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Regular news: Issue 596 11 May 2012

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Road management / Maintenance, England

Highway authorities play for time over future delivery arrangements

A quarter of England’s local highways contracts have passed their expected renewal date as authorities temporarily extend arrangements with existing contractors while developing new types of contracts.

The Government has unveiled updated construction pipeline data to inform suppliers about forthcoming work. For the first time, this includes information on when local highway authority contracts are up for renewal.

The information, obtained in an Association of Directors of Environment, economy, Planning and Transport survey of highway authorities, suggests that of 554 contracts, 132 have passed their renewal date.

LTT has identified that the reason for this in many cases is that the highway authorities have extended their contracts for short periods while collaborative or integrated contracts are developed. Some have not decided whether or not to move to these new arrangements.

Leeds City Council has extended its carriageway maintenance and slurry sealing contracts that were due to expire last year so it can join collaborative contracts the West Yorkshire authorities are developing.

Helen Franklin, head of highways services at Leeds, said: “We will move to the joint contracts when these are in place.” Kirklees and Calderdale have maintenance contracts due to expire this year but Wakefield’s 14 contracts mostly run to 2014.

A number of London boroughs have extended their contracts whilst they assess whether to join new collaborative contracts – Southwark has extended its twice (LTT 17 Feb).

Bristol City Council, meanwhile, has recently extended three maintenance contracts for four months whilst new contracts are finalised. The authority aims to let new contracts for surfacing, surface dressing and minor highways works by August.

These contracts were all due to expire in separate years but the authority had extended some so that they will now all be up for renewal in 2014. Shaun Taylor, highway maintenance manager at Bristol, said: “If you align all your contracts, you’ve scope to do something different in future.”

Officers at Bristol will present a report in the next year on options, including an integrated contract and collaborative procurement. Bath & North East Somerset and North Somerset have contracts due to expire in 2014.

Similarly, Milton Keynes has extended contracts pending the completion of a transformation programme in July that could propose an integrated contract. Andy Dickinson, highways network co-ordinator, said of the council’s five contracts past their renewal date: “We have extended those which were extendable. We will procure some schemes on a scheme-by-scheme basis and are intending to use the Midland Highway Alliance contracts where possible to bridge the gap.”

Steve Ashley, the Highways Term Maintenance Association procurement chair, said: “Clients now have many more alternative ways of getting better value for money and will need to assess whether they offer the advantages that they require.”

Alasdair Reisner, director of external affairs at the Civil Engineering Contractors Association, commented: “We can understand that in this period of volatility, authorities need to ensure their sails are rigged up for the choppy conditions ahead. But things can’t be done in a short-term way indefinitely.”

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