A few months on from Crossrail appointing its project delivery partner Crossrail Central, a team comprising Bechtel, Halcrow and Systra, the organisations have merged to signal that this project is go.
More from: Delivering Crossrail: Major project report
The scale of Crossrail is immense. At its peak a massive 14,000 people will be working below, above and around the hustle and bustle of the Capital city to deliver the 42km of running tunnels, a network of new stations to create a new style of commuter system by 2017.
It sounds like a lot of work but Crossrail Central project delivery director Cliff Mumm and Crossrail client package manager for tunnels, shafts and portals Chris Dulake are in a buoyant mood.
“It takes a huge effort. You’ve somehow got to find common ground and a common understanding of what it is you’re all trying to achieve.”
And the enthusiasm is well timed − tendering for the big running tunnel contracts was beginning as this supplement went to press and there is a real sense that the merger between client and project delivery partner is emerging from its honeymoon period with a focus on the job at hand.
Integrating the client with its delivery partner has been a critical point in the scheme so far, and has meant both making concessions to assimilate. Dulake describes the integration as a “challenge in itself”.
Mumm goes further: “It takes a huge effort when there’s a whole big group of people with different backgrounds coming together. You’ve somehow got to find common ground and a common understanding of what it is you’re all trying to achieve.”
But both are confident that the result is an organisation that is fit for purpose. “I’ve been here a year, through the Bill, then the Act, engaging the delivery partner and a number of designers,” says Dulake. “It’s changed from a Bill based organisation to a delivery organisation − it’s going in the right direction.”
Shift of focus
To coincide with the organisation’s shift of focus on to building the scheme, site workers broke the seal on major construction in May by installing the first piles at Canary Wharf station. There is a sense that there is now no intention of easing off on the accelerator.
“The momentum is building,” says Mumm. “And building is exactly the right word − you can really feel it. It feels like you’re putting a wheel together and we’ve now got all the spokes in the right place.”
“We’ve made commitments to third parties to mitigate particular issues and it’s important that we’re seen to be delivering on those.”
And despite the positive support so far, maintaining and building good relationships with the project’s numerous and varied stakeholders is an ongoing priority. Formal backing from the Department for Transport, Transport for London (TfL), the London Mayor’s office to name but a few, has been secured and Crossrail and Crossrail Central know their accountability will be kept in measure along the way, with a little help from programme partner Transcend.
But both Mumm and Dulake also know the success of this project will rely heavily on the opinions of those who will feel the impact of building work as it progresses.
Dulake rates this among the largest challenges facing the scheme right now and says it is likely to be the main focus over the next 18 months to make sure design and construction stays on track. “We’ve made commitments to third parties to mitigate particular issues and it’s important that we’re seen to be delivering on those,” he says. Mumm agrees that it is one of the jobs the team has been working on “really hard” to bring all the stakeholders along with them.
“Stakeholder management has come right at the forefront of major projects over the last 20 years. And this job is totally surrounded by stakeholders,” he says. “It’s simply not acceptable to just bash our way through.”
He is aware of the backlash when that relationship is not managed carefully enough. On the Jubilee Line Extension, for example, he suggests that maybe “people didn’t love it enough to forgive us for causing the necessary disruptions.” This time though, Mumm believes: “We are working hard to avoid that reaction. We must consider our neighbours’ needs, and show people that it’s worth it.”
Other factors critical to the project’s momentum are also sharing the limelight right now − primarily design and construction.
Dulake says the main effort at the moment is design and that now presents a real opportunity to plan everything in detail to make sure any issues are designed around now.
“Stakeholder management has come right at the forefront of major projects over the last 20 years. And this job is totally surrounded by stakeholders. It’s not acceptable to just bash our way through.”
There are approximately 1,200 designers involved already − close to the project peak. And over 90% of the total 27 design contracts have now been awarded including the big wins along the complex central section of the route such as the bored tunnels, sprayed concrete lining for platform tunnels and passageways as well as most of the stations.
Getting the designers mobilised was the equivalent of reaching the first step on the design ladder. Now, says Mumm, it is a large value engineering effort to ensure value for money and quality.
Running concurrently is the plan to move forward with the contractors that will be building Crossrail.
Even before notices were due to be published in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU) for the bored tunnels, Crossrail held an industry day in June to improve engagement with the UK’s tunnelling world. The idea is that involving contractors as early on in the process will help with constructability as well as helping to economise.
Mumm says contractors do already know the project well and while the running tunnels are large contracts − about 4% of the outturn costs − the stations are significant too. He envisages that many will have formed partnerships and already have singled out key contracts.
“Some will say ‘Paddington, that’s the one I want.’ The trick for us is to manage the process of procurement well for each.” And it is clear that there will be plenty to go around, so much so that there is a keenness to see further international interest.
“We fully expect and need international involvement as well as the best from the UK market.”
“There’s is a sort of staccato approach to infrastructure construction. For example, there’s been a bit of a gap from CTRL [High Speed 1] to now,” says Dulake. “I’m going to be very interested to see what mix of contractor joint ventures emerge.
“We fully expect and need international involvement as well as the best from the UK market.”
While it is early days in terms of awarding contracts − there is one niche area of work that is certain to be dominated by an international presence. The tunnel boring machines (TBMs) that will carve out the central section will be procured through the contractors − no doubt from international suppliers.
Dulake says that this could be a self selecting process with two distinct types of TBM required and eight TBMs in three separate contracts − six earth pressure balance for the east and west longer drives and two slurry balance for beneath the river (see graphic).
However, he is keen to stress it is not a done deal yet. “We’ve had a lot of interest [from suppliers]. We’re not looking to put all our eggs in one basket. We want to be in a position where we have security of delivery of TBM’s.”.”
Although the scale of the project makes it tempting to focus on what a unique tunnelling job it is, there is precedence and experience from High Speed 1. The tunnels are a similar diameter at 6.2m and Dulake stresses that the degree of complexity of design for the running tunnels is “a lot less” than for the station tunnels.
Much thought has also gone into the people and skills needed to carry out the work. Dulake has been involved with the innovative plan to create the Crossrail Tunnelling Academy. “We’ve analysed the skill requirements and will actively manage training to make sure that trained resources will be available” he says.
As for the contractors hoping to take a big piece of the Crossrail pie Mumm has some words of advice.
“We’re looking for first class teams − there’s no point offering up B teams on the job. It’s about reputation, their approach to quality, cost, control and schedule. But it’s also about how they’re going to set themselves up for stakeholder management and a commitment to managing logistics.” Coming back to the issue of trying to avoid chaos and disruption during construction, he adds: “This programme will live and die on logistics.”
However, when it comes to measuring the success of the project there is a shared sentiment between these two men and the rest of their teams.
Health and safety tops the list. “The obvious indicators of success are programme [delivering the project on time], cost and then safety,” says Dulake. “But I would probably reverse the order because safety is number one. They are symbiotic issues because safety influences cost and programme.”
Mumm agrees that it is the most important factor because “we’re dealing with people’s lives”. “We have the chance to raise the bar on safety,” he adds. “It would be great if we can get this immense project done without harming anybody.”
“It is unique − new infrastructure in central historic London, a dense urban environment with many third party stakeholders, that must be delivered safely.”
The plan is to drive a culture of safety from the top down and it is important that all parties − client, delivery partner, designers, contractors and suppliers − are all aligned. Crossrail is also prepared to put its money where its mouth is on this issue and will incentivise by rewarding great safety records with cold hard cash.
Mumm also aims to maintain “levity and enthusiasm” for the next eight years by celebrating successes along the way, while ensuring the work remains transparent to the public and the press. Daring to look ahead, if they pass these tests along the way, what will follow is the final assessment.
“Being involved in detailed planning that shapes the project is very satisfying,” says Dulake. “It’s bigger than major projects that most of the people here will have ever worked on. It is unique − new infrastructure in central historic London, a dense urban environment with many third party stakeholders, that must be delivered safely.” Mumm too has his own passion for bringing it home: “It’s about leaving a legacy − knowing you did something that will be around long after you’re alive when people using Crossrail won’t even know you were involved. That’s pretty cool.”
“Plus, we need to keep the most important city in Europe flowing, so Crossrail will increase the vibrancy of London.”
He goes further to suggest that because it will improve the experience of commuting into London, its effects are potentially “life-changing” − ” a good transport system should be like a good waiter that isn’t bothering you and you don’t know is there.”
Expectations based on TfL projections are that Crossrail will deliver economic benefits of at least £36bn. But it remains to be seen whether it will also encourage a change of environment for many, as Mumm hopes, in allowing people to move to new places, while still being in easy reach of London.
Cliff Mumm & Chris Dulake: Team talk