Rail industry adopts 'pure construction alliance' for Stafford

In a move unique to the UK rail sector, Network Rail, Atkins, Laing O'Rourke and VolkerRail have formed the industry's first ‘pure construction alliance' to deliver the circa £250 million Stafford Area Improvement Programme (SAIP) on the West Coast Main Line.

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Faced with remodelling/resignalling the complex layout through Stafford and a proposal to construct a new flyover at Norton Bridge to separate the commuter/freight/InterCity services, Network Rail looked overseas for a contract solution to the multidisciplinary challenge.

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."

The solution came from Australia in the form of the ‘Pure Alliance Model' - a radically different employer/contractor relationship new to the UK rail industry and based around one unified agreement where all parties share the benefits and the risks - a clear move away from the more traditional ‘hub and spoke' style of contracting towards a completely integrated ‘one team' structure.

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.

"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," said Dominic.

Operating from Crewe and Stafford, the SAIP Alliance of Atkins, Laing O'Rourke, Network Rail and VolkerRail will be responsible for the successful delivery of the Stafford improvements, covering disciplines including trackworks, civils (e.g. structures, earthworks), signalling, telecommunications, highways alterations and pipeline diversions.                        

The formation of the SAIP Alliance has been welcomed by Network Rail's Managing Director of Infrastructure Projects Simon Kirby who believes it represents a key change for the rail industry.

"This type of truly collaborative approach is the natural way forward for contracting within Network Rail and indeed the wider rail industry. 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," said Mr Kirby.

The Alliance partners also believe that the approach adopted for Stafford heralds the way forward for cross-industry contracting.

Said Steve Higham of Atkins and a member of the Alliance Leadership Team: "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."

Commented fellow Alliance Leadership Team member Graeme Castle of Laing O'Rourke: "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."

Rob Offord, Network Rail's representative on the Alliance Leadership team said: "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."

VolkerRail'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."