In 2011, Atkins was selected to develop a strategy for future maintenance of 744km of motorways in Ireland. Micheál McKittrick outlines how Atkins helped Transport Infrastructure Ireland to move from building roads to managing them

With significant economic development in the 1990s and 2000s came the construction of the motorways in Ireland. In 2000, the network extended to approximately 350km. This increased to 1,224km by 2010, when the last of the inter-urban dual carriageways (mostly motorways) linking Dublin and the other major cities was completed.

The National Roads Authority (now incorporated into Transport Infrastructure Ireland [TII]) oversaw the delivery of a massive road-building programme, which now provides a first-class asset for the country. With this development, TII needed to transform its role from being road builder to road manager. Atkins, a multidisciplinary design consultancy with offices in Dublin, Cork and Galway, has been central to assisting the TII in making this transformation over the past five years.

In 2011, Atkins was awarded the National Roads Network Management Service Contract (NMSC) by TII to develop a strategy for the future maintenance of the 744km, generally the non-PPP element of the inter-urban motorway network. Atkins had a long history in the road-maintenance sector in the UK and its experience of developing road-maintenance strategies across several countries was key to its appointment to the commission.

Atkins motorways ireland

MMaRC/PPP Network

Before this commission commenced, each local authority maintained the extent of the motorway network within its respective boundary with funding provided by TII. This included the provision of routine maintenance, winter service and incident response on these strategic sections of the network. In terms of the maintenance aspect of this service, the existing service was mostly reactive (responding to major failures) rather than proactive (planned intervention).

Another aspect of the motorway system was the public-private partnership (PPP) contracts that exist on parts of the network. These are long-term commissions that pass responsibility for maintenance and operation of parts of the network to private operators, in return for financing and building that part of the network. The PPP schemes were being maintained to a high standard and disparities were apparent in the visual performance of parts of the network and the active management of major incidents on the network.

Strategy and implementation

TII wanted to consider all options and adopt the best possible practice at the most affordable price: Atkins was commissioned to research best practice from around the world and develop a maintenance strategy that was appropriate for Ireland. The research from England, Scotland, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand demonstrated that maintenance, in most developed countries, was predominantly carried out by the private sector using various forms of contract.

Based on the research and cost-benefit analysis, strategic decisions were made to:

  • Centralise maintenance of the motorways, with responsibility being placed with TII. This would provide consistency of performance across each of the 21 local authorities affected;
  • Privatise the maintenance function: this had the benefit of utilising the significant knowledge and experience of the road-maintenance industry that private contractors had developed, mainly in other countries, but also on the PPP contracts in Ireland;
  • Divide the country into three maintenance regions which were large enough to encourage interest from the road-maintenance industry;
  • Only permit operators to maintain a single region, thereby establishing three contractors and encouraging long-term competition in the marketplace;
  • Develop specifications that were ensured best practice and best value;
  • Utilise a medium-term contract duration (five years, plus client option to extend by a further two years), which would encourage investment by the private operators;
  • Consider the transition to a more effective, possibly longer term, contract at the end of the current contracts;
  • Develop a bespoke form of contract, based upon the public works contracts, to capture the differences between ‘construction’, for which the existing public works contracts were developed, and ‘maintenance’, which has a whole different set of issues;
  • Provide strategically placed maintenance depots around the network.

As stated above, TII-owned depots were a strategic requirement of the maintenance contracts. Atkins, as a multidisciplinary design consultancy, developed seven depots to planning stage and undertook detail design and provided construction administration and site supervision of four depots. The services that Atkins provided included: civil and structural engineering; mechanical and electrical engineering; architecture; environmental assessment; geotechnical engineering; planning services; health and safety compliance and advice; project management; fire safety; disability access; interior design; traffic and road safety; landscape architecture; and quantity surveying.

Atkins motorways ireland

Ennis maintenance depot

The depots have a consistent appearance and were constructed to similar performance specifications which have been designed to last. The depots are an investment and an asset that can be transferred from one generation of maintenance contracts to the next.

In conjunction with TII, Atkins developed the new maintenance contracts, referred to as the motorway maintenance and renewals contracts (MMaRC), and TII tendered these contracts on the open market. The contracts include the following services: routine and reactive maintenance; incident support to the emergency services; winter services (gritting and snow ploughing); asset collection and management; and renewal works.

TII, in parallel, was seeking to appoint a company to represent itsinterests on all motorway-related maintenance operations. It developed a contract for the motorway contracts audit and administration services (MCAAS) and tendered it on the open market. Atkins was again successful in securing this commission, which extends for four years, plus the option to extend by two years. The role to date has comprised of the following:

  • Administration of the MMaRC contracts;
  • Audits of MMaRC and PPP contracts;
  • Design;
  • Contract supervision;
  • Inspection and monitoring;
  • Advice;
  • Project and programme management;
  • Cost consultancy; and
  • Value engineering.

Challenges and success stories

As with all new contracts, challenges emerged for the operators, TII and Atkins. All parties have worked closely and co-operatively to resolve these challenges. Some of these challenges included the existing asset condition, the collation of data across a number of data headings (asset data and inventory associated with that asset), incident data (on all incidents that occur on the network), monitoring and reporting on potential insurance claims related to road-traffic collisions and winter-related data (such as salt usage, etc), in addition to adopting and dealing with this new contract type (and its associated requirements) within this industry.

There have been many success stories associated with the MMaRC contracts, such as the improved conditions achieved on the network over the past three years, the consistent and quick response times to incidents on the network (a total of over 5,300 in 2015), the completion of a number of pavement schemes as well as the rectification of a considerable number of defects across the network (particularly in relation to safety barrier and drainage assets). In addition, the data collection exercises, while far from complete, have given TII a greater understanding of the asset that it manages and the need for its maintenance and potential upgrade over the coming years.

Managing an asset and a contract on this scale requires a number of different elements – not least the required systems and processes to ensure that all elements are addressed, as well as an experienced and dedicated team to understand the issues and react to the demands of the contract. It is imperative that Atkins ensures a high level of consistency and service to those using the network, as well as planning and co-ordinating activities, where possible, to ensure that disruption to the road user is minimised.

These contracts are now approximately 50 per cent through their five-year term. In that regard, it is both an appropriate time to review the effectiveness and success of these contracts, as well as looking forward to see what changes (in scope, extents, risk transfer, etc) that should be made in the future. This task is currently ongoing. The general consensus, across TII, the local authorities and the industry as a whole, seems to be that the services provided are key to the successful operation of the network and that the contracts have been a success to date, providing both value for money and a consistency of service across the country.

The expertise delivered by the Atkins team on this commission across a range of services and areas of expertise is indicative of the services similarly offered to a wide range of public- and private-sector clients across all areas of the engineering and architecture spectrum. This is the approach that is taken on the MMaRC project and, with a number of years remaining on this commission, it is hoped to continue this level of service to ensure its continued successful delivery.

Micheál McKittrick, associate director, Atkins, has been leading this project from the beginning and now manages a team of 15 in delivering the services to TII. The 744km of the MMaRC network and the further 330km of the PPP network that Atkins manage on TII’s behalf represents almost 90 per cent of the national motorway and dual-carriageway network. O'RiordanCivilAtkins,local authorities,roads,Transport Infrastructure Ireland
With significant economic development in the 1990s and 2000s came the construction of the motorways in Ireland. In 2000, the network extended to approximately 350km. This increased to 1,224km by 2010, when the last of the inter-urban dual carriageways (mostly motorways) linking Dublin and the other major cities was...