakervee said: “Once we have a holistic picture in terms of supply chain and labour we can ease a lot of the problems.”

Mr Oakervee said he was also talking to London Underground and Network Rail about potential engineering and staffing pinch points.