Challenges and failures are all very well, but procurement only gets to develop if we talk about our wins. And we can all win if we learn from the best.
The Queensferry Crossing is a magnificent structure and feat of design and engineering. At 1.7 miles (2.7km) long, the bridge is the longest three-tower, cable-stayed bridge in the world. The project features innovative design and forms part of a huge, 13.7 mile (22km) upgrade in infrastructure, including intelligent transport systems and emission reducing technology.
With a project budget of between £1.7-2.3 billion at the pre-tender stage for the Forth Replacement Crossing (including the Queensferry Crossing Bridge and the surrounding infrastructure works), it’s no surprise that procurement was at the heart of the success of the project. Without great procurement and strong contract management, there is little chance that this would have been delivered in the manner it was, and provided the savings it did too. The procurement process itself delivered significant savings resulting in a reduced estimated budget of £1.45-1.6 billion.
An Audit Scotland report into the project undertaken in 2017 determined that the project had indeed delivered value for money, not surprising given that at a total spend of £1.34 billion, it provided an 8-16 per cent saving on the budget at the start of construction.
A number of strategies used by Transport Scotland for the project proved to be highly successful in the procurement exercise, such as the use of an extensive panel of KPIs, as well as allowing bidding consortia the freedom to suggest changes to designs that could potentially deliver savings and benefits.
The quality of the procurement was recognised in 2018 when Transport Scotland won the GO Infrastructure Project of the Year Award and the GO Excellence Scotland Award 2018/19 for the Forth Replacement (Queensferry) Crossing project at the 2018 GO Awards. There was further success for the project at the National GO2019 Awards in Birmingham, where it was awarded the GO Infrastructure Project of the Year.
In order to understand more about just what exactly made the procurement on this project such a success, I spoke to Lawrence Shackman, Project Manager for the Queensferry Crossing and Head of Rail Projects and Technical Services at Transport Scotland. So if you’re looking to learn from the best, now’s the time to pay attention!
What made the procurement exercise such a success to deliver the outcomes it did?
There were many good aspects to the exercise to make it a success. In particular, using the Competitive Dialogue method, which ensured we were able to engage fully with the tenderers in explaining the scope of the project, the reasoning behind the specimen design and the build process, their design and construction proposals and many other which helped to de-risk the project.
This also included supplying the tenderers with full project information, including ground investigation data and specimen designs to give examples of how the bridge, roads and associated infrastructure may be designed to satisfy the requirements.
What was the biggest challenge with the procurement and how did you overcome it?
There was a major risk that we would only be left with one bidder for the Principal Contract, as only two consortia tendered. We overcame the risk by using a Participation Agreement, signed by both tenderers, which guaranteed two things: 1 – that if Scottish Ministers did not proceed with the award of the Principal Contract, the tenderers would be reimbursed with their tender costs up to a value of £10 million; and 2 – if the contract was awarded, then the unsuccessful tenderer would be reimbursed half of their costs, up to a maximum value of £5 million.
This Agreement effectively helped to ensure that the competition remained through to submission of tenders, helping to minimise the risk of us only receiving one bid. That would have required significant additional time to verify that it represented value for money.
What lessons did you learn for future projects?
There are so many that it would be impossible to detail them all here! We intend to publish a Lessons Learned Report in the next couple of months.
If this article publishes after the publication of the report, I will link to it here.
Do you have any advice for other public sector procurement professionals working on tenders or projects to learn from your success?
Again, there are so many lessons we would share, as I have already done with other procurement professionals. Without going into too much detail, you need to ensure that you have good governance, good stakeholder engagement, technical competence, a realistic programme and cost estimating, plus robust risk management. A solid, consistent team is also essential to guide and manage the process.
Apply the Lessons
There won’t be many procurement professionals who have the opportunity to work on a project such as this, but that doesn’t mean to say that the lessons learned here are applicable across the entire profession.
Robust specifications, good stakeholder engagement, good governance and realistic programmes apply to big and small projects alike, and there is always the opportunity to look for more innovative methods to help with risk management or complex tenders.
So let’s focus on the positives, follow the path laid out for us by other professionals who have delivered successful, high-profile projects such as the Queensferry Crossing, learn from them and see what we can do in our own organisations. Remember – there is always someone to learn from who has been there, seen it, done it, so who not learn from them before we start.