Three big-hitting teams shortlisted for major transport PPP in Norway

The Norwegian Public Roads Administration (NPRA) has shortlisted three consortiums for a major public-private infrastructure scheme to finance, build and operate a new highway and a suspension bridge to an island on the west coast at Bergen.

A first for Norway, negotiations leading to the selection took place through digital video conferencing, which the NPRA said had been "surprisingly, quite effective".

Moving forward in the competition for the Sotra Connection public-private partnership (PPP) are:

  • Sotra Link, comprising Spain’s FCC Construcción, Italy’s Webuild (until recently known as Salini Impregilo), South Korea’s SK Engineering & Construction, and Macquarie Corporate Holdings;
  • Itias, comprising Italian contractor Itinera, its parent company, the Italian toll road operator ASTM, and Japanese bridge builder IHI Corporation; and
  • Via Sotra, comprising France’s Vinci Concessions, Vinci Highways, Spain’s Acciona Concesiones, and Implenia Switzerland.

NPRA said all three groups had experience implementing large infrastructure projects with complicated traffic management, as well as transport PPPs.

Link to an island

Announcing its place this week in the Sotra Link consortium, Webuild said the project, set to cost around €900m, was one of Norway’s largest onshore construction contracts by value.

It involves designing and building a 600-metre-long span across a fjord to connect Bergen on the mainland with the island of Sotra.

There will also be a 9-km-long, four-lane highway, 11km of tunnels, 22 smaller viaducts and other associated features.

The winning group will finance, design, and build the Sotra Connection, and operate and maintain it for around 25 years.

Negotiating in the age of coronavirus

The teams will now refine their proposals through meetings with NPRA.

Because of Covid-19, for the first time, discussions between NPRA and the shortlisted teams took place through digital video conferencing, which NPRA said had been "surprisingly, quite effective and focused".

"One can interact with many colleagues simultaneously where everyone has the same issue in focus," said NPRA project manager Arve Tjønn Rinde. "With good planning it is easier to focus on the decisions relevant to the progress of the matters at hand."

Rinde added that not knowing "the people and faces behind the screens from the different suppliers, makes this phase extra exciting. Although the bid evaluation process is relatively similar internationally, language, culture and digital barriers will have influence on the work in the dialogue meetings."

Can they move fast enough?

NPRA expressed concern that the shortlisted groups would not mobilise sufficient resources to start the tendering work fast enough.

Said Rinde: "The Sotra Connection project is complicated, and every meter of the project is challenging to build. Experiences from previous PPP contracts tells us that the suppliers in many cases did not start early enough, which means that valuable knowledge and time is lost."

The first offer deadline is 18 December 2020.

More negotiations will follow before new tender submissions.

The winner will be announced in July 2021, with construction expected to start around year-end 2021.

Image: NPRA’s render of the Sotra Connection linking Bergen to the island of Sotra

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