Legal challenge to Silvertown selection 26 Sep 2019

Patrick Reynolds for TunnelTalk

Legal arguments are continuing over selection of the preferred bidder for the Silvertown road tunnel concession under the Thames River in London, after Transport for London (TfL) lodged its defence against the claim by the losing bidder.

London awaits Silvertown tunnel
London awaits Silvertown tunnel

In May, TfL announced Riverlinx, comprising Cintra, BAM PPP, SK E+C, Aberdeen Standard Investments, and Macquarie Capital, as its preferred bidder for the 1.4km twin-tube Silvertown link. Contract signing was blocked in early August when losing bidder, Silver Town Connect (STL), comprising Iridium Concesiones de Infraestructuras and Hochtief PPP Solutions, and two proposed subcontractors, Dragados and Hochtief Infrastructure, lodged a claim against the award.

In a case being heard by the UK High Court of Justice, STC and its subcontractors claim that TfL breached regulations and want for the award to Riverlinx to be set aside and for a declaration that the contract should have gone to STC. STC is also claiming financial damages and interest if the Court finds in its favour.

A spokesperson for TfL confirmed to TunnelTalk, in late August that the claim would block contract award until the dispute is resolved. “We are disappointed that our reserve bidder, STC, has decided to challenge the outcome of our procurement process,” the spokesperson said. TfL has stated that it would be looking to award the contract and begin construction as soon as possible.

TfL lodged its defence of the case on 11 September with the Technology and Construction Court of the High Court. The TfL spokesman told TunnelTalk that “we are defending the claim robustly and are seeking to have the suspension lifted so that we can enter into the contract.” A date of 10 October has been set for the application hearing.

The claimants say they received a formal notification of the TfL bid decision in a letter of 14 June, which stated the bid scored overall only fractionally, 0.54%, behind the Riverlinx bid. STL argues it had scored higher in price evaluation, which had most weighting in scoring the bids. It notes lower scores in two areas - one aspect of commercial evaluation concerning critical consents and ground condition rates, but contests the assessments, arguing that the evaluation and conduct of the procurement was flawed.

Fig 1. Silvertown under river link will add capacity to the existing Blackwall link
Fig 1. Silvertown under river link will add capacity to the existing Blackwall link

In its defence, TfL attests that the proposed subcontractors did not bid as part of STC group and that a bid member, John Laing Investments Ltd, that was committed to holding 50% of the equity in the event of a successful award, is not challenging the decision. TfL accepts STC scored higher than Riverlinx in the price evaluation but not significantly. It gives the tender scores by the two bidders as:

  • Commercial (max 10% possible):
  • Riverlinx, 7.22% - STC, 7.00%
  • Price: (max 85% possible):
  • Riverlinx, 82.34% - STC, 85%
  • Ground (max 5%):
  • Riverlinx, 5% - STC, 2.02%

Silvertown is to be built on a design, build, finance, operate and maintain (DBFOM) concession. The procurement process began in October 2016, envisaging a 29.5 year contract of up to 4.5 years construction and 25 years operation and maintenance. The UK Government Department for Transport approved the project in May 2018 with the invitation to negotiate extended from mid-2017 to the end of 2018 (Fig 1). Design and construction was anticipated to be underway by now, with the transport authority planning for the new road connection under the River Thames to the east of the existing Blackwall twin tube road tunnel to open to traffic by 2024-25.


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