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More For Less

12 July 2010

In a tough financial climate, UK councils want a 'more for less' search for improvements.  For contractors such as Costain, with innovation to the fore, this is presenting opportunities.  

Area councils are currently looking at their infrastructure budgets to save money. Traditionally, highways maintenance contracts run for five years with options to extend and the easy option for councils is simply to extend existing arrangements, says Costain's new Highways Maintenance Services Director, Chris Tyerman.

Now, however, they are responding to impending cuts in their grants by going out to tender on these maintenance contracts, in the search for cost-effective solutions to their funding problems, through innovative delivery of their highways maintenance services.

"There are very good prospects in this sector," says Chris, who was previously Deputy Managing Director of Community. "The simple fact is that once you've got an asset you have to maintain it and to maintain it needs investment, good management and a good process of risk and asset management."

His newly-created role takes account of two facts: that Costain wants to push further into the £1billion annual highways maintenance sector, which will require some dedicated resources; plus the Group's existing workload in this field, which has reached a critical mass and now needs someone to look after it. Chris will take this piece of work off the desk of Highways Sector Director, Tim Bowen.

"We already have three Managing Agent maintenance contracts with one of our key Customers, the Highways Agency - MAC 7 in East Midlands, MAC 10 in Greater Manchester, Merseyside  and Cheshire, MAC 12 covering Yorkshire and, from 1 July, MAC 14 for Durham and Northumberland," says Chris. "I'm also responsible for other capital works framework contracts such as East and South-East, and the Midlands."

Just 12 months ago, he reckoned that two or three highways maintenance contracts would come up for re-tender this year. Now, it looks as though 15 to 25 will be up for grabs over the next 12 months as councils seek a better deal from suppliers to cope with their financial constraints.

Costain will seriously consider around five of them, he believes: "It's a great opportunity for us."