Effective communication throughout the term of a framework

Local highway authorities are progressively turning to single sourced framework agreements to balance increasing highway capacity demands with ever reducing capital and operational budgets.

In taking this step the need for surety in establishing positive and effective communications through the term of the framework and the management of stakeholder interests become key concerns for local authorities and public bodies.

It is, therefore, essential to establish how a supplier proposes to manage communications with your own contract management team and third parties, particularly the public. This subsequently allows you to articulate clearly how your framework approach is minimising disruption and optimising highway capacity – both during construction and on completion – to your own stakeholders.

The team will need robust processes, systems and tools in place, including how to manage any complaints from third parties in relation to the framework activities. These should evidence an understanding of the consequential reputational impact in dealing efficiently and effectively with complaints.

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An effective and efficient collaborative framework team will be fully committed to open communication and engagement at every level of the framework. Each individual will need to understand the importance of clear, honest, timely and relevant communication to enable effective contract management and communication with each other and the wider community and stakeholders.

A Framework Mobilisation Plan and a Framework Communication Plan should be jointly developed. The first provides the foundations for the expected common behaviours of those involved, and the latter a cohesive framework for all communications, internally and with third parties.

Learning from successful single source frameworks established the added value of a Framework Project Board to oversee the delivery of the framework programme. A key function of this board is to create an environment that embraces cross framework communications and supports the development/sharing of highways best practice (working practices, products, efficiencies achieved). This strategic group is also instrumental in setting expectations in terms of communication to third parties, reviewing complaints and complaints handling.

Communications with third parties are best organised and managed through a Stakeholder Management Plan to coordinate all communications over the lifecycle of each project. This will typically identify third party matters, contact details, planned communications methods, expected outcome and actions. Target audiences are listed and the key messages to be communicated can be confirmed.

Network Rail is a regular and influential third party stakeholder for many local authority highways projects. Where you anticipate your project or framework will include schemes that interface adjacent to or cross the operational railway, appointing a partner with proven railway skills and experience is essential. Your chosen supplier must evidence an in-depth understanding of Network Rail needs. This will include the degree of detail and substantiation for proposed methods and the identification and proven mitigation of risks to the railway and their passengers. This capability is essential to gain prompt and favourable approval from planning, design development through all stages of each project implementation.

Osborne has its own Contractor’s Operating Licence and has planned and completed over 25,000 railway possessions, with over 1000 railway project designs “approved first time” with Network Rail. Osborne is, therefore, well placed to provide the very best advice, support and guidance in managing your risks associated with third party railway interfaces.

Richard King CEng MICE is a Director at Osborne and Chairman of CECA Southern

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