Balfour Beatty has won a contract to install a moveable concrete barrier on the M20 to alleviate road congestion expected after the UK officially leaves the EU at the end of the year.
The £21.8M Highways England contract, which was awarded in special circumstances, is for enabling and installation of the barrier near to Dover. This will involved implementing the blocks to the northern side of the M20, effectively enabling a contraflow system to control congestion when needed.
The contract was awarded without any prior call for competition, due to ‘extreme urgency’ brought about by events unforeseeable for the contracting authority and in accordance with the strict conditions stated in the directive, the OJEU contract notice states.
Highways England said it was ‘essential’ to have a solution in place in by the crucial date of 31st December. Failure to have a solution in place by this date would result in serious disruption on the M20 and a significant economic impact to the UK, it said.
“Due to the fixed deadline, it is not considered feasible within the timescales for Highways England to run an OJEU competition, complete mobilisation and deliver the required works to enable readiness for Brexit,” said Highways England. The barrier is the alternative to Operation Brock.
The new barrier innovation would allow a contraflow system to come into operation within hours, in comparison to Operation Brock, which would have needed a month of overnight closures to work. It will allow three lanes to continue running in both directions alongside a hard shoulder. The technology will also allow a 110km/h speed limit to continue, while Brock would have reduced that to 80km/h on two lanes.