It has certainly been a year to remember, even if it’s been one we would mostly like to forget!
Despite an extremely tumultuous period for the transport & infrastructure sectors, major projects throughout the UK have preserved and made significant progress.
When we last sent out a major projects update back in April, lockdown had just begun, sites were downing tools and we were facing a pretty uncertain few months.
9 months on, we can begin to see a light at the end of the tunnel. So let’s review how the UK major projects pipeline progressed in that time.
HS2 officially began construction between London and the West Midlands following sign off from the government back in April, however protestors at various HS2 sites are threatening to affect timescales.
The contracts for the first two tunnel boring machines were awarded in October in a deal with one of the main works civils contractors, the Skanska Costain Strabag joint venture (SCS JV). The machines are being manufactured by Herrenknecht.
The procurement of rail systems packages for track, overhead catenary, power, control and communications systems has begun. Contracts for two packages, slab track and cross passage doors, have been awarded. The procurement of the rolling stock supplier continues and will be awarded in the summer of next year.
Legislation for Phase 2a, from Birmingham to Crewe, is currently under consideration.
The government’s plans for the northern branches of HS2 and Northern Powerhouse Rail are set to be revealed before Christmas.
Crossrail was delayed even further due to Covid-19 restrictions earlier in the year, and is currently coming towards the end of a second blockade of the railway to make up for lost time.
The blockade was to prepare for systems integration dynamic testing (SIDT) which began this week. This testing will enable Crossrail to commence Trial Running in 2021.
Following the announcement that TfL have secured a further £825m loan from the government, everything is being done to get the line ready for operational testing as early as possible in the new year and the line up and running by the first half of 2022.
Unfortunately, Crossrail 2 was sacrificed back in November, due to a combination of the governments “levelling up” plan and the £1.8bn bailout deal between the government and TfL. A condition of the bailout was that TfL had to end spending on Crossrail 2, with the agreement to continue to safeguard land so the scheme can be revived in the future.
Northern Powerhouse took a massive step forward last week as a preferred route was agreed.
The proposed network spans from Liverpool to Hull, Sheffield and the north-east, and would begin construction in 2024/5. It also links fully with HS2, with shared track, stations and junctions in parts, and includes:
- A new line to be constructed from Liverpool to Manchester via the centre of Warrington.
- A new line to be constructed from Manchester to Leeds via the centre of Bradford.
- Significant upgrades and journey time improvements to the Hope Valley route between Manchester and Sheffield.
- Connecting Sheffield to HS2 and on to Leeds.
- Significant upgrades and electrification of the rail lines from Leeds and Sheffield to Hull.
- Significant upgrades of the East Coast Mainline from Leeds to Newcastle (via York and Darlington) and restoration of the Leamside line.
The NPR’s initial preferred way forward will now be sent to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, with further decisions set for January and an updated business case to be submitted in spring 2021.
East West Rail
East West Rail have taken the next step towards procuring a new fleet of trains for the Western Section of the route between Oxford and Bedford, which will be the first part of the line to reopen in full.
Following feedback from market consultations, they have issues a Prior Information Notice outlining plans to obtain a small fleet of between 12 and 14 ‘self-powered’ three-car trains at an estimated price of £44 million for a four-year lease, extendable by two years. The units would be equipped with ETCS Level 2 and capable of being worked with a driver only.
The design phase of the next section of the East West Railway line, connecting Cambridge to Oxford have moved forward with the launch of environmental surveys. Procurement of a variety of different consulting contracts continues, with consultant Steer recently appointed to assist with business case development of the third and final section of the line.
Network Rail CP6
It came to light this week that the NR enhancement budget for the current control period has been cut by £1bn following the Spending Review. No detail has been provided yet on whether any projects will be scrapped. Operations, Renewals and Maintenance budgets remain unchanged.
Since the last update in April, AMP7 is now well underway. However, there have been a few major contracts awarded since the regulatory period commenced.
Thames Water has agreed the final, and biggest, framework for design and build construction partners for its AMP7 programme.
The frameworks are extendable into AMP8 and could see Thames award up to £4 billion of investment to undertake work on all types of above and below ground assets.
The successful partners are:
- Lot 3 – Non-Infrastructure – Galliford Try and MWH Treatment (London).
- Lot 4 – Non-Infrastructure – Interserve and Mott Macdonald Bentley (Thames Valley).
- Lot 5 – Infrastructure – J Murphy and Barhale Ltd (London – North).
- Lot 6 – Infrastructure – Morrison Utility Service and Galliford Try (London – South).
- Lot 7 – Infrastructure – Morrison Utility Service and Mott Macdonald Bentley (Thames Valley).
Thames Water has also signed deal with Costain, alongside partners Stantec, Turner & Townsend and Mace, to support Thames Water in developing a new, client-led programme management office to oversee its multi-million-pound AMP7 capital programme.
Black & Veatch has extended its AMP7 role with Thames Water after being appointed by main contractor Galliford Try as its Strategic Engineering Design Partner supplying engineering services on Lot 3 and Lot 6.
Yorkshire Water awarded technical services contracts with a combined value of £51.4m to six partners – ACIEM, Atkins, Arup, Costain, Pell Frischmann and Sweco – following an 18-month procurement process.
The Ferrovial and Laing O’Rourke JV literally did see the light at the end of the tunnel when they completed tunnelling on the final 7.6km long drive on the central section earlier this week following the TBM breakthrough last Monday on the Battersea to Bermondsey drive.
The breakthrough now means that more than 19km of the £4.2bn Thames Tideway Tunnel has been completed, with work on the remaining 5.5km Eastern section due to begin soon.
Lower Thames Crossing
Highways England submitted their plans for the Lower Thames Crossing last month, and then last week subsequently withdrew them.
Highways England pulled its Lower Thames Crossing planning application after the Planning Inspectorate asked for more information about construction plans and the predicted ecological and environmental impact of the scheme.
The DCO application is to be resubmitted early in the New Year.
Following a review back in March of the safety of the smart motorways programme, they have been given the green light and nine further sections of new all-lane running (ALR) smart motorways have been approved.
The new stretches of smart motorway will include a 32-mile section of the M3, a further 10-mile segment of the M3, a 17-mile stretch of the M6 and 23 miles of the M1.
The A14 was completed in May eight months ahead of schedule, opening for traffic on 5 May 2020. At present Highways England are carrying out finishing works overnight.
The plan to dig the £1.7bn tunnel by Stonehenge was approved by Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps in November.
Preparatory work is due to begin in spring next year, with the five-year construction phase expected to start by 2023.
Highways England said the cost range for the whole scheme was between £1.5bn to £2.4bn but it was “currently working to £1.7bn”.
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced back in March that funding was in place for the project.
Horizon Wylfa Newydd
On 16th September Hitachi announced it will end its business operations on the project, which it had suspended in January 2019.
However, just last month a US consortium of Bechtel, Southern Company and Westinghouse began talks with the British government about reviving the Wylfa Newydd nuclear power plant project in north Wales by building AP1000 reactors at the site on Anglesey.
A new deal for Wylfa would be dependent on the government introducing a new funding model for large nuclear projects in the UK and the US consortium striking an agreement to acquire the site on Anglesey from Hitachi.
A decision on planning consent for the project was due to be made on 30th September, but Horizon requested that this be delayed until 31st December.
In August, Colchester Council voted unanimously to reject the proposal for Bradwell B nuclear power plant saying it would destroy an ecologically rich landscape.
The first Bradwell B Community Forum took place in October as part of the proposal for the new nuclear power plant.
Despite setbacks for other nuclear projects around the UK, the government are apparently close to giving the green light to a new nuclear power station at Sizewell in Suffolk.
However, funding is still being hammered out. The government is considering taking an ownership stake and consumers may see a small addition to their bills to pay for the project as it is being built. There is also expected to be further government discussions about what role China General Nuclear (CGN) will be allowed to have in the scheme, which was proposed to be built by EDF and CGN. CGN was blacklisted in the US last year after being charged with stealing nuclear secrets.
Hinkley Point C
Despite Covid-19 setbacks, construction of the second reactor at Hinkley Point C passed a major milestone in September, with the lifting of the first part of the steel containment liner. 30% quicker than the identical part on Unit 1 thanks to learning from EPR projects around the world.
The power station is targeting to start generating power from Unit 1 by the end of 2025. However there have been reduced numbers of workers on site this year.
Nigel Cann, from EDF Energy, said his team had “hit some key milestones” at Hinkley Point C but they won’t know the full impact of coronavirus “until we get to the end of it”.
The Crown Estate has launched a call for evidence on how to achieve the government’s ambition of deploying 1GW of floating wind projects by 2030.
It is seeking views on how best to accelerate the development of floating wind in the UK, with feedback received directly informing its work on the potential design, scale and shape of any future floating offshore wind leasing activity.
Following the market engagement, a further update will be made next year to outline The Crown Estate’s plans to enable the next phase of early commercial-scale floating wind projects.
In October, they announced updated timescales for Offshore Wind Leasing Round 4, which seeks to identify at least 7GW of new offshore wind projects in UK waters.
ITT Stage 2 began in November, with the multi cycle bidding process expected to follow in early in 2021.
Successful Round 4 projects were expected to be awarded agreements for lease in 2021. This has been pushed back to spring 2022.
The Crown Estate Scotland has also confirmed the final process and timeline for the ScotWind seabed leasing round for offshore wind projects.
ScotWind was launched this June and will close for applications on 31 March 2021.
London City Airport
In August London City Airport became the latest UK airport to pause it’s expansion plans, following the way of Heathrow, Gatwick, Luton, Birmingham and Edinburgh, with the recovery of passengers numbers slower than previously expected.
The Palace of Westminster Restoration Project
Four new Non-Executives were appointed to the delivery board, completing its membership.
Anne Baldock, Stephen Duckworth, Anne McMeel, and Neil Sachdev took up their positions as Non-Executive Directors of the Delivery Authority Board in May.
Their arrival follows the appointment last year of Mike Brown, currently TfL Commissioner, as the Chair of the Board, and David Goldstone, as Chief Executive of the Delivery Authority. Several Directors have also been appointed over the summer to the exec of the Delivery Authority.
A review of the programme by the sponsor body, began earlier this year.
The renovation works are scheduled to start in 2025 with the hope Parliament will return to its home in the early 2030s, but it is already anticipated that the repair work is likely to take between five and eight years longer than previously forecast.
2020 certainly wasn’t the year we were all expecting, but as you can see, for the transport & infrastructure sectors, the show must go on!
If you’re looking at making any changes to your teams in 2021, please do get in touch to see how we can help you find the best talent for your projects. We offer a variety of executive search packages which can be tailored to meet any clients needs, just drop me a line for more information.