Under the incentive scheme, firms such as quantity surveyors might earn an extra 10-20% of their basic fee, says contract and supply director David Meek.
Those that fail to hit targets risk losing the profit on a job and possibly a proportion of overheads.
Railtrack, which is believed to spend more than £100m a year on consultants, has piloted the incentive scheme on the £2bn-plus West Coast Main Line project. The formula is to be extended to construction projects from this month, including the station renewal programme. It will not be used on safety-related work.
The bonuses can be earned on large individual schemes or new-style “portfolio management” work, where, for example, a consultant is jointly responsible for implementing a signalling system in an area over 12 months.
The consultants are up for this approach. This is the way the market’s moving
David Meek, Railtrack
Meek said: “We are committed to a philosophy of continuous improvement. The consultants are all up for this approach. They all say this is the way the market’s moving.”
He said a quantity surveyor, for example, working on a year-long programme of improvements to 100 stations that helped to bring the package within budget, would be eligible for a bonus. Any overruns might lead to penalties.
One QS who works for Railtrack welcomed the scheme. He said: “Given how low quantity surveyors’ fees are these days, we have got to look at any opportunity to boost our income. There’s an obvious risk if we fail to reach our targets, but we have to back ourselves.
“Railtrack is a demanding, some would say difficult, client, but it is being very fair over this. If you think the consultants are under pressure, you cannot begin to imagine what it is like for the guys at the client end.”