£483 Billion Investment in 600 Major Projects

The demand for expert project management skills is not set to diminish. The new Infrastructure and Projects Authority is tasked with timely and cost effective delivery of the government’s major projects and programmes over the next 5 years and beyond. The projects include high profile initiatives such as “Smart Motorways”, High Speed 3 and Hinkley Point C.

The challenge is to unravel what’s new and what’s different – and what is political or Whitehall spin!

The latest document published in March is the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan 2016–2021. It builds on the National Infrastructure Plan (Dec 2014) and the National Infrastructure Plan for Skills (Sept 2015). There is also a National Infrastructure Commission led by Lord Adonis. And Tony Meggs has recently been appointed as Chief Executive of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority.

Are these projects new announcements?

Mostly not. The new Infrastructure Delivery Plan does include an update to the Projects Pipeline including projects confirmed in the latest budget announcements. The list spans 8 broad sectors, with the biggest spend being on transport and energy. Projects include familiar ones such as Crossrail and the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

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Is the funding all from the government?

No. They are projects regarded to be of strategic national importance but they are funded through public, private and hybrid investment models. In a major area of spend such as Energy virtually all the spend is private – but with facilitation and guarantees from the government. The newly added social infrastructure projects (schools, hospitals and prisons) largely involve public finance.

Will all the projects be complete by 2021?

No. Although a 5 year horizon features in the title of the National Infrastructure Delivery Plan the projects and programmes included are at many different stages. Some are very much at feasibility stage; others are well underway. It is noted that the pipeline is dynamic and we should expect the scale and mix of projects to evolve.

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What’s the role of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority?

This new organisation is tasked with tracking and reporting on project progress. It is expected to ensure timely and cost effective delivery of the government’s infrastructure priorities. It is expected to act as the “centre of excellence for project finance and expert support”. Its chief executive, Tony Meggs, transferred from the previous Major Project Authority – but he is relatively new to Whitehall, with a private sector background overseeing BP’s technology, projects and engineering functions.

Why should we expect project outcomes to be any better than in the past?

It would be wise to remain sceptical but there are some positives amongst the many planning documents in circulation. It’s not in the headlines but buried in the detail there is recognition of the project, engineering and IT skills gaps when it comes to implementation. And there is a renewed emphasis on advancing project skills and leadership amongst those responsible for major investments. This includes the Major Projects Leadership Academy established jointly with Deloitte and the SAID Business School.

The Foundations of Best Practice Project & Programme Management Skills

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