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Programme management: Delivering a high performance future

After the incredible success of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games just about the most exportable skill Britain offers today is that of programme management.

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Olympic Park: Triumph for British programme management skills

With the spectacular transformation of a derelict site in east London into the stunning Olympic Park completed on time and to budget - that’s an incredible £8.1bn programme carried out in just seven years - there can be no question that the programme management was spot on; or that such skills will be in demand elsewhere in the world.

International consultancy and construction company Mace, one third of the CLM (CH2M Hill, Laing O’Rourke, Mace) delivery partner that supported the Olympic Delivery Authority (ODA) in delivering the London 2012 venues and infrastructure, certainly expects that UK plc will capitalise on the achievement.

“The word that stands out is confidence,” says Jason Millett, who acted as CLM’s programme director. He was recently appointed as Mace’s chief operating officer for major programmes and infrastructure - a role that will officially start on 1 January.

“Now we are seen as one of the best nations in the world when it comes to delivering major projects; and that’s a sea-change from where we were many years ago,” he says.

So where can this expertise be exported to? Hong Kong is booming on the back of its government’s plans for £29bn of investment on major infrastructure projects up to 2015/16. Then there’s Brazil; hosting not one, not two, but three of the world’s biggest sporting events over the next four years - the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2016 and, before that, the Fifa World Cup in 2014.

To make it happen, Brazil will receive a total of Brl443bn (£131bn) in investments in port, road, rail, urban mobility and airport projects until 2016 according to UK Trade and Investment (UKTI).

However, for Mace and Millett, at least, there are key areas when it comes to infrastructure.

First on the list is the once again thriving Middle East. Mace has got a head start in Qatar, where it is providing front-end programme management to Qatar’s public works authority Ashghal. In joint venture with EC Harris, Mace is taking charge of planning and procurement to deliver a major programme of social infrastructure building projects across the country as it gears up to host the Fifa World Cup in 2022.

The Mace and EC Harris JV will also manage the design and construction phases once they get underway in a £72M deal that completes in 2017. An optional two year extension to 2019 could see Mace once again fully involved as the pressure of preparing for a major global sporting event builds.

“Now we are seen as one of the best nations in the world when it comes to delivering major projects”

Jason Millett, Mace

Qatar is serious about its infrastructure though, and it transcends the 2022 World Cup. Its National Vision 2030 defines the long term outcomes for the country and provides a framework within which national strategies and implementation plans can be developed.

One of the biggest plans sits with the Qatar Railways Company (QRail). It intends to award the first major construction contracts for its hugely ambitious £22bn rail network early next year. Eventually the project will see four metro lines, two light rail lines and a high speed commuter line built around the capital Doha. Initially six design and build packages are up for grabs, each worth up to £1.3bn, covering the construction of 52km of metro and light rail lines connecting the airport to the Olympic venues (NCE 18 October).

But it is not just Qatar. “Dubai is emerging again,” says Millett, “Bahrain has plans for an ambitious causeway to Qatar and Saudi wants to build the world’s tallest tower. There is so much activity.”

Across the Middle East, aviation in particular is big business. Bahrain has plans for a £2.9bn new terminal and Kuwait has announced plans to spend £3.7bn growing the capacity of its international airport to 13M passengers a year by 2016. Oman’s Muscat International Airport is being expanded for 2014 and Saudi Arabia will invest a jaw-dropping £33bn in its aviation sector over the next five years including a £4.5bn expansion and development of Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz International Airport, a revamp of Prince Mohammed Bin Abdulaziz International Airport and construction of a £1.6bn new terminal at King Khaled International Airport.

Its civil aviation authority Gaca will also develop 22 domestic airports and build five new airports by 2020. And even Dubai is growing again, with a £7.6bn expansion of Dubai International Airport expected. And there are plans for a £4.2bn expansion of Abu Dhabi International Airport by 2017.

It’s hard to beat the Middle East for ambition, but for Mace the former Eastern Bloc countries and Africa, are all key areas of focus.

Russia in particular is ramping up investment in infrastructure. “Rather like the UK, Russia has lots of infrastructure that needs upgrading and replacing. It is a big market for us,” says Millett. And rather like the UK, rail is the big ticket. Russian Railways’ staggering 28 year £276bn “reinvestment and modernisation programme” began in 2002 and is planned to last until 2030. It will see an overhaul, renovation and modernisation of the existing track network; an extra 20,000km added; rolling stock replaced; and, excitingly, the roll-out of a high speed network.

Its road network, laid down in more austere Soviet times, is also seeing mass investment to catch up with demand. Vladimir Putin’s government says Russia needs to spend an incredible £177bn over the next decade to double the rate of road building and cope with soaring car ownership which is forecast to reach 60M by 2020 (NCE 15 November). There is also plenty of investment related to its vast oil and gas production operations.

And then, of course, there is the UK. “What we all realise is that there is massive investment planned over the next 25 to 30 year period,” says Millett.

So while the London 2012 challenge was unique, there are plenty of projects out there which need single minded drive and belligerence to get them done. Indeed many are already underway and familiar to many. For example Mace is right now acting as delivery partner to Network Rail on its £600M Birmingham New Street Gateway project.

And there are plenty of UK projects in the pipeline, with the government pledging to deliver 40 top priority infrastructure projects. Crossrail, Thameslink, and electrification of rail routes between London and Cardiff and between Manchester, Liverpool and Preston are among those on Mace’s radar and part of £5.2bn of projects the government is committed to between 2014 and 2019.

“What we all realise is that there is massive investment planned over the next 25 to 30 year period”

Jason Millett, Mace

Network Rail’s £322M Northern Hub programme is also on the government’s list. It will help ease a rail bottleneck to the south of Manchester Piccadilly station and enable more trains to travel through Manchester Victoria. Two potential bridge options are currently out for consultation.

Further ahead, development of the £32bn High Speed 2 rail link is ploughing ahead, with the Department for Transport hoping to put a hybrid bill similar to that used for Crossrail to Parliament by the end of next year for the construction of phase one. Royal Assent for the £16.3bn first phase is due in 2015 with construction expected to begin shortly afterwards.

A decision about how to meet the demands of increasing airport capacity in London and the South East is also due for 2015 when the independent Davies Commission publishes its recommendation.

And then there is the need to replace the UK’s ageing fleet of nuclear power stations with new plant. Reports show this could prove a challenge, with few projects globally coming in within budget or on time.

“This also provides an opportunity,” says Millett. “We will find with these projects that time and effort in construction and operation is needed as is better planning. And there needs to be a focus on talent,” he says, referencing the fact that it is so long since the UK last built a nuclear power station that many of those skilled in delivering major nuclear plants have now retired.

However, many of the project and programme management skills needed are transferrable, he believes. “People who are skilled at working with the NEC contract; people who put together schedules in P6; their skills are transferrable,” says Millett. Similarly leadership is transferrable.

“What is a challenge is the knowledge of the sector and having the people who know how to put these things together,” he says.

“Do we have the skills and capability within the UK? We do need to think about where our next generation of technical knowledge comes from,” he adds.

Of course, this can be bought in from abroad, but far better is train up homegrown talent. And with the opportunities on offer, surely that can’t be too hard.

“Mace has a robust graduate scheme and we are increasingly focusing on apprenticeship schemes to encourage young people in the industry,” says Millett, “Twenty thirteen will be a defining year that should lay a platform for years to come. If what is planned for 2013 comes to pass then there will be a bright future for the industry.”

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