Highways England will stop procuring work through its £5bn Collaborative Delivery Framework two years earlier than expected.
The CDF is expected to reach its £5bn limit – set when it was launched in 2013 – before the end of next year. This could lead to tendering for a new framework later this year, sparking fears among contractors fears over fresh tendering costs.
The government-owned roads operator confirmed it was in the “early stages” of planning how it would procure the remaining capital projects in its delivery programme, in anticipation of reaching the £5bn threshold before the end of 2017.
The framework was expected to last until 2019. However, the 2014 launch of the Roads Investment Strategy, which saw extra government funding pledged to road improvement projects, has seen it reach capacity ahead of time.
Highways England’s predecessor the Highways Agency launched the CDF in 2014, with 26 companies chosen across four lots.
The list of preferred bidders included major contractors Balfour Beatty, Carillion and Costain as well as a number of large consultants such as Amey, Jacobs and CH2M (see box).
At the time, Highways England said the new framework – its largest ever – would provide a “cost-effective way for the agency to procure up to £5bn of investment in England’s motorways and major A roads over the next five years”.
Construction News understands that the CDF could be replaced by a new framework covering the remaining work on the £15bn Roads Investment Strategy.
Highways England said that “no decisions had yet been taken” and it was too early to comment on a new procurement structure.
It added that it was in discussions with members of the framework to decide on the best method of procurement for the remaining work under the RIS.
Sources have told Construction News that Highways England could tender for a new framework as early as October.
Highways England said it could not yet comment on timeframes.
Some companies have spoken of their frustration at the news, saying tendering for a new framework would add extra costs to their highways operations.
According to one source, firms could have spent as much as £500,000 bidding for a place on the CDF.
“It is a pain,” one roads expert said. “Tendering for these frameworks involves a serious amount of money – think about how many people I could train with that, not to mention the manpower used.”
Another source close to the framework said: “The fact that we would potentially have to tender for something as major as this again is something the industry definitely doesn’t want. It is costing us too much and there has got to be a better way of procuring in the future.”
A Highways England spokesman said: “We are delivering the largest roads investment in a generation which will provide a safe, serviceable, free-flowing network for millions of people and businesses up and down the country.
“We are in the early stages of assessing how we will procure the remaining capital projects in our delivery programme once the collaborative delivery framework reaches its threshold and will say more in due course.”
One contractor said while retendering might be frustrating for the supply chain it would give Highways England the chance to address problems with the CDF.
He said: “The single biggest issue we are having with the current framework is that we are having to put in big bids at the start and then carry out a number of secondary bids while in the the framework.”
He added that the current process had created additional expenses.
He suggested the client should look into a ”direct allocation” approach for its next framework, which would see Highways England pick contractors for work schemes without secondary bidding.
“On a framework with collaboration at its heart, it is counter-intuitive to have such competition throughout the process,” he said.