Joint venture wins one of the biggest value contracts in recent years
French contractor Dragages Hong Kong has bagged one of the biggest, if not the biggest, value contract in recent years, the Northern Connection tunnel contract worth HK$18.2 billion for the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link project.
Work will start next month for completion by the end of 2018.
Dragages Hong Kong, as a subsidiary of French giant Bougyues Construction, will be joint venture partners with its parent company.
A very recent update on Highways Department website showed that the contract for the remaining portion of the link has been awarded to the Dragages-Bouygues Joint Venture.
In terms of value this contract dwarfs the Southern Connection contract awarded to Gammon Construction last month for HK$8.66 billion and which Construction Post exclusively reported on last month.
The only contracts awarded in recent years that come anywhere near the Northern Connection contract in terms of value are the Hong Kong section of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge worth HK$12.87 billion awarded to the Dragages-China Harbour-VSL Joint Venture in May 2012 and the West Kowloon Terminus North Station North contract worth HK$8.91 billion awarded to Leighton-Gammon Joint Venture in October 2011.
Highways Department has apparently seen fit to award the contract despite concerns that the artificial island being reclaimed for the Hong Kong Boundary Crossing Facilities for the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge project could be late.
In a recent Construction Post report, the department however insisted the work was progressing to schedule.
The artificial island acts as the southern landfall for the Northern Connection tunnel from Tuen Mun.
The joint venture beat off two other contenders for the job.
They were a joint bid by French contractor Vinci Grands Projets with Gammon Construction and a Chinese led contracting group.
Last month, the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council approved funds totalling HK$44.8 billion at money-of-the-day (MOD) prices for the Tuen Mun-Chek Lap Kok Link.
The project consists of two main sections, the Northern Connection at 5.5 kilometres length and the Southern Connection at 3.5 kilometres length.
The Northern Connection consists of a dual 2-lane sub-sea tunnel from Tuen Mun Area 40 to the artificial island of the Boundary Crossing Facilities of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge while the Southern Connection consists of a dual 2-lane sea viaduct linking the HKBCF and North Lantau.
Apart from the tunnel, the contractor for the Northern Connection will have to reclaim some 16.5 hectares of land at Tuen Mun Area 40, build a toll plaza with 17 toll booths and associated approach roads and facilities.
According to an earlier paper to the Public Works Subcommittee of Legco’s Finance Committee by the Transport and Housing Bureau, the cost of the tunnel alone was estimated at HK$16.2 billion before addition of the inflation factor.
The latest win will also be a technological challenge to the contractor.
According to the Legco paper, the tunnel contract, which is to be constructed with tunnel boring machines (TBMs), will require working in a compressed area environment with pressure at 5.2 bar, “much higher than the normal 3.45 bar for compressed air works in Hong Kong”.
“All workers and firemen will have to undergo special training prior to working or performing any rescue work under such high pressure,” the paper said.
When told about this special requirement, an insurance industry source said: “It’s why it would be very surprising if [the contract] didn’t go to Dragages because it is exactly their cup of tea.”
The insurance source added that with the artificial island being potentially late, the government would have handle the contractor with kid gloves over progress.
“If they issue that contract to Dragages or whoever for the twin tunnel, you don’t want to be pressuring the contractor to get the job done quick,” he said.