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Winning construction work: Roads

The Highways Agency has £2 billion a year to spend on motorways and trunk roads

The world of highways is more than just building roads – it ranges from maintenance and small improvements to the erection of gantries and refurbishing tunnels.

The Highways Agency is responsible for the management and development of England’s motorway and trunk road network, with a budget of more than £2 billion per annum.

The majority of the agency’s work is delivered through its supply chain, focusing on contractors, maintaining agents and consultants.

The work carried out by the Highways Agency is split into fourteen geographical areas, and each area has a Managing Agent Contract who is responsible for carrying out minor maintenance, repair and improvement works.

Larger one-off contracts are published in the Official Journal of the European Union and the agency also uses the Office of Government Commerce’s Catalist frameworks to procure suppliers.

In January transport secretary Geoff Hoon outlined radical plans to spend £6 billion on increasing capacity on the UK’s trunk road network.

In the document the Government committed itself to starting the following projects in this and the next financial year:

  1. Traffic management technology improvements on the A14 between Felixstowe and the M1.
  2. Upgrading the A1 to motorway standard between Dishforth and Barton
  3. Widening the M25 between junctions 16 and 23 in the north west and junctions 27 and 30 in the north east
  4. HSR (hard shoulder running) on the M1 J10-13 between Luton and Milton Keynes
  5. HSR on the M4 J19-20 and M5 J15-17 around Bristol

Highways Agency chief executive Graham Dalton says: “Every scheme will have a role for the construction, civil engineering and technology sectors and we will need to continue our close working relationships with our supply chain so we can delivery this programme efficiently and on schedule.”

The agency also has a programme of Local Network Management Schemes, comprising a large number of improvement projects each costing less than £10 million.

As part of this in 2009 the agency will delivery a scheme to widen the northbound M6 at its interchange with the M55. Work will involve the redesign of the interchange layout and adding a third lane to the last remaining two-lane section of the M6.

In addition it will deliver an additional southbound auxiliary lane to improve the capacity and the safety of the A12, between Hatfield Peverel and Witham.

Meanwhile, routine maintenance including making hazardous defects safe, clearing drains, ice/snow clearing and changing light bulbs will continue.

This is alongside the provision of road renewals such as footways, cycle tracks, safety fences, earthworks, street lights and drains, as well as structures renewals and repairs of bridges and underpasses, tunnels and gantries, masts and supports for large signs.

Working for the agency

Firms wishing to take on work for the Highways Agency no longer need to qualify for an approved supplier list, as the majority of procurement is done through frameworks and indirectly through managing agent contractors.

To work with the agency, suppliers need to have a Capability Toolkit Assessment, which helps to identify the strength of suppliers including a focus on diversity, innovation, risk management and corporate social responsibility.

To kick start this process suppliers can request a meeting with the Highways Agency, which will appoint a senior assessor.

A briefing meeting is arranged to ensure the supplier understands the CAT process and knows what to prepare for the assessor’s visit.

The briefing typically lasts 1.5 days and is held on the supplier’s premises, with three to four people participating. Following this a number of documents need to be submitted to the agency and an assessment will be carried out, leading to a CAT score.

The Highways Agency uses both capability and actual performance data to influence decisions relating to the selection of tenderers.

CAT scoring is out of a theoretical maximum of 288. Whilst there is a degree of grouping in overall supplier scores, there is a significant contrast in the indicator scoring profile behind each headline score.

This forensic information will be used to drive improvement and identify best practice.

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