How ‘independent’ is the LTC Independent Commercial Review?

As many will know there have already been a number of Lower Thames Crossing (LTC)  related contracts awarded.  Some have been awarded for works in regard to ongoing work for design work, consultation, and DCO work etc.  Some National Highways (NH) have ‘awarded’ but are subject to permission being granted, which may of course not happen!

Recently we learnt of a contract that had been awarded for an LTC Independent Commercial Review.

This contract has been awarded to a company called Agilia Infrastructure Partners Limited.  It is worth also noting that there were no other tenders for this contract, and that the review body is listed as the Cabinet Office.

We carried out an online search on this company and soon realised that there appear to be some questionable aspects to this contract being awarded to Agilia Infrastructure Partners Limited.

Firstly, the company’s joint MD, Mike Pugsley details on his bio that he worked on LTC, mentioning the LTC as a £4.1bn project, which of course highlights that the work would have been carried out some time ago, as the estimated cost of the proposed LTC is now much higher.

We looked a little further and found an article from March 2019 that states that he, “…has recently led the consideration of Private Finance for the Lower Thames Crossing Project.”

What’s more a Project Director at Agilia Infrastructure Partners Limited, Ben Prynn states in his bio on the company website, “A Chartered Accountant by training Ben has worked as a financial and commercial adviser to help deliver dozens of PFI/PPP projects and manage key workstreams on several large-scale high-profile infrastructure projects in the UK and overseas including the Lower Thames Crossing, the Solidarity Transport Hub, Trafikverket’s High Speed Rail programme and the Thames Tideway Tunnel.”

Mr Prynn’s LinkedIn profile details that he worked as a Commercial Adviser for Jacobs between Jan 2013 – Dec 2021, and mentions under that role that he worked on major project delivery – principally Thames Tideway Tunnel and the Lower Thames Crossing.

Further down his profile under ‘Projects’ it states LTC from Sept 2016-Jun 2020.

Also on LinkedIn there is a post on the Agilia profile saying they are in a consortium with Jacobs.  For those that may not be aware Jacobs is the Integration Partner for LTC.

The timing of this contract appears to coincide with when the last Infrastructure and Project Authority (IPA) review happened.  We therefore question whether this contract is connected to the independent review for the IPA (which comes under the Cabinet Office).

Most importantly we question how on earth a company where at least two of the Directors have previously worked on the LTC can ever be considered independent?

This is not the first time we have questioned how independent reviews of LTC have been, as all too often reviews seem to rely purely on information provided by NH, and nobody else.

It is also not the first time we have questioned whether Ministers are being misled in regard to the cost of the proposed LTC, since the estimated cost of the project being used in official processes like the DCO application, is as at August 2020 (over 3 years out of date).

We have mentioned our concern over this in our Deadline 9A submission in the LTC DCO Examination.

We have also started and will continue to contact various government and other departments and contacts regarding this matter and our concern that the LTC Independent Commercial Review does not appear to be as independent as most would think, hope, and expect.