CN’s top 10 most-read stories feature HS2 deals, high-profile administrations, major contracts and moving tributes.
Our most-read story of 2016 was CN’s exclusive reveal of the preferred bidders for £900m-worth of enabling works on High Speed 2.
The shortlists for the three phase one packages had been unveiled 11 months prior in December 2015, with this story marking the end of a long wait for the contractors involved – coming two months later than initially planned by HS2.
A series of joint ventures scooped up the work: Laing O’Rourke / Murphy won the northern section of the line; Morgan Sindall / Bam Nuttall / Ferrovial’s Fusion JV took the central deal; and Costain / Skanska won the southern section.
Work will cover site clearance, demolition, structural reinforcements, drainage and other associated work and is set to begin early next year.
The winners were officially confirmed on 15 November, over a week after CN revealed who had been successful.
Next on the agenda for HS2 bidders are the £11.8bn civils packages, which are due to be awarded next year.
Colleagues at Building Lives and Lakehouse paid tribute to their founder Steve Rawlings, who passed away in July at the age of 62.
Mr Rawlings established the building maintenance contractor Lakehouse in 1988, running it from his bedroom before eventually turning it into a £340m-turnover business.
In 2014 he stepped down as chief executive of the company to concentrate on Building Lives, a network of academies that has given hundreds of disadvantaged young people a route into the construction industry, which sadly closed in 2016 after failing to secure long-term investment.
Tributes from across the industry flooded in following his death. Former Lakehouse chief executive Sean Birrane described Mr Rawlings as “a mentor and father figure” to him for many years.
He added: “He helped me and many others develop our potential to the maximum and consistently reminded me of how important it is to nurture people through trust and support. Aspiration both for oneself and for others was important to him as it should be for all of us.”
National Housing Federation chief executive and Building Lives chairman David Orr described Mr Rawlings as a “truly remarkable man”.
The highest-profile contractor administration this year was that of concrete specialist Dunne Group.
News first broke with our exclusive story in July, when we reported that workers from Dunne Group and its subsidiaries had been sent home from multiple sites including 100 Bishopsgate in London.
The company’s most recent accounts showed a group turnover of £54.8m for 2014, with a pre-tax profit of £756,000. Among the significant projects in its portfolio were the Royal Hospital for Sick Children in Edinburgh and One Blackfriars in London.
As workers were being sent home, it was unclear what the firm’s status was – but it soon emerged that the company was in trouble, falling into administration with 524 jobs axed.
This wasn’t the end of the story, though. Keltbray swooped in to buy some of the collapsed contractor’s assets, setting up a new reinforced concrete frame business in the process – Keltbray Structures.
Fatalities sadly increased in the construction industry in 2015/16, with HSE stats showing that 43 died in the year to the end of March – not including the three men who were still missing at Didcot Power Station at that point.
In April, another tragedy struck as a construction worker on the Queensferry Crossing died, with another injured.
Both men worked for main contractor Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors, a consortium featuring Galliford Try subsidiary Morrison, Dragados, Hochtief and American Bridge International.
The worker who died in the incident on the bridge’s north tower was later named as John Grant Cousin, 62, from Northumbria, with the BBC reporting that he was thought to have been hit by the moving boom of a crane.
Wanda One Nine Elms 2
Interserve, in a joint venture with China State Construction Engineering Corporation, was selected by client Wanda One to build the £900m One Nine Elms project in April 2015 – a decision that raised eyebrows at the time.
But in March this year we reported that Interserve was off the scheme, with negotiations around price thought to be the sticking point.
Instead, Wanda One was retendering the job, with Balfour Beatty and Brookfield Multiplex submitting individual bids after being approached by the client.
While Dunne Group was the highest-profile contractor administration of the year, the demise of plant hire firm Hewden was just as significant.
The company had been racing against the clock to refinance £190m of borrowings, which were due to expire in the coming months, and was working with restructuring specialist Deloitte to refinance or sell the business.
But talks to find a backer failed to materialise and the firm fell into administration.
Ashtead Plant Hire Company stepped in to buy three divisions of the Hewden Group for £29m, with 133 staff transferring over – but 251 staff were made redundant as well, with another 92 jobs going a week later to bring the total to 343.
Capita HS2 High Speed 2
In the second High Speed 2 story to make our top 10 most read, we exclusively revealed the seven firms shortlisted for packages on phase two worth a total of £520m.
Four teams are battling it out for the £350m professional services contract: joint ventures between Aecom / Capita / Ineco, Mott MacDonald / WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff and Atkins / Arcadis, plus Arup as a sole bidder.
The three firms in the running for the phase two programme delivery partner meanwhile are CH2M, Bechtel and a JV between Mace and Turner & Townsend.
The preferred bidders for both packages were due to be announced before the end of this year, but the outcome is still to be revealed.
The battle over the location of a new runway in the South-east dominated the national headlines this year, with Heathrow eventually winning the government’s support.
Outside of that major decision, however, Gatwick Airport continued to press ahead with its other construction plans, selecting nearly 20 contractors for two major frameworks worth a total of £750m.
Balfour Beatty, Bam Nuttall, Interserve and Murphy were all named among the 17 preferred bidders on the frameworks that will cover Gatwick’s £1.2bn capital investment programme, split into medium-complexity and low-complexity projects.
The announcement came a week after Gatwick added an extra £200m to its capital investment programme – and in October the airport’s development director told the CN Summit it would press ahead with plans for a new runway even if Heathrow got the nod.
CSCS site smart cards
In October 2015, a BBC Newsnight investigation revealed that construction workers were paying cash to fraudulently pass CSCS tests.
This led the CITB to launch its own investigation, closing down five internet testing centres and retesting thousands of workers in the process.
Come January, the CITB announced that a total of 4,615 cards had been withdrawn as part of the ongoing probe, with more than 6,000 candidates who had completed their health, safety and environment test and more than 2,000 people who had completed the site safety plus certificate being retested.
The investigation was a blow to the industry’s image at a time when significant progress had been made in health and safety, as well as in ensuring site workers are properly trained and qualified.
A consortium of Spanish and Korean contractors will build a new £650m biomass plant in Teesside, in this story rounding out our top 10.
The joint venture between Spain-based Tecnicas Reunidas and Korean firm Samsung Construction & Trading will lead construction on the long-awaited Tees Renewable Energy Plan at Teesport near Middlesbrough, one of the biggest biomass plants in the world at 299 MWe.
It was previously proposed by developer MGT Power in 2007 but had failed to secure funding until this year.
This story’s popularity was widely down to sharing via social media, with huge amounts of interest on both LinkedIn and Facebook in particular.