Costain under contract to the water industry

Construction giant Costain has secured a number of partnering deals with UK water companies, for some of the largest wastewater projects in the country.

Costain is currently upgrading Thames Water's sewerage networks, across an area stretching from London to Swindon, covering 4000 km2. Under the £24M Thames agreement, Costain is responsibile for sewerage infrastructure and control, but not STWs.

"In the early stages of the project, the construction work was divided geographically. Then, teams were built around Œaction plans' namely, pumping stations, critical sewer overflows, flooding, renovations and externally funded contracts."

One concern with partnering is that in efforts to overcome conflict, too much overemphasis on "getting along" can result in risks not being identified. According to Costain, the best way to avoid this is to choose a team with the right mix of skills and personalities.

Costain has also won several contracts with Welsh Water, including Afan near Port Talbot, Lynfi, Ogmore, and Haverfordwest, following successful completion of the Llantwit coastal waters scheme. The £30M Afan project is the largest, a sewage treatment scheme serving a pe of 140,000.

To help maximise cooperation, the Afan project team is based in one office. Work being carried out includes the modification of three existing pumping stations and the construction of a new STW next to British Steel's Port Talbot site, using a sequential batch reactor process.

The treatment works and pumping stations will be connected by a 8km pipeline. Huw Llewelyn is Costain's project manager on the scheme which is being carried out under ECC Option C, with a target cost. He explained: "The contract includes a risk/reward formula involving the clients, the contractor and the design consultant with payments to the contractor based on a monthly open-book audit of the costs."

He added: "The bonus scheme ensures that all parties work together for cost savings to maximise their bonus payment. If the final actual cost is above the target cost then the overspend is shared between all parties. Its amazing how this concentrates the mind."

"A successful idea in this case was that instead of building a new storm tank at an existing pumping station (Baglan SPS) it was agreed to modify the existing station to give the extra storage required. This will have saved around £800,000."

On site there is no traditional client¹s resident engineer or a clerk of works ­ instead a rigorous quality management system (QMS) is operated by the on-site project team, which includes a client representative and a design co-ordinator.

In practice, this puts final responsibility on the engineers in the field, substantially reducing supervisory staff costs. ³One major criticism of construction projects in the past was that the client was ignored. Right at the start of this project a workshop was organised where all parties could freely express their concerns.

"From the workshop, a two-tier management structure was agreed. It consists of a steering group to decide policy and provide arbitration if required, and a core team to look after day to day issues." Each group includes representatives from Welsh Water.

Shared responsibility can help to solve problems rapidly. For instance, during the construction phase at Afan, the client¹s sludge drier requirements were changed from 2Mt/hr to 7Mt/hr.

The team were able to respond quickly and work with the supplier, Andritz, to solve the problem with no extra costs, claims or confrontation. The partnering team also hired a sub-contractor, MCS Control Systems, on an open book partnering agreement to design, build and install the control centres and ICA panels.

Mr Llewelyn said: "The Afan team decided this part of the project would benefit from specialist experience. MCS is on similar terms to Costain in the main contract, including risk/reward involvement." The team's performance has been recognised by the Movement for Innovation, which chose Afan as a national demonstration project in the latest Egan Report Rethinking Construction.

Elsewhere, Costain's long term relationship with South West Water, covering some 12 schemes in 10 years, has also progressed from conventional contracting to full partnering. Costain was awarded the Plymouth tunnels contract by South West under a conventional form of contract. However, as is often the case in tunnelling contracts, problems arose which could have resulted in expensive delays.

In this case, however, the relationship and trust already in place meant that it was an obvious step for both parties to convert the contract to a partnering agreement and reap the rewards of working together to solve the problems in question.

This led to completion of the project on time, and, importantly for South West, well within the original budget.


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