Highways England scraps four more ASCs to take control

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Highways England has decided to bring more network responsibility back in house after its brief flirtation with outsourcing management.

Highways England has decided that it will take direct management in areas 1, 2, 13 and 14 where asset support contracts are due for renewal. This will include key functions such as design management, routine management and construction work for motorways and trunk roads.

As we reported in February, the Highways Agency (as it then was) had encountered problems with tendering its asset support contracts (ASCs), which sought to farm out overall management responsibility to a single supplier in each region, who would then subcontract specialist work.

It decided to return to a more traditional procurement model for Area 7, the East Midlands where the client takes more responsibility for managing its contractors and making its own decisions on maintenance needs.

It has now decided to extend this approach to four more areas: Cornwall and Devon (Area 1); Somerset, Avon, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire (Area 2); Cumbria and parts of Lancashire (Area 13); Northumberland, Tyne & Wear, Durham and North Yorkshire (Area 14).

A Highways England spokesperson said: “We are tasked with delivering the largest roads investment programme in a generation and in order for us to deliver on such a scale at the same time as maintaining the strategic road network, we have to work in a flexible, responsive and efficient way.

“So we have decided our delivery arrangements need to evolve in some areas, and will therefore be adopting the asset-led delivery model which we are using in the East Midlands (Area 7) in areas 1, 2, 13 and 14. This will include key functions such as design management, routine management and construction work.

“We will therefore be bringing decision making, investment and maintenance plans in house, in areas where contracts are due for renewal… This will enable us to take more ownership of investment decisions and to increase our intelligence on local factors that influence where work is needed. By directly engaging suppliers we will help drive down cost and waste, providing the best possible value for money for taxpayers.”

The new approach will comprise four key types of contract:

  • Maintenance and incident response – providing routine maintenance and responding to incidents from Highways England depots;
  • Design – taking briefs from Highways England and turning them into well-defined packages of work, including repairing and reinstating our network after incidents, where necessary; and
  • Specialist services – such as weather forecasting and laboratory testing.

Capital project delivery – delivery of work including emergency repairs.

Highways England said that ASCs remained part of its delivery strategy and it would soon be awarding contracts for areas 4 (Southeast) and 12 (Northeast) which were further advanced in the procurement process when it scrapped the procurement process in the East Midlands.