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Sun November 29 2020

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Fluor handed management of UK smart motorway programme

27 Apr Highways England has signed an alliance with six companies to develop, design and construct the future smart motorway programme.

The 10-year framework deal is expected to deliver £4.5bn-worth of highways work, installing variable message board gantries and removing motorway hard shoulders to install all-lane running.

The alliance comprises, in old fashioned terms, a project manager in overall charge, three contractors and two consulting engineers.

In modern parlance, however, they are described as production management partners, on-site assembly partners and digitally enabled design partners.

The project manager/production manager, who will lead and coordinate the alliance members, is Fluor – a US firm (with $19bn annual revenues) better known in the UK for its work in the petrochemcial and energy sectors.

Fluor previously led the National Roads Telecommunications Services project for Highways England, a 10-year public-private partnership (PPP) to put in the roadside communication technology that links to the national traffic control and police control centres.

The three contractors/assemblers are Costain, Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering and BAM Nuttall/ Morgan Sindall Joint Venture.

The consulting engineers/digitally enabled designers are WSP and Jacobs.

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The smart motorway programme was recently paused for a few weeks while the safety of existing stretches was re-assessed, following a revelatory BBC Panorama documentary. [See our previous report here.]

However, in March the transport secretary approved its resumption on the condition of more refuge areas and traffic signs.

Highways England said that the alliance will start with a two-week initiation phase within the next couple of months. During this phase of mobilisation of the alliance the partners will come together to establish how they will best work together. 

A Highways England spokesperson said:  “Today’s announcement marks the start of a pioneering new approach to how Highways England does business. The 10-year framework will see us join forces with six partners to safely deliver a key element of the government’s second road investment strategy.

“The framework will enable the industry to put greater emphasis on the standardised design, so where there are common elements across a programme, such as gantries and variable message signs, they can be produced and can be ordered ‘off the shelf’. 

“By establishing this building block approach to road building, the intention is to transform productivity by increase efficiencies and decrease overall costs.”

Costain chief executive Alex Vaughan said: "This programme approach seeks a step change in delivery performance.”

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