HS2 bosses begin ‘resequencing’ construction handovers to keep project on track

Posted on 11 May 2021

​HS2 Ltd’s board has identified the handover between construction contractors and systems integration partners as “key” to avoiding programme delays and cost overruns on the first phase of the high speed rail project between London and Birmingham.

It comes after HS2 Ltd carried out a four month schedule mitigation exercise from November 2020 to February 2021 which informed the development of a Schedule mitigation plan.

Board minutes from March – but just made public – reveal that the HS2 construction handovers will now be re-sequenced as a result of recommendations made in the Schedule mitigation plan.

The minutes add: “The Board […] has identified that key to successful strategic optimisation of the Phase One schedule lies in the re sequencing of the handovers from the Construction Portfolios to the Systems Portfolios and in particular from Civils to High Speed Railway Systems”.

Construction of phase one of the line is already well underway, having received the formal go ahead from prime minister Boris Johnson last year.

The first phase of the line is earmarked for completion between 2029 and 2033.

The overall budget for phase one, including Euston station, is £44.6bn (2019 prices). This is composed of the target cost of £40.3bn and additional government-retained contingency of £4.3bn.

The target cost includes contingency delegated to HS2 Ltd of £5.6bn for managing the risks and uncertainties that are an inherent part of delivering major projects.

Around £11bn (actual prices) has been spent to date, including land and property provisions. Approximately £12.6bn (2019 prices) has additionally been contracted, with the remaining amount yet to be contracted.

The latest meeting notes add that “a construction target schedule” including “final agreed milestones, quantities, costs and deliverables” will be drawn up by July.

Issues with systems integration have been blamed for the delays and cost overruns on Crossrail, with lessons learned exercises carried out by the National Audit Office and the London Assembly both raising concerns with Crossrail's management of rail systems integration.

Speaking on NCE’s podcast The Engineers Collective in March 2020, Crossrail chief executive Mark Wild said that the project’s delays and cost overruns were borne out of having the wrong people in management positions during critical elements of the project’s delivery program.

He added that having the same people making the decisions on the project’s civil engineering and systems integration had led the previous management team to lose its “situational awareness” ahead of delays being announced in 2018.

Instead he believes that project management should evolve to ensure “the right team” is in place during all stages of project delivery.

Likewise, rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris recently revealed that “integrating systems early on” is one of five lessons learnt from Crossrail that he keeps written at the front of his notebook.

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