Focus On Innovation For Highways

10 January 2011

Costain is aiming to carve an even bigger niche for itself in the highways maintenance sector through innovation and differentiating itself from its competitors.

In the wake of the Government’s Comprehensive Spending Review local councils, highway authorities and national agencies in both England and Scotland are demanding more for less from their contractors, says Highways Maintenance Services Director, Chris Tyerman.

Some competitors are choosing to meet these demands simply through aggressive pricing, reducing their margins and profit expectations. Costain, on the other hand, is seeking to take a more nuanced approach and seeking contracts where its greater sophistication and breadth of service can make itself felt.

“Where it’s a very traditional term maintenance contract and the customer tells you exactly what he wants you to do and pays you a set fee, we don’t think we can add value to that and so we’re not generally pursuing that type of contract,” says Tyerman.

“We’re more interested in opportunities where a specialised team needs to be developed and where solutions and customer service are as important as construction, reflecting the ‘Choosing Costain’ strategy – developing our service to customers that includes consultation and aftercare services as well as construction.

“We’re looking at some strategic relationships with partners that will make our offering unique. We’re looking at innovation, strategic out-sourcing and bundled services. For example, we’re involved in joint ventures with Serco and Capita Symonds to deliver services and differentiate ourselves.”

Taking on outsourced staff transferred from local authorities as part of these commissions will be one of the more challenging aspects that Costain has to deal with, as these new personnel have to be inducted into the company’s way of working.

Being choosy on the type of contract it bids for does not mean a lack of work for the tendering department, however. Bids are being prepared or have been lodged for no fewer than five highway maintenance contracts around the country. Costain currently has four Maintenance Area Contracts in operation.