Efficiency savings in infrastructure are not about squeezing already tight margins, but putting cash saved back into future projects for the benefit of UK infrastructure, writes ICE director general Nick Baveystock.
Since 2010, the ICE has been collaborating closely with Infrastructure UK’s (IUK’s) cost review team with the aim of driving down the cost of delivering major infrastructure projects in the UK.
This work is not about squeezing already tight margins down the supply chain, but about improving the efficiency of how we in the UK commission, procure, deliver and operate infrastructure.
If we are successful the efficiency savings we realise can be ploughed into more of the projects and programmes that the National Infrastructure Plan has identified as vital for the UK’s future well-being.
This week’s publication of the first version of an Infrastructure Procurement Routemap is therefore a significant step forward. The original cost study identified opportunities to remove waste by changing procurement behaviours and improving strategic collaboration with the supply chain.
Many previous studies have shown that the capabilities of sponsors and clients and a clear-sighted understanding of the complexity of the project in hand are key determinants of success.
The intelligent client uses this knowledge to select an appropriate procurement route, but they must also ensure they have plans allowing them to access the right people with the right skills at every stage of what are often long-term multi-disciplinary projects.
The routemap brings these complexity and capability considerations together into a single, easy to use, flexible framework; not a one-size-fits-all model. Importantly, the industry has been closely involved with its development, with oversight by major clients including Network Rail, BAA, Anglian Water and the Highways Agency.
It also includes a case study of the significant efficiency benefits gained from the retrospective application of the routemap’s principles to Crossrail.
If these benefits are to be realised more widely, the routemap needs to be a living thing, used and owned by the industry. Many organisations, including the country’s biggest project, High Speed 2, are using this tool to hold a mirror up to themselves and ask searching questions; the ICE is looking to enable others to follow suit.
More broadly, as Infrastructure UK CEO Geoffrey Spence said at the routemap’s launch, the document is a form of institutional memory for our sector, capturing and codifying practice from hundreds of projects.
Best practice is never static and we look forward to working with IUK and other industry bodies over the coming years to ensure the main body of the routemap evolves with the industry.
The routemap also shows the direction of travel the industry and the government collectively want to take to achieve the target of 15 per cent efficiency savings in the original cost study.
The ICE will play its part – for example, through the NEC3 suite, which provides a form of contract that supports the kind of collaborative behaviour that is heart of the routemap – and we’ll continue to work with IUK and NEC users to realise the widest possible benefits.
Nick Baveystock is director general of the Institution of Civil Engineers