TRANSCO has slashed its list of approved contractors for major pipeline deals following a downturn in workload.
The gas transporter has kept just four contractors - Laing, Murphy, Entrepose and a Nacap/Lawrence joint venture - as approved firms for the biggest high-pressure gas pipeline schemes.
The decision leaves no place on the list for Alfred McAlpine/ PPS or Australian company McConnell Dowell.
Alfred McAlpine and McConnell Dowell have both been plagued by problems on pipeline projects. McAlpine went to adjudication with Transco after setbacks on the Hadlow to High Halden scheme in Kent, while McConnell Dowell's Salmesbury to Helmshore contract in Lancashire almost doubled the original £16 million budget.
One industry source said:
'Alfred McAlpine and McConnell Dowell have been involved in some nightmare jobs. There had been a lot of speculation that the list would be cut down and it is no surprise that these two haven't made the cut.'
The four rivals are now set to scrap for Transco's biggest job this year - the 100 km liquid nitrogen gas pipeline from Milford Haven to Aberdulais in south Wales, which will be let in two sections. The scheme is due to be tendered this summer for construction in 2005.
A Transco spokesman said:
'The new design and build list reflects a downturn of work in the UK gas transmission business. It is not a reflection of the capability of the UK market.
'This list is organic and will be reviewed continuously.'
He denied the decisions had been made after problems on particular contracts.
A seventh pipeline player, Amec/Spie, stopped bidding for Transco deals last October, citing high risk and low margins.
Transco took the firm to task last summer following a string of safety breaches on the West Hull reinforcement project.
Transco named GEL, Penspen, Haswell and BPA as design consultants for the bidders.