Gatwick Airport Station development, UK

Gatwick Airport Station development, UK

NEC Users’ Group platinum member Network Rail has used NEC contracts to deliver a complex £249 million upgrade of Gatwick Airport Station in southern England.    

Network Rail, in partnership with the Department for Transport, Govia Thameslink Railway, Gatwick Airport and Coast to Capital Enterprise Partnership, initially engaged Costain and its design partner Systra under an NEC3 Professional Services Contract (PSC) in September 2016 for design and planning support. 

The main NEC3 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) Option E (cost reimbursable contract) was then let to Costain in July 2019. Despite the challenges of working in a live railway and airport environment and through the Covid-19 pandemic, the project opened to the agreed revised programme and budget in November 2023.

Adding new capacity

By 2019 the then 60-year-old station was handling 21 million passengers a year, more than double its original design capacity, resulting in overcrowding at platform and concourse level. The station now benefits from an additional 1852 m2 steel-frame concourse above the tracks, linked to wider platforms 5, 6 and 7 with eight new escalators, four new lifts and new stairways. 

The new concourse canopy was formed using four clear-spanning steel arch truss beams clad with gold-anodised aluminium and infilled with 945 m2 of PTFE pillows (as used at the Eden Project in Cornwall) to let in natural light. The metal deck, reinforced concrete floor was finished with over 5,300 floor tiles.

A further 500 m2 of space was created in the existing entrance concourse and ticketing area by moving retail units, station control rooms and staff accommodation to a dedicated building, effectively doubling the space available for rail passengers. A new lift provides step-free access from the existing concourse to platforms 3 and 4.

The contract included remodelling existing rail track layouts around the station to reduce journey times and refurbishing existing footbridges.

Experienced NEC user

Network Rail is now an experienced user of NEC contracts, having successfully pioneered NEC3 contracts in its 2014–2019 control period on routes in its Anglia, South East and Wessex regions. The rail track operator is gradually transitioning from its traditional contract suite to ‘NR’ versions of NEC contracts, of which there are now 13. 

In 2018 Network Rail let three NEC3 multi-disciplinary framework contracts on the southern routes and adopted an NEC4 Design Build and Operate Contract (DBOC) for a £1.8 billion framework for digital train control systems on the East Coast main line. In 2024 it confirmed it was using the NEC4 Alliance Contract (ALC) for tendering the £1.4 billion Midlands Rail Hub programme.

The collaborative, open-book approach of ECC Option E was therefore a natural choice for such a complex project on a live railway station in the middle of Britain’s second busiest airport. 

Trust and cooperation

The NEC requirement on the parties to act in a ‘spirit of mutual trust and co-operation’ and its early warning process helped to ensure the project team worked as one team to resolve the many project challenges, not least the restrictions and supply chain pressures caused by the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021. 

Gatwick Airport station senior project manager Louiza Provins says she is ‘immensely proud’ of what the project team achieved. ‘It has definitely been a challenging project to build a new concourse over a 24/7 railway, under a flight path, with limited access and during the Covid-19 pandemic. It never would have happened if everyone hadn’t worked so well together to achieve this.’

The open-book approach of ECC Option E meant there was always full transparency of costs and the requirement on the contractor to regularly submit an updated programme provide assurance on completion. This resulted in no surprises at the end of the contract, which was successfully completed to the agreed revised budget and programme.

NEC-inspired collaboration was evidenced throughout the project, from stakeholder workshops in the concept design stage through to value engineering during detailed design and adopting low-carbon concrete during construction. 

Costain transportation director David Taylor says, ‘It has been a particularly collaborative project, which has helped enormously with its success – from an engaged and supportive supply chain to Network Rail’s invaluable assistance with possessions of the railway.’

Benefits of using NEC

•    NEC requirement on the parties to act in a ‘spirit of mutual trust and co-operation’ and its early warning process helped to ensure the project team worked as one team to resolve the many project challenges.

•    NEC contracts supported collaboration at each phase of the project, with PSC for the design and planning stage and ECC Option E for the complex construction stage.

•    ECC Option E open-book approach provided full transparency of costs and the requirement on the contractor to regularly submit an updated programme provided assurance on completion.

 

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