The street management division of Transport for London, a division of the GLA, is in the early stages of overhauling the way it procures its £40m worth of maintenance work. A source from one firm that does highway maintenance said TFL’s street management chiefs were sceptical that partnering offered best value for road maintenance contracts.
He said: “We have asked TFL about partnering arrangements and they have said they are not convinced that partnering is as good as it could be.”
Existing deals will not be affected by the review, but the move raises a question mark over future partnering arrangements for roads and London Underground. TFL takes over responsibility for the Tube next spring.
A spokesperson for TFL’s street management division confirmed that it was reviewing its procurement strategy but said it was too early to comment on specific details or to identify alternatives.
He said: “It is not a specific review of partnership arrangements. It is a general review but partnering may come into it at some stage.”
TFL’s street management arm took control of 550 km of London roads in July. These handle about 30% of the capital’s road traffic.
As part of the GLA, TFL inherited responsibility for the road network from three bodies: the Highways Agency, the Traffic Director for London, which handled roads with restricted parking, and the Traffic Control Systems Unit, which managed signs and traffic lights.
Contractors contrasted the attitude of TFL with that of central government’s Highways Agency. A source within one contractor that has carried out road maintenance work for the Highways Agency complained that it had had difficulties obtaining information from TFL.
He said: “It is unfortunate that when the contracting industry is wishing to adopt a better working attitude, the client doesn’t wish to. Trust cannot develop because all they’re interested in is being accountable to the auditor.”
The Highways Agency favours partnering arrangements for its maintenance programme. Contractors, who are known as agents, sign three-year contracts.
Under the agreements, the contractor and client work together to decide on the best way to approach the contract. They determine details such as how often to cut the grass on the curb or clear the drains of leaves.
One contractor was sanguine about the review. “It is encouraging in that they are exploring the options and the best way of getting the work done,” he said.