With athletes competing in 17 different sports over 11 days, in front of 1.5M spectators, the organisers of the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games are gearing up for a massive logistical challenge.
With less than four years to get the infrastructure and transport network ready, Anne Sha w, director of network resilience at Transport for the West Midlands (TfWM) already has the finish line in sight.
“We don’t want to be the people who are standing between an athlete and their gold medal because we can’t get them to the competition on time,” she says.
And that is why major infrastructure programmes, which were being undertaken in time for High Speed 2 (HS2) to open in Birmingham in 2026, are being brought forward to open in time for the 2022 games. The Authority wants to promote a public transport games, which will meet long-term regional requirements as well as the temporary demands of the Games.
The Games will mainly play out in existing venues with the major construction focus on the 1,400 unit athletes village, aquatics centre and extra capacity at the Alexander Athletics Stadium in Perry Bar.
Which means the real focus is on getting rail infrastructure ready. Birmingham New Street – the main arrival point for visitors to the city – has to be geared up for the extra passenger flows and other transport links must be put in place. Work includes upgrades to rail stations, such as Selly Oak and Perry Barr, and a new station which will serve one of the Games venues at Birmingham City University. The Camp Hill line will also open in time for the Games.
Anne shaw crop
Other projects brought forward include the Birmingham Westside Metro extensions, being delivered by the Midland Metro Alliance, and a rapid transit bus service – called Sprint – which has seven routes as part of the HS2 connectivity package. Three of these are to be delivered by 2022.
“In terms of the projects we already have in the pipeline, we’re already well advanced in making sure we have the right suppliers in tow, with the delivery side of those elements.
“Where we’re trying to increase the pace of delivery, we’re making sure we have a good supply chain lined up to do the design and feasibility work, and also the construction,” says Shaw.
We’re already well advanced in making sure we have the right suppliers in tow
Shaw previously worked at Birmingham City Council where she was responsible for putting the transport section of the Games bid together.
Now her role is to ensure the necessary infrastructure is delivered, the impact of the work is managed, a route map for the Games is devised, and operations run smoothly during the actual event. She must also ensure the 3.5M West Midlands residents can go about their business as usual.
A key element will be the opening of a regional transport co-ordination centre, which will give the Authority and its transport partners, such as Highways England, an intelligent understanding of how the network is operating in real time, and the impact of engineering works.
“It will be delivered ahead of the Games and will be a core element of transport coordination within the Games,” says Shaw.
Shaw is unable at this stage to put an exact figure on the transport infrastructure spend, as some is still being planned, but the final bill is expected to be somewhere between £250M to £300M.
Our supply chain is really important to us and we need to make sure it can deliver for us
“We know that within our capital programme we’re going to need some support on doing the detailed design. We’ve already got some technical
support in already, given the timescales we’re working to.
“But we will need to also have people who are able to deliver on the ground. We’re looking to start some of those works next year, 2019, to make sure they’re completed well ahead of the games,” she says.
“The other side to the procurement routes will be some of the technical support around the operational plan. What do we need to do in terms of transport services, such as temporary shuttle bus services?”
The team is starting to sketch out the procurement pipeline, however Shaw says there is a lot of opportunity for the supply chain, which will be mostly recruited via frameworks.
So, with such a big programme, what are the risks associated with delivery? Shaw says the supply chain will have to step up to deliver more.
“There are quite a lot of delivery risks,” admits Shaw. “For example, we know that we have an existing capital programme with the region. One of the largest investments in our transport infrastructure is happening right now,” she says.
Given the size of the programme she must ensure that there is enough contractor, consultant and supply chain resource to deliver it.
“On top of that we’re going to need additional support to do the specific programmes of work around the Games, so our supply chain is really important to us and we need to make sure it can deliver for us.”
Delivery is against the backdrop of current investment which is already constraining existing networks. For example, there are already huge programmes going in Birmingham City Centre, such as the tram extension around Paradise Circus. And although that will be out of the way by 2022, the games will coincide with the construction of HS2.
“Some of the coordination we’re having to do is to look at what is already planned to be constructed during that period and work with those delivery bodies to halt or suspend or in some way mitigate the impacts of that reduced capacity during the Games,” says Shaw.
“One of the biggest examples of where we might have issues around ongoing works during the Games, is around delivery of HS2.
It is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in UK and we don’t want to unduly delay that by asking them to stop work at that time. So we’re working with HS2 Ltd to see how we can make sure it can continue delivery, particularly where it has work around some of the venues or in Birmingham city centre, which will be the main arrival point. We must also make sure its work programmes are adjusted accordingly, but still make sure it can do what it needs to do.”
Legacy is key
Like the London 2012 Olympics, legacy is key. And for local residents, one of the most obvious legacies will be that they get some transport infrastructure earlier than previously planned.
However, TfWM is hoping to build in a longer-term step change in getting people more mobile and taking up public transport.
And if the games are delivered successfully, the final legacy will an impression of Birmingham and the West Midlands, as a place where major events can happen. “The people who live and work here are up for hosting.”