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New contractors wanted at Gatwick as £1bn investment planned

Gatwick’s construction director has insisted new contractors will be able to win work in the coming years, despite several firms on its construction frameworks failing to land deals.

Derek Hendry admitted it was hard for new contractors to get established at the airport, but insisted he wanted to see newcomers winning work.

“What can be a challenge for contractors is getting that first win and getting set up at Gatwick, which is a difficult place to work at and there’s quite a bit of investment needed to get established,” he said.

“But we have an open dialogue with them and we are looking for opportunities wherever we can to bring new contractors into Gatwick.”

He added: “We need to be selective in the way we are tendering and awarding projects.

“We had an office refurbishment package to go out [recently] that was less operationally critical and we managed to get a new contractor [Cleshar] in and that’s allowed them to get established and on that learning curve.”

Cleshar is one of three contractors to have won work for the first time at Gatwick in the past year, along with Bam Nuttall and Skanska.

Balfour Beatty, Bouygues, Carillion, Costain, Laing O’Rourke, Mace, Morgan Sindall, Vinci, VolkerFitzpatrick and Willmott Dixon are currently on the £1.2bn improvement and upgrades framework at the airport.

Mr Hendry confirmed Gatwick will go back out to the market in around a year for the new framework and that “suffice to say, if contractors are performing well they will be in a good position to keep themselves on that framework”.

Future focus

Gatwick Airport is now using BIM on projects worth more than £300m.

Mr Hendry said the feedback he had received from contractors was that by using BIM on schemes, it was “enabling them to turn around their bids faster and bid more accurately”.

The airport will start to focus on reducing rework on construction in the coming months. “The next drive is minimising rework,” he said. “The cost and time it takes from everyone to come back and fix things that aren’t right first time is difficult.

“We are now starting to measure rework that is occurring and we’re sharing that with contractors at the airport. We’ll use that information to drive initiatives and see where we can minimise that for everybody.”

He said BIM and safety continued to be crucial themes when working with contractors, adding that the airport went 14 months without a reportable incident from February 2012 until April of this year.

He said: “Safety is so important in an airport, we want to work with contractors and their safety programmes rather than impose a Gatwick programme.”

Among the main contracts to be awarded from the framework recently have been VolkerFitzpatrick’s critical £30m runway resurfacing job, which was completed on time last year, while Carillion was chosen for a £75m revamp of Pier 5 and Morgan Sindall landed the £16.7m South Terminal Airside Development project.

Vinci started work this week on the biggest contract to be awarded through the framework: a £184m deal to transform Pier 1 in the South Terminal.

Jason Griffiths, regional director at Vinci Construction UK’s air division, said: “The demolition of Pier 1 is a significant point in this prestigious project and means Gatwick is one step closer in completing its transformation.”

Mr Hendry said Vinci’s pedigree of working at Gatwick with a very strong record had worked in its favour when being considered for the deal.

“They put forward a very credible bid for the work,” he said.

“We did quite a lot of work with them post-tender when they were the preferred supplier to work on the details of the baggage system to prove it would work and then awarded the contract.

“The market is very competitive, we have some good contractors on the framework and we’re seeing good quality bids coming through.”

Between 2014 and 2020 the airport expects to spend around £1bn in construction, of which about £350m will be in asset replacement such as replacing lifts and escalators or refurbishing offices.

Around £400m or so will be in new development projects, with much of the investment being allocated to the north terminal.

Mr Hendry said there would be a “good mix of projects that will suit both the big and smaller players”.

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