The A683 Bay Gateway links the strategically important Heysham and Morecambe peninsula in Lancashire, northwest England – site of the Port of Heysham and two nuclear power stations – with the M6 motorway junction 34. The final NEC-procured 4.8km section of the road was voted Economic Infrastructure Project of the Year Award in the 2017 British Construction Industry Awards.
The first section of the link, which bypassed the urban area of Morecambe to provide a direct connection to Heysham, was completed in 1994 and the route for the final section to junction 34 of the M6 was agreed in 2004. Following a public inquiry and various government spending reviews, the Department for Transport gave final agreement to contribute £110.925 million towards Lancashire County Council’s £140 million scheme in 2013.
The council chose NEC3 contracts to procure what was one of the UK’s largest local authority road projects in recent years. Contractor Costain initially provided ‘early contractor involvement’ under an NEC3 Professional Services Contract (PSC), after which the firm was awarded the main construction works under an NEC3 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) Option C (target contract with activity schedule). Top tier subcontracts were then let under the NEC3 Engineering and Construction Subcontract (ECS).
In addition to constructing 4.8km of dual carriageway, the project involved extensive remodelling of the M6 junction 34 – with 4km of new slip roads and also included a 211m long four-span bridge over the River Lune and a 650-space park-and ride site for Lancaster. Other structures along the route included grade-separated crossings of the West Coast main line railway, the Lancaster Canal and several local roads. A new combined footway-cycleway was built alongside the entire route.
The new road opened to traffic in October 2016 and final landscaping – including 148,000m2 of new woodland planting – was fully completed in May 2017. The project has already significantly reduced travel times and congestion in the Heysham and Morecambe peninsula area and is expected to contribute over £500 million to the local economy.
Focus On Partnership
According to the county council’s community services director Phil Barrett, ‘We set a clear indication in the tender documents that the relationship with Costain would be based on partnership, team working, early involvement and shared incentives, delivering efficiencies of both time and cost. NEC3 provided the best mutually compatible suite of contract documents to facilitate this.’
He says the tender documents set out a clear emphasis on quality, defining expectations and key indicators that would monitor outcomes. ‘The contractor was engaged in a two-stage process. The first stage under PSC involved developing the works information, reviewing risk and its allocation, investigating value engineering and ultimately identifying a target cost for construction.’
Barrett says the early contractor involvement stage also help to maximise the potential benefits of the relationship and create a single identity before moving to the second stage to deliver the project. ‘On agreement of the contractor's offer statement we authorised commencement of the construction phase through ECC Option C. The NEC principles were to be back-to-back, with the principal supply chain partners using ECS to demonstrate their commitment to the right culture.’
NEC contract management staff were selected for their competencies and their aptitude to nurture a cooperative culture. Furthermore, to ensure the contracts were not administered just in name, key members of the delivery team and supply chain were also invited to attend a collaborative workshop.
‘The workshop reinforced the good practices of risk management and timely communications and how these would be to the mutual benefit of all parties in terms of quality, efficiency, reputation and client satisfaction,’ says Barrett. ‘This was felt to be particularly offered by ECC Option C, which also offered the necessary transparency to demonstrate value for money required by publicly funded projects.’
He says a key benefit of NEC risk management processes was to detract from a blame culture and utilise the skills, experience and resources that the team could call on to resolve matters and move forward efficiently. ‘NEC processes for timely communications and responses are key to good project management. Aligned with a resourced programme, they allow everyone involved to understand their contribution to project delivery, understand the impact of change and delay, and enhance reliability of cost forecasting.’
The project team used a proprietary document management system developed around NEC work processes. ‘This embedded the necessary discipline to manage NEC timescales, allowing both time and cost implications to be visible and facilitate informed decisions about change,’ says Barrett
In October 2017 the NEC-procured project was voted Economic Infrastructure Project of the Year Award in the 2017 British Construction Industry Awards.
The judges said it was, ‘A long-awaited and much-needed link road through to the important port at Heysham, which was delivered well by the project team to the great betterment of the local community and wider economy, easing congestion through Lancaster and revitalising transport links to the Isle of Man, Ireland and the offshore wind arrays.
‘The project lost time due to Storm Desmond, however the collaborative team demonstrated flexibility within their approach to delays, which minimised any long-term effect. The team also achieved exemplar status in ensuring zero waste from site. There was good community engagement with regular sponsored walks along the route for locals and some schools engagement.
Overall the judges concluded it was, ‘A well delivered and important piece of infrastructure that will have wide economic benefits for the UK.’
Benefits of Using NEC
- NEC facilitates the right culture and discipline to deliver complex, high-risk, high-profile projects collaboratively and therefore efficiently.
- NEC imposes frequent and honest communications to manage risk and change.
- NEC processes ensure transparent and early assessment of possible time and money effects, allowing change to be an informed and managed choice.
- NEC provides the necessary accountability for publicly funded projects.
- NEC cost-management processes are contemporaneous with change, allowing clients to better manage their portfolio budget.