DFID tenders £90m Cities and Infrastructure for Growth contract

The UK’s Department for International Development DFID has gone out to tender with a contract for a major new programme: Cities and Infrastructure for Growth (CIG) worth an estimated £90 million.

The programme has the following ambitious objectives:

  • Improve urban development and productivity,
  • Boost access to reliable and affordable power,
  • Increase investment into infrastructure services, particularly where it directly supports growth, including through innovative ways of attracting private, and increasing public financing,
  • Drive better asset and financial management for sustainable investment into services, namely host governments’ ability to plan, finance and manage its infrastructure assets and services

The CIG programme will be delivered through 3 separate contracts for the country programme components procured through a Lots procurement process as follows:

Lot 1: Uganda

Lot 2: Zambia

Lot 3: Burma

The scale of the infrastructure deficit in Burma is significant. Infrastructure, in particular power, remains a binding constraint to growth. Just one-third of the population has access to the electricity grid and its largest city Yangon, uses around half of all national power, but this itself is insufficient, with frequent outages and lack of sufficient and affordable power for domestic industry.

In Africa, infrastructure remains a binding constraint to growth. Lack of reliable and affordable power, water supply and infrastructure connectivity raises costs, reduces competitiveness and holds back investments and jobs. The World Bank estimates that lack of reliable power alone reduces Africa’s GDP by 2-4% p.a.

M25 Waltham Cross junction upgrade backed

A proposed multi-million pound upgrade to a busy M25 junction in Hertfordshire has won support in a public consultation, Highways England has announced.

Under the plans, junction 25 of the M25, where the motorway meets that A10 in Hertfordshire, will have extra lanes created on its roundabout, widened approaches on the M25 and the southbound A10 southbound and new a free-flow lane between the clockwise M25 to the northbound A10.

92 per cent of people taking part the consultation agreed that improvements were needed at the junction, and 77 per cent backed outlined proposals for the upgrade.

Highways England Project Manager Piotr Grabowiecki said:

“I would like to thank everyone who took part in our consultation looking at options to improve this busy junction. It’s great to see that there is clear backing for the improvements, and now we can move on to developing a detailed design for the upgrade. There will be another opportunity for anyone interested in the scheme to have their say in next year, when we put the final plans to people for their views.”

The scheme will improve journey times through the junction and allow more capacity on the exit slip roads; reducing the likelihood of traffic queuing back onto the M25, particularly into the Holmesdale Tunnel, delivering major safety improvements. The improvements will also include better access for pedestrians and cyclists by providing better crossings.

A public consultation on the options was held from Monday 16 January 2017 to Tuesday 28 February 2017. A total of 413 responses were received during this consultation. A copy of the consultation report can be found on the Highways England website and copies of the announcement flyer are available online or at a variety of locations in the local area.

An information exhibition on the designs will take place in 2018. Anyone interested in the scheme can sign up to receive updates via the project page on the Highways England website where they can also find an animated visualisation outlining the preferred route: www.highways.gov.uk/m25j25



Scottish Water delivers highest-ever levels of customer satisfaction

Scottish Water delivered its highest-ever levels of customer satisfaction and invested £627 million in new water and waste water infrastructure during 2016/17, according to its 2016-17 Annual Report and Accounts.

The publicly-owned utility has highlighted increased satisfaction among customers and sustained levels of drinking water quality at customers’ taps of over 99.9% among its key achievements for the year.

The Dunfermline-based water and waste water company serves 2.5 million households and 156,000 businesses premises with 1.35 billion litres of drinking water every day. It also treats 945 million litres of waste water daily and returns it safely to the environment. Its household charges are among the lowest in the UK at less than £1-per day on average, with average annual household charges remaining £38 below the average bill in England and Wales.

At the same time Scottish Water invested £627 million on the nation’s water and waste water infrastructure. It plans to deliver over £3.5 billion of capital investment in total in the six-year period from 2015 to 2021, making it one of the biggest infrastructure investors in Scotland.

Scottish Water, which maintains almost 62,000 miles of water and sewer pipes and runs more than 2000 water and waste water treatment works, directly employs 4,000 people and another 2,000 through partners working on its investment programme

One of the utility’s highest-profile projects is the £100 million Shieldhall Tunnel in Glasgow’s south side which is due for completion later this year. The tunnel will improve water quality in the River Clyde and reduce the risk of flooding.

Scottish Water Chief Executive Douglas Millican said:

“The past year has been another good year for Scottish Water, delivering increased levels of customer satisfaction, sustained high levels of drinking water quality and continued value for money for our customers.

“This year also saw a step-change in the pace of delivery of our capital investment programme which, as well as improving service levels and protecting Scotland’s natural environment, will also help to support new development and underpin future economic growth.

“Our investment programme is also creating employment through our three new capital alliance partners supported by a framework of local contractors throughout the country”.

The annual report is also highlighting the Which? Consumer Insight Report, published in December, which concluded the water industry, led by Scottish Water working in collaboration with partners and suppliers, was the most trusted sector by consumers in Scotland.

Toll roads could be introduced to cover shortfall of tax from electric cars

A think tank has warned the government that toll roads may have to be introduced in the UK to make up for the shortfall of tax on petrol and diesel due to the rising number of electric cars on the road.

The study by the Policy Exchange, which was founded by Michael Gove, the environment secretary, said that the fall in the amount of income from petrol and diesel sales could be as high as £170 billion between now and the end of the next decade.

As a result, researchers suggested alternative sources of revenue, including the introduction of toll roads and GPS-style technology in all cars to track the number of miles covered on major roads.

The Policy Exchange report said that reforms were needed to address a drop in cash collected through fuel duty, which is set at 57.95p per litre.

According to The Times (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/toll-roads-backed-to-meet-lost-tax-from-green-cars-zsfjx2bgf), the report, which is titled Driving Down Emissions and was led by Richard Howard, the think tank’s head of environment and energy, states that the government may have to tax road users directly, rather than through traditional tax methods.”The changes to VED are a first step towards this: most road users will pay the same flat fee going forward.

“The changes to VED are a first step towards this: most road users will pay the same flat fee going forward.

“However, in time the government will need to seriously consider whether it is necessary to move to a system of road-user charging, either on selected roads, in certain cities or across the entire network (e.g. using GPS systems).”

Sadiq Khan, the mayor of London, is considering a similar pay-per-mile charging system to replace the current £11.50 congestion charge.


Business Stream set for new public sector contracts

Water retailer Business Stream has secured a place on the UK’s largest public sector water framework agreement, the first contract of its kind following the opening of English water market in April.

The Edinburgh-based company has been awarded a place on the new Water, Waste Water and Ancillary Services framework developed by the Crown Commercial Service (CCS), to provide water and waste water services, including leak detection, automated reading and water efficiency solutions to a wide range of public sector organisations. The multi-supplier framework is estimated to be worth £960 million.

Central government, schools, colleges, universities, museums, housing associations, councils, the emergency services and NHS Trusts are included in the framework and are all now eligible to choose which company supplies their water and waste water services.

James Cardwell-Moore, commercial director, Business Stream commented:

“This is excellent news for us given how rigorous and competitive the process was. Business Stream has an unparalleled record of helping businesses manage their water more efficiently, delivering savings, innovative solutions and environmental benefits which have made a real difference to their operations. We look forward to working with a wide range of public sector organisations to ensure that they make the most of the opportunities in England’s new competitive marketplace.”

The firm is one of only eight suppliers to be appointed to the framework.

Business Stream is the largest operator in the Scottish non-domestic water market. Its most recent profit before tax was £21.8 million from revenue of £281 million. Last year, the company acquired the non-household customer base of Southern Water, increasing its foothold in England.

Headquartered in Edinburgh, it also has offices in Glasgow and Worthing, and employs around 250 staff. The company is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Scottish Water with its own board and independent management team.

£50M A96 dualling contract award revealed

A major expansion of one of the north-east’s biggest roads has taken another step forward with the award of a £50million design contract.

Transport Scotland has announced Amey Arup Joint Venture will be tasked with designing a major section of the dualled A96 Aberdeen to Inverness road, between the Granite City and Huntly.

The work will also involve devising the best route for the 26-mile section of the road to take.

Subject to the mandatory standstill period, the company will start design work on the project next month.

The project forms a part of the overall dualling of the road between the city and Inverness with 86 miles due to be upgraded by 2030.

The Scottish Government’s economy minister has said the project will have a number of positive benefits for communities in the north and north-east.

Keith Brown, cabinet secretary for economy, jobs and fair work, said: “The fact that four tenderers, including joint ventures, competed for this major contract is evidence of the interest in the market engendered by the infrastructure improvements this government is delivering across the country including in the north.

“This major design contract marks a further milestone towards the dualling of the A96 with all the investment and improvements that it will bring to local economies right across the north of Scotland.

“Road users will not only enjoy the benefits of improved journey time and reliability, better connectivity between destinations but also, crucially, improved road safety for all those who use this key artery connecting two of Scotland’s economic hubs.

“In addition, this contract will also provide a huge boost for the local and national economy, with the successful bidder securing steady work for years to come and many more opportunities for small and medium enterprises through subcontracted work.”

Design work for the Inverness to Nairn stretch, including the bypass, and the western section between Hardmuir and Fochabers is already under way.

The public has already been given a chance to have their say on the designs with a preferred option expected to be announced next year.


Water sector innovation will be enabled by automotive sector skills and technology

Technology and engineering skills drawn from the automotive industry have the potential to help the UK water sector in tackling the worsening impacts of climate change, while delivering a more resilient service at a lower cost, according to global water and environmental engineering specialists at Ricardo.

Ricardo believes that significant synergies exist between the technologies and skills developed by the automotive industry and those needed by the water sector to meet its most pressing current challenges.

The company is actively investing in its water practice, and collaborates extensively with major water sector partners in the development of innovative approaches and technologies.

Beyond this, however, Ricardo is now actively fostering collaboration between its automotive and water industry engineering teams in order to realize the potential of cross-industry sharing of technologies and ideas, for the benefit of its water sector clients.

“It is no secret that the water sector is in need of a different approach to boost engineering capacity and skills in order to drive forward the innovations required to address the very pressing challenges that it faces,” said Daressa Frodsham, the former head of engineering at United Utilities who was recently appointed as director of the Ricardo Water & Environment practice.

“While at first glance it might appear a very different domain to the automotive industry, there are many opportunities. Computer-aided simulation and optimization, and advanced sensors, prognostics and control system technologies, are common to both industries and enable us to deploy automotive-derived skills and techniques with great benefits to the water sector. We can also leverage our strategic consulting skills focused on the challenges of operational management, which are equally applicable to the water industry.

“By harnessing these available skills and technologies, we can develop the strategic vision and innovations required to strengthen water sector resilience and sustainability, while adding fresh thinking and improving innovation and affordability. I believe that Ricardo’s skills and capabilities put it at the forefront of automotive engineering – and its ability to leverage those skills for the benefit of its water industry clients is, I believe, unique.”

The UK water sector faces a number of challenges from increased resource scarcity alongside regulative pressures to continually enhance customer service. The water services regulation authority, Ofwat, has highlighted innovation as a core pillar of good water sector governance, and there is an expectation for companies to demonstrate this during the 2019 water sector price review (PR19). However, the water industry reportedly faces a substantial skills gap in terms of engineering.

In addition to leveraging cross-sectoral skills and technology synergies, Ricardo is continuing to invest in the services it provides to the water industry. In July 2017 the firm will open a new office in Bristol, UK, to house its expanded Water & Environment team.

Plans to reduce M5 collision risk to go ahead

Traffic queues on the M5 near Bristol are expected to be reduced as new measures are put in place to control congestion.

This new scheme is being trialled while a more long term solution to widen the slip road where it meets the roundabout at junction 19, for Portishead, is under development.

The plans include changes to the signing and lining on the southbound exit slip road.

Highways England project sponsor Sean Walsh said: “We absolutely understand the frustration of drivers who use this junction and experience regular queuing, especially at peak times.

“That is why we have decided to do something now rather than wait for the long-term solution to be developed.

“We are already working hard on plans for the permanent scheme, which is due for delivery in the winter 2017-2018, but in the meantime we hope the new signing and lining will reduce the queues, and the better use of the slip road will discourage people from attempting to join the queue late to access currently empty lanes.”

The changes mean that traffic heading towards Portishead will have two lanes to use, rather than one.

The work will take place overnight and will require lane closures on the roundabout and a closure of the southbound exit slip road between 8pm on Sunday June 25 and 6am on Monday June 26.

While the slip road is closed a fully signed diversion will be in place. This will be via the M5 southbound to the junction 20 exit and return back to junction 19 on the M5 northbound.

Highways England advises drivers that this could add 13 minutes to their journey times.


Technology could halve unexpected breakdowns and save motorists millions

Technology could halve unexpected breakdowns by 2020 according to telematics expert In-car Cleverness, as data increasingly helps drivers identify malfunctions before they occur.

Harnessing this data would slash repair bills by £1.3 billion annually, as the one in four vehicles which breakdown annually could be inspected before they fail.

Curtailing motorists’ love-hate relationship with the hard shoulder would also save drivers millions of hours lost waiting for recovery services and organising repairs for the estimated eight million breakdowns each year.

The projection comes as vehicle manufacturers and specialists such as In-car Cleverness are helping to accelerate uptake and acceptance of the technology.

Paul O’Dowd, Head of Sales at In-car Cleverness, commented: “It’s not impossible to foresee a future in which almost no unexpected breakdowns occur.

“In-vehicle technology – remote diagnostics in this context – has come on in leaps and bounds and as uptake increases, we will be able to anticipate a large percentage of the nation’s vehicle glitches before they cause a failure.

“This predictive maintenance alongside routine check-ups will reduce the cost of running individual or fleets of vehicles – prevention is always better than the cure.”


EMCOR UK wins £multi-million Anglian Water facilities management contract

Leading facilities management provider EMCOR UK has been awarded a multi-million pound contract by Anglian Water to perform integrated facilities management services across 84 of its UK sites.

Commencing July 1, 2017 EMCOR UK will provide services at 13 of Anglian Water’s corporate sites in locations across Cambridgeshire, Lincolnshire, Essex, and Norfolk.

Throughout the first year of the contract an additional 71 operational sites will be added to the portfolio. The contract duration is for five years, with an option to extend for a further four years.

When the contract first went out to tender in April last year estimated potential contract value was put at £60 million.

The Anglian Water contract is the fourth water utilities company contract awarded to EMCOR UK in four years.

EMCOR UK will be responsible for performing hard and soft facilities management services (which it will be self-delivering), including mechanical and electrical maintenance, cleaning, reception services, manned guarding, and managing external service providers.

The company will be implementing its mobile workforce technology platform across the portfolio of sites in order to help Anglian Water maintain its estate in accordance with applicable statutory requirements, improving responsiveness and productivity, whilst reducing costs.

The EMCOR UK team will also support Anglian Water in the development of various programmes, ranging from employee wellbeing and workplace productivity, to the transformation of current systems and methods of work.

Keith Chanter, CEO, EMCOR UK commented:

“We are exceedingly pleased to have been selected by Anglian Water to deliver integrated facilities management services, further demonstrating the abilities and skills of our team to fulfill the exacting standards and perform according to the rigid specifications required in a highly regulated environment.”

“We believe EMCOR UK and Anglian Water share a similar set of values which team members abide by in daily operations.  It is with great anticipation that we look forward to working collaboratively with Anglian Water in the years to come.”

Karen King, Group Facilities Contract Manager at Anglian Water commented:

“We are delighted to welcome EMCOR UK to our portfolio of sites. Key to the award was EMCOR UK’s commitment to our core values whilst delivering operational resilience and regulatory compliance, which is an essential requirement in our sector.”