The first tenders for construction work on the £9.2bn Crossrail project, linking east and west London, will be issued next year – two years ahead of the first scheduled building work.

Speaking at the Labour Party Conference this week, Norman Haste, Crossrail chief executive, said he wanted to get specialist contractors, such as tunnelling experts, on board during the design process. Haste believes that this could decrease the overall bidding costs for the scheme’s 11 construction contracts from an estimated £50m to “well below” £30m.

The specialist contracts would not be competitively tendered, but instead judged on “soft” issues such as structure, management strength and staff capability.

Selection on these issues, rather than prices, reduces bid costs but means that the chosen firms have to be involved early in the design process to help deliver the scheme at a reasonable cost.

The larger construction jobs such as stations at Tottenham Court Road and King’s Cross St Pancras would still be competitively tendered.

There have been some fears that the industry does not have the capacity to build Crossrail as it will represent 15-20% of all UK construction output during its six-year build programme.

To allay these fears, Crossrail has undertaken research into the capacity of the European construction market. As a result many larger European contractors have expressed an interest in working on the scheme. Haste said: “We’re confident we would have to involve the whole of the European market. Bouygues and Binchi are interested in Crossrail, as is Ferrovial in Spain.”