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Preview of the Year – Roads

Exciting times are ahead for contractors in the roads sector, with a bumper year of deals and reform of the Highways Agency to come in 2014.

The early part of the year will focus on the biggest prize available to roads contractors: the Highways Agency’s £5bn collaborative delivery framework.

The deal, which will start in Q4 of this year, will be crucial for those looking to win work and firms that deliver successful schemes early in the framework will win bigger deals on a sliding scale.

Invitations to tender are expected to be issued this month, with a maximum of 28 firms to be appointed across four lots.

Route to contracts

By the end of the year, the Highways Agency will have a series of route-based frameworks in place to delivaer maintenance and guaranteed works for several years to come.

Asset support contracts worth £350m for Area 4 (Kent, Surrey, Sussex) and £475m for Area 12 (Yorkshire and Humberside) will be awarded, with individual deals including the A21 Tonbridge to Pembury dualling (up to £72m) and A63 Castle Street improvement (up to £134m) also due to appoint contractors.

Road reformation

The Highways Agency will undergo major reform in the coming years. The industry will learn the first steps towards the transformation of the body into a government-owned company later this year, when the Department for Transport sets out the delivery expectations of the organisation up to 2021.

“A long-term funding pipeline is crucial, as will be the ability of the Highways Agency to procure work smoothly”

A long-term funding pipeline is crucial, as will be the ability of the Highways Agency to procure work smoothly and avoid the problems experienced on some of its asset support contracts, which have seen contractor complaints and award delays.

The government has also set out its draft national policy statement to attempt to speed up planning decisions on roads schemes with the aim of easing traffic congestion.

But it will continue to come under pressure to set out guidelines on user charging and private investment, having scrapped plans to toll the planned A14 scheme between Cambridge and Huntingdon.

Local prospects

Up to 40 local authority road management and maintenance contracts are expected to be let in the next four years, with deals in the Midlands and managed motorways in the North-west among the first to be announced.

But local authorities will come under pressure to tighten their budgets, with some already predicting having to make savings of more than 30 per cent.

The long-running sagas behind procurement of the £745m Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route and A90 Balmedie-Tipperty schemes should finally draw to a close.

A preferred bidder announcement is expected in the summer, after the AWPR was first given the green light five years ago.

Highways Agency funding was reduced by more than 40 per cent from 2010/11 to 2013/14.

But work will be boosted this year, with just under a third of the £4.3bn-worth of highway investment plans set out by the government in its spending review scheduled to start in 2014.

The government claims that, with more than 200 roads schemes announced for construction, almost 10,000 jobs will be supported in the sector next year alone.

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