Antwerp Network Meeting Report

The 35th edition of the NETLIPSE Network Meeting was a success, bringing together over 60 professionals from 12 countries to discuss challenges faced in large infrastructure projects. The participants had the opportunity to exchange good practices and come up with new ideas to tackle these challenges.

We would like to extend our thanks to the participants and particularly to Luc Hellemans, Gert Osselaer, Roland Van Driel, Hans Baeten, Amanda Meeder, Annik Dirkx, Gerlinde Dhondt, and Katrien Van Gorp from Lantis for hosting the meeting and sharing their experiences in the Oosterweelverbinding project.

Below you can find the report of the Network Meeting, the presentation slides, and photo’s.

Day 1 – Monday:

Koen Kennis – Opening
The day started with a warm welcome from Koen Kennis, the Vice-Mayor of Antwerp with mobility in his portfolio. He introduced the Oosterweelverbinding project and explained that Antwerp had to overcome 20 years of political deadlock and had to address concerns of environmental and citizen movements in order to solve the mobility problems that face the city.

After historic consensus was reached on where and how the project would be built, an alliance for the future was made with a tailor made governance structure on three levels to adress the mobility issues of Antwerp:

  • Level 1: Regional Mobility Council – Council of vice-mayors of various municipalities around antwerp that advice the minister in how to allocate the annual budget.
  • Level 2: Working Committe – Translates the policies from the council to operational plans (together with Lantis).
  • Level 3: Working Level Platform – Flemish administrations and public transport companies that implement the various sub-projects.

Luc Hellemans – Introduction Lantis
The CEO of Lantis, Luc Hellemans started the day with an inspiring talk on the ‘why’ of megaprojects. He explained that due to the size of megaprojects and the amount of taxpayer money involved, the responsibility to society of megaprojects is tremendous. Because of this responsibility we shouldn’t define project succes as completed within budget and time, but in terms of benefits for society.

At Lantis this lesson was learned when the project was confronted with PFAS contamination. Considering the financially most viable option, Lantis tried to contain the problem rather than cleaning the PFAS contamination, causing a loss in stakeholder engagement and blockades for the project. Lantis soon realised that the only way to re-mobilize these stakeholders for the project, was by changing the approach to the project.

This resulted in ‘The Big Link’, a change of t he project goals to increase the quality of life for all inhabitants of Antwerp and focus on collaboration with stakeholders. The change means that the Antwerp ringroad will now be covered with huge parks, reducing pollution and improving life for residents and animals alike, and meanwhile creating employment for over 3000 people with a distance to the traditional labour market.

Thus, the project became a lever for natural development, employment, and health. Resulting in a reignited belief in the project by important stakeholders, who are now collaborating with the project instead of protesting it.

Roland van Driel, Hans Baeten, Amanda Meeder – NEC4 experiences in the Oosterweelverbinding project
Because of the characteristics of the Oosterweelverbinding project, it was clear that the contracts for the project should be collaboration driven, facilitate a flexible scope, be based on risk sharing, be tested and approved and financially reliable, competitive and transparent. In order to meet these requirements, Lantis decided to use a NEC4 Engineering & Construct contract.

There are five major contractual mechanisms in this type of contract:

1. Target Costs
A target cost for a certain scope of work is jointly defined. If the actual costs are lower than the target cost, the client and contractor share the gains. However, if the actual costs are higher, the pain is also shared. This way of sharing risk and opportunity drives collaboration.

2. Compensation Events
In a classic contract, the time needed to determine the cost of changes and additional scope causes delays. In the NEC4 contract, both parties agree to continue the work while the price for changes is established in a seperate compensation event. This enables both parties to focus on progress and prevent delays and disputes.

3. Early Warning
The early warning process facilitates pro-active risk management. There is an obligation to notify other involved parties as soon as an issue is discovered, and a fine is applied when parties fail to notify each other. Early notification enables early mitigation of causes of an issue, rather than controlling the consequencecs of an issue after it has taken place.

4. Cost Control
In a classic contract the contractor is being compensated based on invoices. This makes it unclear for the client whether it’s paying a fair amount. Due to the open book method in the NEC4 contract, the client is assured that it’s paying a fair amount, and is able to control costs.

5. Cooperation
This kind of cooperation requires a collaborative mindset from both the people directly involved, but also from the organisations behind the client and the contractor. In order to achieve that mindset, a lot of time, energy and management attention is going towards facilitating this change in human behaviour.

Challenges in Tendering Megaprojects
The day continued with 3 perspectives on challenges in tendering megaprojects.

Presentation: Frans de Kock, Miranda Maarssen – van Veenendaal – Challenges in Tendering the Zuidasdok Tunnel Project
The tunnelling of the existing A10 highway is a crucial project within the Zuidasdok Programme and is being developed right in the economic heart of Amsterdam. The tunnel creates space for a park with cycling and walking routes, and enables the Amsterdam Zuid Station to develop into a high-quality transport hub, where train, tram, metro, and bus converge.

In 2017 the project as a whole was awarded, but due to various reasons the contract was terminated in 2020 and it was decided to seperate the project in 5 parts. The re-tendering of the project proved challenging, as market parties have become increasingly risk-averse and hesitant to bid on complex works. In 2022 an industry day was organised to present the proposed re-tendering strategy, containing a weighty competitive dialogue, a lumpsum contract, and a standard risk distribution. This approach resulted in severe feedback from market parties and no appetite to bid for the contracts.

In response, the Zuidasdok project took the opportunity to reach out to the market and entered in two rounds of intensive discussions with market parties which resulted in a custom strategy based on Rijkswaterstaat’s two-phase approach in combination with a 50/50 responsibility distribution.

Presentation: Camilla Ahston, Alexandra Stassais Söderblom – Challenges Attracting International Suppliers and Procuring Major Contracts
Camilla explains that Trafikverket wants to attract more international suppliers to tender for their contracts. The aim is to be able to handle the large volume of upcoming work, to increase competition on the Swedish market, and increase the inflow of new methods, technologies and skills.

In order to attract these suppliers, Trafikverket wants to become the supplier’s first choice when it comes to relationship building, reduced conflict levels, business forms and decision-making. Trafikverket wants to achieve this by improving marketing towards international suppliers, lower market entry barriers (such as switching to English as working language), and prepare for cooperation.

To better understand the concerns from suppliers, multiple rounds of dialogues with the market were organised. The result is a list of themes to consider when procuring major contracts:

  • Include a fair risk balance
  • Make sure that there’s availability to cement for suppliers
  • Fines must be limited to a maximum amount
  • There should be routine processes in place for solving and escalating conflicts
  • Prequalification can be risk but also an advantage for a tender
  • Make use of collaborative contracts and include a collaboration leader if necessary
  • Include indexation early on in the contract
  • Make sure that the required permits are in place before tendering the contract

These themes also return in Trafikverket´s projects. Alexandra presents the example of Crosslink Södertörn. This is a mega road project located in the Stockholm area, comprising multiple contracts worth over 200 million euros. One of these projects was procured without having all the permits in place. Trafikverket had to revoke this project and return the contract, which is not helping when you want to become a reliable client. The lesson learned is that Trafikverket now doesn’t start procurement untill all the necessary permits are in place.

Alexandra explains that the Crosslink Södertörn project is working closely with the procurement department to achieve its goals, and is being used as a pilot project to introduce innovations such as:

  • Electrified Construction
  • Digitalised Construction
  • Automated Construction
  • Optimised Mass Management

Sietsche Eppinga – Challenges in tendering the PALLAS Reactor Project
Sietsche Eppinga presented the challenges of tendering the PALLAS Reactor Project, which aims to replace the HFR Reactor in Petten. The project is a large multi-disciplinary public-funded project with a focus on nuclear safety and quality. Stakeholders involved in the project, including the future operator of the reactor, the contractor, and regulators, face challenges due to the lack of experience in building new nuclear reactors in the Netherlands for over 50 years. To tackle these challenges, the PALLAS Reactor Project has conducted a round of market consultations from which the lessons were:

  • There is a clear need for collaboration
  • There should be clarity about scope and responsibilities
  • The risk division between client and contractor should be fair
  • Price escalation because of the long duration of the contract is a concern
  • Availability of required personnel is scarce.

To address these lessons, PALLAS set up a collaborative delivery strategy with the use of a Joint Delivery Organisation, delivering the project through a NEC4 type of contract. The working concept is that once a defined part of the scope (batch) is mature enough to be priced, a target price is set using an open book method. The scope of these batches can never take longer than 1,5 years, making them small enough to implement an incremental learning proces together with the client, designer, and contractor.

Gerlinde Dhondt – The Oosterweelverbinding Project
Gerlinde Dhondt gave a presentation on the Oosterweelverbinding project, providing the perfect preparation for the subsequent site visit to the Left Bank of the Oosterweelverbinding project. She explained that there will be less lanes in the future for a specific stretch of the Antwerp Ring Road. This means that a modal shift from cars to other modalities will be necessary. The Oosterweelverbinding project has become a major facilitator of this modal shift, as it includes the construction of additional modal hubs around the cities that have ‘Park & Ride’s’, public transport stops, and bike parking facilities.

Day 2 – Tuesday:

Research Café
Martina Huemann explained that the NETLIPSE Research Café provides an opportunity to researchers involved in relevant studies on the delivery of large infrastructure projects, to present and discuss their studies and/or validate their findings with an audience of client/sponsor representatives, as well as project managers and colleague researchers. This way NETLIPSE helps bridging the gap between theory and practice.

The following topics were discussed:

  • Jaap Stoppels (TU Delft) – Project Steering Committees: Do’s and don’ts
  • Constanza Mariani (Politecnico di Milano) – How AI changes project management: applications and future scenarios
  • Ruth Sloot (University of Twente) – What, how and how much digital information shared during a tender phase would lead to contractor’s better understanding of the project?
  • Katharina Burger (University College London) – Major Infrastructure Leadership: What competences are needed?
  • Martina Huemann (WU Vienna) – What hot topics in major infrastructure delivery need an answer?

You can download Jaap Stoppel’s ‘Quick Reference Card for Project Steering Committees’ here, and you can fill in his survey on steering committees here.

You can download Constanza’s presentation on ‘How AI changes project management’ here.

You can view the results of Katharina’s workshop here.

Stakeholder opposition challenges
The Network Meeting was concluded with 4 perspectives in addressing stakeholder opposition challenges.

Presentation: Annik Dirkx – Communication By(e)pass
Annik explains that the Oosterweelverbinding project has a history of overcoming stakeholder opposition challenges. One of the major events was the removal of the wapper bridge, and the construction of a temporary highway (bypass) to facilitate the traffic during construction.

As not many people were aware that the bridge would disappear, the project focused on informing the local people. This was done through various channels and methods such as webinars, social media, an interactive projectatlas and information sessions. The concerns of the local residents were addressed by introducing a lower speed limit, placing sound-barriers, and using sound reducing asphalt.

Despite this, the project found that it was difficult to grab the attention of the general public. In response, the project created the ‘bye bye’ campaign, using creative ways to inform people on the upcoming construction activities and preparing them for the disappearence of the bridge.

Presentation: Karin van Helmond & Thomas van Leengoed – Projects & Politics
Karin introduced the PHS (Programme Highfrequent Rail) Amsterdam project. The project itself entails a modernisation of the whole Amsterdam Central Station and the surrounding area, including enlargement of platforms, renovation of bridges, and changes in the track layout. This is difficult because there are three teams (civil, infrastructure, and station) that have to work closely together with integrated contracts, while working in a ‘live’ environment where trains are running and the station’s functionalities are open to the public.

Thomas explains that in order to control such a complex project, much time was invested in determining a way of working within the project teams, but also with contractors and other stakeholders. The conclusion was that the project needs to be predictable to facilitate collaboration and planning, and adaptable in order to accomodate changes and contingencies.

As the project has multiple clients, it is difficult to keep the steering lines to these organisation clear. Additionally the project has many interfaces with other projects that are being developed on the Amsterdam Central Station, which make it a difficult task in itself to keep the projects aligned on one another.

Presentation: Akseli Nurmi – Main Road 3: Challenges in finding a joint solution with the supervising authority
Akseli explains that the Main Road 3 project has faced challenges in managing water during the work process. These challenges include building near a body of water inhabited by a protected species of mussels, and working in an area that is prone to flooding.

Although the initial issue has been addressed through collaboration with the relevant environmental authorities, there have been communication difficulties since. The response time from the authorities has been slower than expected, and additional requirements are being put on the project over time. Despite ongoing discussions for over 1.5 years, a final resolution to the issues has not been reached yet.

Presentation: Friederike Schaffrath – Stakeholder Involvement Guidelines & Examples from Rhineland
Friederike presented the pilot project for Autobahn’s new stakeholder involvement guidelines. The project is a new crossing over the Rhine river between highways A555 and A59 in the Rhineland region. In Autobahn’s organisation, planning and design are in the same division. Only after the design is complete, it is handed over to the construction division. In the past this meant that communication to local residents only started after the design was already finished, but that is too late.

Currently, we first start the dialogue and only after dialogue the project plan is made. Planning workshops were organised to find all the possible corridors, and working groups were established to address special topics. Additionally, every step of the design was communicated with a monitoring committee for which applications were open to everyone. To make participation easy, Autobahn has developed a flowchart to determine how to communicate to which stakeholder.

Presentation: Bernard Gyergyay – Announcement Upcoming NETLIPSE Network Meeting
The Network Meeting ended with a short presentation by Bernard, announcing Berlin, Germany as the location of the next NETLIPSE Network Meeting. We are very pleased that The Autobahn GmbH will host the 2023 fall Network Meeting in on November 20 – 21. We hope to see you there!