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Running rail risks

RAILTRACK TURNED down Parsons Brinckerhoff's offer to put a proportion of the programme manager's costs at risk on the West Coast Main Line project because 'they didn't know how to handle the offer'.

PB chairman Bob Prieto said the firm had put 5% of its costs at risk on last year's contract to programme manage the development of a 25,000km fibre optic network in the US and wanted to repeat the arrangement with Railtrack.

However, the UK's rail network operator passed on the opportunity because of its inexperience in operating on this basis. Instead PB's fees are set on a sliding scale against performance targets over the contract's seven year span.

Prieto claimed that Railtrack's lack of logistics planning was the biggest shock when PB began exploring the WCML set up.

'We had expected to find a more developed logistics organisation,' explained Prieto. 'When you are undertaking a programme of this scale you are going to be using major portions of industry capacity. To be fair, Railtrack knew where it needed help and we've bought logistics planners over from the States to develop a strategy.'

The development and implementation of strategy is PB's role according to Prieto, and he warned others not to measure the firm by 'the number of memos, drawings or specs'.

He added: 'We are working on getting the concept of earned value into the project. Right now progress is reported by how much money has been spent, not by how much work has been done.'

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