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‘Pure construction alliance’ to deliver Stafford project

Network Rail and three of its top contractors are forming a unique ‘pure construction alliance’ to deliver the £250m Stafford Area Improvement Programme (SAIP) on the West Coast Main Line.

Network Rail, Atkins, Laing O’Rourke and VolkerRail are collaborating on the project to remodel and resignal the railway around Stafford, and to build a new flyover at Norton Bridge to separate commuter, freight and inter-city services.

The idea came from Australia, where the ‘pure alliance’ model is more common, based around one unified agreement where all parties share the benefits and the risks as opposed to the UK’s more traditional ‘hub and spoke’ style of contracting.

Dominic Baldwin, alliance manager for the SAIP, explained: “Whilst collaborative contracting and the concept of alliancing isn’t new to the industry, for Stafford due to the different disciplines involved, we wanted to push the boundaries and develop a ‘one project, one organisation’ mentality, removing the barriers associated with traditional contracting.”

For Stafford, the process began at the ITT (invitation to tender) stage, with interested parties asked to submit their bids as pre-formed alliances, supported by Network Rail project team members.

Baldwin said: “It was particularly important for us to adopt this collaborative approach from the outset, hence our work with each of the pre-formed alliances, providing a seamless transition on announcement of the successful bidder. The manner in which our partners responded has demonstrated their commitment both to the process and to the wider objective of driving through efficiencies and added value for the industry.”

The alliance will have to work across multiple disciplines including trackworks, civils, signalling, telecommunications, highways alterations and pipeline diversions, working from Crewe and Stafford.

Simon Kirby, Network Rail’s managing director of infrastructure projects said: “By adopting a common focus and shared approach with our industry partners, this will ultimately help to drive down costs, reduce risk and lead to the more efficient and timely delivery of major projects such as Stafford.”

The alliance’s members were all keen to stress collaboration and their own expertise.

Atkins’ Steve Higham, a member of the Alliance Leadership Team, said: “There is a clear requirement for us all to work smarter to reduce the cost of running the railway. We will collaborate with our alliance partners to do just that.  With proven expertise in complex signalling projects, Atkins will deliver signalling, power, telecommunications and all multi-functional design for this important scheme. SAIP is an exciting project and provides an opportunity to push the boundaries of infrastructure delivery through innovation.”

His fellow Alliance Leadership Team member Graeme Castle of Laing O’Rourke said: “Partnership, safety, teamwork and collaboration are the watchwords of the infrastructure sector and we are honoured to stand alongside our colleagues to champion this new approach for rail in the UK. Laing O’Rourke is also delighted to apply its world class engineering experience to this landmark project.”

Volker Rail’s Stuart Birch, also a member of the Alliance Leadership Team, said: “VolkerRail is excited to be part of the first true alliance in the UK rail industry; it is a fantastic opportunity to help shape the future delivery of complex projects. It also provides us with the chance to demonstrate how well collaboration can drive cost-savings, improved health and safety and quality. We will build on the success and experience VolkerRail has had in other major project collaborations to help ensure that the SAIP Alliance is internationally recognised as a supplier of choice.”

Rob Offord, Network Rail’s representative on the Alliance Leadership team, added: “The essence of this alliance is about transforming the delivery of infrastructure projects, defining excellence through collaboration and creating a positive lasting legacy for Staffordshire.”

SAIP is scheduled for completion halfway through CP5, in December 2017, to service the introduction of the new timetable. Its three core elements are 23 miles of linespeed improvements between Crewe and Norton Bridge, the resignalling and remodelling of the track layout through Stafford, and the proposed new flyover at Norton Bridge.

It should allow two extra trains an hour in each direction between London and the north west, one extra train per hour in each direction between Manchester (via Stone) and Birmingham, and one extra freight train per hour in each direction through Stafford.

Image shows Dominic Baldwin (far left) and the SAIP Alliance Leadership Team (from left: Graeme Castle, Stuart Birch, Steve Higham, Rob Offord) pictured with the 'Stafford knot' – the traditional symbol of Staffordshire and its county town, Stafford.

Tell us what you think – have your say below or email [email protected]


Cliff   25/04/2013 at 16:43

Here we go again another award watch out Network Rail, Atkins, Laing O’Rourke you will get the blame for the cock ups if anything does go wrong make sure you check you paperwork on site

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