Wokingham Borough Council in Berkshire, south-east England is using a single NEC contract for its largestever highways procurement. NEC Users’ Group gold member Balfour Beatty is delivering a programme of eight schemes worth £124 million under the NEC-based Scape National Civil Engineering and Infrastructure Framework. Work started in October 2017 and is due to take four years.
The council’s major highways programme includes Arborfield Cross Relief Road, South Wokingham Distributor Road (three projects), North Wokingham Distributor Road, Winnersh Relief Road phase 2, Lower Earley Way dualling and Barkham Bridge improvements. Together with three developer-led road schemes, the new and improved highways will enable development of around 10,000 new homes plus associated schools and shops around the historic market town.
Balfour Beatty is engaged under an NEC3 Engineering and Construction Contract Option C (target contract with activity schedule). According to the council’s project manager Ian Haller, ‘The deployment of an NEC contract, with its inbuilt mechanisms for collaboration and project de-risking, is certainly helping us to deliver this ambitious scheme in a proactive partnership with Balfour Beatty’.
Early contractor involvement
The contractor’s project director Andy Bradshaw says the council let the programme on a two-stage basis, with an early contractor involvement stage followed by construction. ‘The enabling works and design for each project were carried out during early contractor involvement, resulting in agreement on the prices and programmes for construction in stage two. This has saved the council over two years on the original procurement timeline.’
He says NEC’s flexibility enabled both parties to de-risk the eight projects by carrying out timesensitive activities such as utility diversions and ecological activities during enabling works. ‘Without early contractor involvement, these risks could still be present during the normal construction phase. Programme risks are also able to be mitigated across the portfolio of projects as priorities can be altered to provide continuity of work when unforeseen events occur.
According to Bradshaw, separate pain/gain mechanisms operate at both the individual project and overall programme level. ‘Any programme level benefit for the contractor comes from an incentive clause in respect of underspends on the client’s budget overall.’
With the contract well under way, he says both parties remain focused and continue to collaborate to deliver the works within the agreed budget and programme. ‘The NEC guidance documents and Cemar change management tool have helped us keep everything on track’.
Commercial manager Paul Barrington-Light says another benefit of the Scape framework is the opportunity to place back-to-back NEC3 Engineering and Construction Subcontracts (ECS) with a diverse supply chain.
‘NEC-based supplier frameworks are in place for eight key trades to provide continuity and consistency, as well as offering best value, across the project portfolio. We have let over 100 subcontracts to date. This also gives the opportunity for some of our smaller suppliers to enhance their contractual knowledge of NEC.’
He adds that Scape further requires the use of key performance indicators to improve customer and social value. ‘These are designed to encourage a range of activities that add value, in other words getting more for less. They are split into pre-construction-stage measures and construction-stage measures, with 52% relating to customer satisfaction and 33% relating to social value.’