Large scale infrastructure development

Following the Chancellor’s UK budget statement in March 2021 and the review of its impact in our previous blog, the proposed investment in delivering large scale infrastructure development presents challenges, but is one that we as a company can make a positive contribution to.

With the UK Government’s perceived liking for eye-catching, large scale development, the problem of projects suffering from significant time and cost overruns is one that needs to be addressed.

Successful infrastructure delivery is vital to a country’s development and to improve the value and lives of its population. Issues in delivery can lead to far-reaching negative impacts, with a higher burden placed on the tax-payer and delays in providing essential improvements.

Articles released this month by RICS illustrate the issues faced by Cross-rail; now expected to open in 2022, more than 3 years late and at least £2.8bn over budget. The severity of the issues were not publicised until later in the project process, potentially undermining some of the project’s credibility.

Large and small projects can both suffer from such issues, albeit the losses are so much higher when something goes wrong on a project at scale.

ICE advocate addressing a series of front-end issues that are often overlooked but critical to successful outcomes; first thoughts, clarifying the purpose, understanding the project context, deciding on governance, choosing methods of appraisal, designing the project development process, exploring alternative projects, developing the favoured project further, making key decisions. If these points are fully considered, the chances of a project being deemed a success will be greatly enhanced. Early analysis and collaboration means issues and risks are more likely to be identified, therefore leading to an accurate budget price and programme, giving confidence to all stakeholders. There is also the possibility that this process leads to fewer disagreements between stakeholders as works develop on site, for which we understand the importance of good contract, project and risk management and having the right team in place.

An effective method widely discussed in mitigating the risk of a project going wrong is better data use and management. Importantly for us, this gives the opportunity to maximise the effectiveness of the Quantity Surveyor. Exercises in benchmarking projects, providing clear and unbiased forecasting and monitoring costs against planned delivery are critical tasks. In addition, finding innovative methods of managing and using data in conjunction with the latest technology ensures the value of the Quantity Surveying role within the project team.

With the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, Government investment in the infrastructure sector is vital to the prosperity of the country and gives us at TRIQS the chance to positively influence the future.