Paul Lengthorn

Mott MacDonald and Chinese contractor to plan target joint project list

Chinese funding attracted Mott MacDonald to do deal with expert high speed rail contractor; China Railway Construction Corporation wants consultant's understanding of how to win work in UK. Interview with Mott MacDonald China director Paul Lengthorn.

China Railway Construction Corporation (CRCC) and Mott MacDonald signed a Memorandum of Understanding during Chancellor George Osborne’s visit to China last week, and are seeking major international construction projects to pursue together. 

News of the collaboration came while the Chancellor identified UK projects, including £11.8bn of HS2 contracts, which would be “opened up” to bidders including those from China.

“Generally, China has little experience of working in the UK, for instance.  The way to position for and win work here is very different from China, where work is often directly allocated because of capacity issues.”

Mott MacDonald’s and CRRC’s MOU aligned with the signing of The Employee Exchange Scheme by the UK Institution of Civil Engineers and the China International Contractors Association which will enable better knowledge exchange and understanding between construction professionals from the two countries. The first professional exchange employee from CRCC will be joining Mott MacDonald next month. It is planned that more will follow and that suitable Mott MacDonald staff will exchange in the opposite direction.

“The first steps for CRCC and ourselves under the MOU will be a series of workshops involving our senior staff and theirs to work through a list of potential global target projects,” said Mott MacDonald China director Paul Lengthorn.

CRCC is one of the largest engineering contractors in China and the world, according to the ENR Top 250 Global Contractors listing of 2014.  Revenue in 2014 was £61bn. It has built over half of China’s high speed rail network, on which Mott MacDonald has worked, and the organisation funds, designs, and constructs projects all over the world.

“One of the attractions to Mott MacDonald of entering into this MOU is that CRCC is able to come to projects with the funding to make them happen, and CRCC wants to become a global infrastructure player,” said Lengthorn. “It is a potential new client in the global market.”

For CRCC Mott MacDonald can provide independent design consultancy and informed understanding of standards, safety, quality and environmental considerations and requirements, particularly in countries aligned with the UK approach on policy and process, Lengthorn explained.

“Generally, China has little experience of working in the UK, for instance.  The way to position for and win work here is very different from China, where work is often directly allocated because of capacity issues.”

“On matters such as safety policy, quality systems and the environment there are challenges for the Chinese in countries where there is a prescriptive regime of regulation that needs to be understood and can be crucial, even at bidding stage. Those are areas where CRCC will need experienced input.”

“Globally we can generally work together anywhere, so the arrangement is attractive and mutually beneficial.

“Our Memorandum with CRCC will probably generate most of the work together outside China, although there will also be opportunities for complex / overseas funded projects in the country”, Lengthorn believed.

 “CRCC is a new entrant into many parts of the world market and it really needs to start to build its story – it is eager to work in the UK and Europe. CRCC is trying to understand the structure of our industry better and this MoU with Mott MacDonald will aid them.”

Africa and Pakistan are already major markets for CRCC and Lengthorn said he expected the contractor would continue to develop in some of those countries on its own terms with little or no need for input from Mott MacDonald.  However, for inward investor clients and in more developed countries the skills and knowledge of Mott MacDonald would be of great value.

“CRCC has design institutes within its organisation so it can do a project from beginning to end but that might not be appropriate for some countries which like to have independent consultants on their projects, or which want to organise to use local rather than Chinese labour – the US, Europe and Australia are obvious examples. That is where we think the collaborative opportunities are for both of us,” he said. 



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