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NCE Live News Updates: Tuesday 24 September: Big day for highways contractors; Luton busway opens; Balls throws HS2 curveball

The Highways Agency is today outlining how contractors can bid for its new £5bn framework at a supplier day in Birmingham; meanwhile Luton Borough Council has opened its new Guided Bus.

Busy day today. Here are the headlines:

  • Luton to Dunstable guided busway opens
  • Highways Agency outlines how contractors can bid for its new £5bn framework
  • Shadow chancellor Ed Balls throws future of High Speed 2 into doubt (again)
  • Network Rail reveals £15M plan to tackle East Coast Main Line

2pm: Network Rail reveals details of £15M investment aimed at improving the reliability of the infrastructure and punctuality of train services on the East Coast Main Line.

Focusing particularly on the southern end of the line, Network Rail is redoubling its efforts to improve performance on this critical piece of railway infrastructure following a series of engineering overruns, infrastructure failures and increase in railway fatalities which have affected passengers.

The programme of work includes increased tunnel maintenance and track renewal work, a number of measures to reduce overhead line incident risks, such as helicopter patrols, booster transformer modifications, inspections using pole mounted cameras, vegetation clearance and bird strike mitigations.

 

1pm: Upskilling the UK supply chain is to be a major thrust of the Highways Agency’s new £5bn Collaborative Delivery Framework, NCE can reveal.

The Agency will use the new agreement for up to £5bn of schemes over the next four to six years and will start prequalifying firms next month. Work will be broken up into four lots covering engineering design services and then small, medium and large-value construction jobs.

Critically, the upper threshold on the two lower-value construction lots will increase over the life of the project. This will allow suppliers to bid for bigger jobs as their skills and capabilities develop.

Read the full story here


11.45am: Luton to Dunstable guided busway opens

Designed and built for Luton Borough Council and Central Bedfordshire Council by Bam Nuttall, the innovative transportation project will relieve traffic congestion in the region through the provision of a dedicated route for public transport.

Parsons Brinckerhoff worked in an integrated joint venture with Arup on the tender design of the busway, detail design, construction details, as-built drawings and site support for contractor Bam Nuttall. The work included the construction of seven new bridges and refurbishment/reconstruction of three bridges along the route, the construction of four new high specification bus stops and a major bus interchange at Luton Railway Station - resulting in links to Luton Town Centre, the railway network and providing easy access to Luton Airport.

The service will, for the first time, provide a reliable and efficient 15 minute public transport link between the two main town centres. Overall, the route involves over 10km of segregated bus-only road from Luton Airport through Dunstable to Houghton Regis in Bedfordshire. A 7.5km section of the busway is ‘guided’ – using the disused Luton-Dunstable railway corridor – through which buses will use a fixed corridor formed from six metre long precast concrete beams. This allows standard buses, fitted with two small guide wheels, to join and leave the track, and travel on it in both directions smoothly and safely at speeds of up to 50 miles per hour.

Read all about it in NCE’s in-depth feature here.

11.40am: Update from last night when shadow chancellor Ed Balls threw the the future of High Speed 2 into doubt by warning that he was ready to veto the controversial £50bn scheme if Labour wins the next general election.

The shadow Chancellor told an Independent fringe meeting at the Labour Party conference that he was not prepared to write a “blank cheque” to fund HS2.

Promising a review of the proposals by an incoming Labour government, he said: “We’ve got to make it clear we are not going to go ahead regardless.

“For every billion we spend on HS2 is a billion pounds we cannot spend on roads, cross country rail, affordable houses, hospitals and schools.

“It is not about whether HS2 is a good project it is about whether it is the best use of resources. If it is, then we will go ahead.”

In response Sir John Armitt leapt to the scheme’s defence on Radio 4’s Today Programme this morning.

11.30am: Balfour Beatty has started work on a project to protect nearly two kilometers of the Humber Estuary against flooding for the Environment Agency.

Humber flood defences

The £2.7M contract is the first phase of a wider scheme to protect thousands of homes and businesses in Grimsby. It includes the creation of a 1.3km long precast concrete wave wall, repairs to existing concrete defences and improvements to the shore-line earth embankment.

The scheme will use specialist heavy machinery provided by Balfour Beatty’s plant hire business, BPH, including a 180-tonne crawler crane which is one of the largest in use in the UK.

The scheme will stretch from the Fish Docks to the western end of the Cleethorpes North Sea Wall and is due for completion in July 2014.

10am: Big day for roads contractors today, with the Highways Agency outlining how contractors can bid for its new £5bn framework at a supplier day in Birmingham.

The new-style Collaborative Delivery Framework will be used for between £4bn to £5bn of schemes over the next four to six years and the Agency will start prequalifying firms next month.

The plan is to break the work up into three lots covering engineering design services, medium-value and high-value construction jobs.

It replaces the current major projects framework which expires in March 2014 and has been worth up to £2bn for Balfour Beatty, Bam Nuttall, Morgan Est, Carillion, Costain and Serco.

But the next framework is set to be worth considerably more thanks to the increase in funding for the Highways Agency announced in this year’s Spending Round.

NCE hopes to talk to the Agency’s major projects boss Peter Adams later today.

 

9.30am: A major £5.3M project to make the iconic Hawarden bridge across the River Dee stronger, allowing more trains to cross, is now underway.

The main truss of the railway bridge, which was built in 1887, will be strengthened with new steel plates and given a new coat of paint to protect it from corrosion and improve the bridge’s appearance.

The is expected to take about 12 months.

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