Highways Agency to take more hands on control of maintenance contracts

The Highways Agency’s shift to government company status as Highways England, now confirmed with the passing of the Infrastructure Act, could be prompting a rethink on its maintenance contracting strategy to take more direct ownership of design, maintenance and construction.

 The Agency announced today that it is going to use East Midlands area 7 to take forward  a change in the way it works with its supply chain and separate the way it  runs design, routine maintenance and construction in the region.

Current strategy is to wrap up work into Asset Support Contracts and allow incumbent contractor/design teams to plan work against a set of outputs. Many of the ASCs have gone out to tender in recession with bids reflecting that economic terror but as recovery gathers paces the Agency is querying whether they can be delivered as proposed, particularly to quality targets.

Areas 4, 12, 1, 13 and 14 are continuing on a revised timetable. Area 7 was to be the last to move to the ASC system.

The Agency said that it is not doing away with ASCs. The first one to be let in area 2 has four to six years still to run.

Transition from Agency to Highways England means a different way of working, today’s announcement suggested. The new company is going to be directly responsible to road users and will be judged on customer satisfaction which means it needs to be seen to be more closely in control of the works on the network.

“We are committed to continually driving improvement in how our roads are maintained; improved and operated so that we can provide the best possible quality of service to road users,” the Agency said.

“As we go forward we will be using contract arrangements that best suit the particular type of work required.

“Asset Support Contracts are one key part of the Agency’s ability to successfully deliver its objectives and we have successfully awarded six such contracts which are now operational in various parts of the country. We believe that by incorporating lessons learnt from our experience of these we will be able to award further ones which will be able to fully support the delivery of a significant increase in investment over the next five years.

“The procurement programme for the existing Asset Support Contracts will continue with a revised timetable with Areas 4 and 12 being invited to tender by mid-March and areas 1, 13 and 14 by the end of June.

“At the same time we recognise we need to take more ownership of investment decisions and increase our intelligence on local factors that influence where work is most needed. This will also help drive down cost; remove waste and provide the best possible value for money for taxpayers.

“We have an opportunity to do that where a contract is coming to the end of its term in the East Midlands, and so we will review the way that we work with our supply chain there to deliver maintenance and small improvements by separating how we manage and run design, routine maintenance and construction.”

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