Plymouth City Council in Devon, southwest England, has used NEC to procure a major new link road in the city. The 1 km long Platinum Parkway joins William Prance Road in Derriford to the Forder Valley Road and Novorossiysk Road junction.
Named in recognition of the late Queen Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee, the new A3822 is a key link between the A38 and the north of the city, where 4,000 new homes are planned over the next 15 years. The two- and three-lane road crosses Bircham Valley on a new 140 m long integral bridge – the largest such structure in the UK. With no bearings it benefits from minimal maintenance requirements.
The £52 million project was let via the Scape national civil engineering framework to Balfour Beatty in April 2019 under an NEC3 Engineering and Construction Contract (ECC) Option C (target contract with activity schedule). NEC project manager and supervisor was WSP.
As well as designing and building the main carriageway and bridge, the work including relocating and widening of the Forder Valley Road/Novorossiysk Road junction and raising it by 5 m, building and improving 6 km of footways and cycleways, installing a 160 m long river culvert, and planting over 14,500 trees and 700 m of hedgerows. The road was completed on time and to budget and opened to traffic in February 2023.
Early contractor involvement
WSP associate director Simon West says the ECC contract was characterized by teamwork from project start to finish. ‘In line with the NEC requirement to act in a “spirit of mutual trust and co-operation,” there was a focus on encouraging interaction, promoting collaborative working and building relationships throughout the project. This owes much of its success to the early involvement of the contractor under ECC option X22 to develop and refine a design that achieved an affordable and buildable solution.’
He cites as an example a redesign of the river works during the preconstruction stage. ‘The original design was for two culverts and an open-channel section, requiring multiple river diversions and complex construction sequencing. Through NEC-inspired collaboration, this was changed to a single 160 m straight-through option – but only after overcoming various obstacles.’
West says this included identifying and procuring an otter expert to demonstrate the culvert redesign was feasible, thereby removing a significant wildlife protection concern and finally securing the solution. ‘This resulted in a 10 week programme reduction and £0.6 million cost saving.’
He says another example of the benefits of early contractor involvement was collaborative refinement of the earthworks design. ‘This resulted in over 76,000 m3 of excavated material being incorporated back into the core works and 8,000 m3 being used within landscaping, avoiding 9,247 lorry movements. This in turn saved 3,223 t of carbon dioxide equivalent and £1.4 million in cost.’
West says the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 risked the site being shut down, but a collective effort saw the team embrace emerging government restrictions and industry guidelines. ‘As a result we were the only major project locally that remained operational. A client agreement allowed site-based staff to work from home where feasible and, for payment purposes, were treated as on-site staff and therefore a defined cost. This reduced the number of people on site, restricting the spread of Covid while not financially disadvantaging the contractor.
He says the pandemic measures developed for the site were held up as exemplar and used on other sites to bring them back to work. ‘A Covid test centre was set up where 28 35 m long pre-cast concrete bridge beams were due to be stored. The team worked to urgently identify other sites and secured use of a nearby former airport through joint negotiations with the landowner, and quickly secured planning permission. This safeguarded the beam arrival and ensured critical path works for the bridge were delivered as planned.’
Managing scope change
West says the project team held daily meetings to review progress and discuss the following day’s works, with updates recorded on a site board. ‘This kept everyone informed of progress, helped to plan upcoming inspections and provided opportunities to notify NEC early warnings as part of the collaborative approach to the project.’
He says during construction, the client requested additional works to connect a section of community pathways to the project. ‘The timing of the change to the scope meant the quotation was unaffordable and this important element of the wider scheme was at risk of not being delivered.’
With little opportunity to de-scope, West says the team introduced a side agreement using clause 12.3, where the contractor offered a reduced fee on the basis that any gain beyond an agreed baseline figure would be apportioned 100% to the contractor up to the quotation value. ‘This honest and open approach secured this final element of works for the client and increased social value, while providing an opportunity for the contractor to recover its reduced fee.’
He concludes, ‘the ability of all parties to contribute proactively to a synergetic solution provided a framework of trust and confidence that permeated through the delivery of the contract and fostered ongoing relationships for future works.'
Project Highlight Video
Benefits of using NEC
- NEC obligation to act in a ‘spirit of mutual trust and co-operation’ led to a focus on encouraging interaction, promoting collaborative working and building relationships throughout the project.
- ECC option X22 on early contractor involvement helped to develop and refine the design, resulting in an affordable, buildable and more sustainable solution.
- NEC flexibility allowed an honest and open solution to securing an affordable final change to the scope for the client.