East Leeds Orbital Route, UK

East Leeds Orbital Route, UK

NEC has been used to procure a new outer ring road for Leeds in West Yorkshire, UK. The £150 million East Leeds Orbital Route has eased congestion in the existing residential areas of Cross Gates, Seacroft and Whitkirk and enabled the future development of 5,000 new homes and supporting infrastructure.

Leeds City Council let design and construction of the £6.8 km dual carriageway to Balfour Beatty and its strategic design partner Atkins under an NEC3 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) Option C. Work started on site in December 2019 and, despite the challenges and restrictions of Covid-19, was completed to the agreed programme and budget in August 2022. The scheme was voted Transport Project of the Year in the 2023 British Construction Awards as well as being highly commended for the National Infrastructure Commission Design Principles Award.

The new A6120 outer ring road has provided new capacity and links for vehicles, cyclists, pedestrians and equestrians in a green corridor northeast of the city, relieving pressure on the former outer ring road between Red Hall in the north and junction 46 of the M1 motorway in the east. In addition to 6.8 km of new road, the scheme features 14 km of new cycleways, pedestrian pathways and equestrian routes.

The contract included design and construction of six low-maintenance off-site-manufactured integral bridges, five new roundabout junctions, four sustainable drainage holding ponds, three underground attenuation tanks, three pocket parks and two outdoor gyms. Over 40,000 new shrubs and trees were planted along with extensive wildflower seeding, and 95% of surplus excavated material was reused on site.  

Experienced user

Leeds City Council principal engineer James Gray says the non-confrontational nature of the NEC contracts is a welcome contrast to traditional forms of contract. ‘We chose NEC for the East Leeds Orbital Route as we have had earlier success delivering major projects using this collaborative contract suite.’

He says other recent projects successfully procured using NEC include the £50 million Leeds flood alleviation scheme (ECC Option C) , the £39 million Stourton park and ride (ECC Option A), the £31 million Regent Street flyover (ECC Option A) and the £8 million Newmarket House waste depot (ECC Option A). ‘For the East Leeds Orbital Route we chose ECC Option C as we believe its gainshare mechanism strikes the right balance between transparency and incentivisation to drive down costs.’

Gray say the NEC clause 10 requirement on the parties to act in a ‘sprit of mutual trust and co-operation’ was fully embraced by the project team. ‘This was fundamental to the success of the project. It was perhaps best illustrated by the site-based, highly collaborative and productive NEC early warning meetings where we resolved all potential risks to the programme and budget’.

Value engineering

leeds2.jpgBalfour Beatty senior construction manager Rob Lockwood says NEC-inspired collaboration during the detailed design phase mitigated 18 months of work and saved £2 million through value engineering. ‘During construction we also shared the data provided by a fixed wing drone, which we used to check construction progress against plans and provide alerts if a deviation occurred.’

He says collaboration we particularly important during the Covid-19 pandemic. ‘For example, we carried out earthworks using GPS-guided machinery, which required only essential employees in compliance with Covid-19 government guidelines. We also regularly held toolbox talks about safety generally, resulting in over 1.1 million hours worked by 2300 people with zero reportable accidents.’

On winning Transport Project of the Year, Balfour Beatty area director Stephen Semple said, ‘We are delighted to have been recognised for our role in delivering the largest infrastructure project in Leeds in over 50 years. It is through a wholly collaborative effort with Leeds City Council that we have been able to transform travel, connect communities and stimulate economic growth in Leeds, for generations to come.’

Benefits of using NEC

  • NEC requirement to act in a spirit of ‘mutual trust and co-operation’ was fully embraced by the project team and was fundamental to the contract’s success.
  • ECC Option C gainshare mechanism provided the right balance between transparency and incentivisation to drive down costs.
  • NEC-inspired collaboration during the detailed design stage led to value engineering savings of £2 million.
  • NEC early warning process enabled all potential risks to the programme and budget to be collaboratively resolved, including maintaining progress during the Covid-19 pandemic.
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