Essex County Council recently began a process to appoint a new long term partner for infrastructure provision and maintenance, which could be worth over £3bn over the next ten years.
Such long term outsourcing contracts may be well established in the world of IT infrastructure – if IBM or PWC were about to be awarded a long term contract in Chelmsford, few would be surprised – but for transport infrastructure this is a noteworthy event given the size, scope and duration of the contract.
The omens are mixed – selected trials of long term outsourcing of road maintenance on output specified performance based contracts have worked well around the world – but usually on a small scale. Meanwhile, as Railtrack, Jarvis and Metronet would testify (to name but three) that outsourcing infrastructure maintenance to the private sector has a chequered history in the UK
But whilst the concept may be new, success is likely to depend on the stalwarts of any outsourcing contract – selecting the right partner, ensuring that incentives are correctly aligned, determining the most efficient transfer of risk and establishing the right performance and monitoring regime.
If Essex County Council can achieve this, they may be defining the new model for infrastructure maintenance in the UK. We look forward to working with bidders wanting to help them achieve this.