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Seeking better value

How construction is helping to deliver.

At a time when the construction sector is struggling, infrastructure is one of the few areas of construction where output is growing.

Public and private investment in the nation’s transport, energy, water and waste management networks is at the heart of government’s economic plans, and landmark projects such as Crossrail are moving forward.

To maintain this level of support, all of us in the industry must show we are committed to delivering ever greater value to clients and investors. Happily there are clear signs this is the case.

Over the last year it has been my privilege to chair the Infrastructure Steering Committee, which provides a conduit between industry, clients and government as we work together to implement the findings of HM Treasury’s Infrastructure Cost Review. ICE is pleased to play its part in this important work.

At the end of the first year of our three year programme, vital enabling members have been put in place. The National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) and the forward pipeline of projects were published in November; a group has been formed under Arup’s Terry Hill to identify and remove duplication of technical standards; and an MoU has been signed between major clients to pool data.

As importantly, savings of £1.5bn made through the implementation of cost review principles have already been identified and industry leaders are acknowledging that there is now improved visibility and confidence of the future workload.

There is, however, no room for complacency. In year one, industry and government have been working on key improvement measures including the development of a routemap for selecting effective procurement strategies and new approaches to the management of risk and contingency.

In year two, all sides of industry will need to work hard to implement these ideas on live projects, notably the top 40 projects identified in the National Infrastructure Plan.

We also need to make sure that we do more with the forward pipeline.

ICE, the Association for Consultancy & Engineering, the Civil Engineering Contractors Association and the British Tunnelling Society have recently been working with government to gain a better understanding of the skills and capabilities needed to deliver the tunnelling work identified in the NIP.

The results of this work were announced last week by Francis Maude and Vince Cable alongside commitments from government and industry to support apprenticeships, higher degrees and research.

This approach can be fruitfully applied to other areas of the NIP and can smooth delivery and ensure that the UK derives maximum value from the investments identified in the NIP.

So 2012/13 is a crucial year. We need to push on towards the target of reducing delivery costs by 15%; we need to embrace new delivery models which involve genuine collabo ration and integration at all levels of the supply chain; we need to continue to remove unnecessary process, duplication and waste; and we need to capture and utilise data to allow effective benchmarking and cost targeting.

If we are successful, the future for the infrastructure sector will be very bright but we all need to step up to the challenge.

  • Peter Hansford is an executive director of the Nichols Group and immediate past president of the ICE. He is also chair of the IUK Infrastructure Steering Committee

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