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Infrastructure Megaprojects: What does it take?

Exploring Megaprojects with Rob Scopes - Partner, Major Programmes, Deloitte UK

From rebuilding economies to coping with ageing populations, to reducing regional inequalities, to taking climate action…societies at large are facing a number of competing, at times overwhelming, challenges.

Thankfully, major infrastructure programmes are increasingly becoming a key delivery vehicle to help address these challenges – and will continue to do so – as long we can avoid going over budget, over time, over and over again. In fact, all major programmes – infrastructure or otherwise – need to be set up with the right capability from the start to be successful over the course of their entire lifecycle.

Rob Scopes, partner in charge of leading major programmes at Deloitte UK, says success is easier said than done, because every programme is set up and delivered differently according to its size, scope, and ambition. Furthermore, programmes are dynamic, presenting the need to recognise their changing requirements as they move through the different phases from design to eventual construction and use. The UK Government’s Major Projects Portfolio is case in point, demonstrating the full range and type of programmes in play; each requires varying levels of financing and external support, and is dependent on the delivery model selected to execute the programme.

It’s an interesting dynamic that will directly impact the future of infrastructure. Rob says, “While on the surface each major programme appears to be different, they’re ultimately driven by three parallel lifecycles: funding and financing; capital programme; and organisational (focusing on capability). Unfortunately, we have found that the organisational lifecycle doesn’t always get the same attention as the other lifecycles, which creates challenges down the track.

“Each lifecycle is connected, but has unique objectives and characteristics that are influenced by a range of dynamic forces – as well as the knock-on effects of associated change between lifecycles. There may also be external factors that contribute to timing and scale of required capabilities,” says Rob

Instilling stakeholder confidence to step ahead


Needless to say, successfully delivering programmes of work is complex, and much more than simply a capital project. It requires organisational capability development and change management, too. When you effectively manage the transition between lifecycles, you instil stakeholder confidence that the asset will deliver its intended benefits. And in doing so, that’s when societal challenges are addressed, and the world runs more smoothly.

Projects that focus enough attention on the early stages are much more likely to achieve their intended outcomes later on and display world-class delivery standards.

For the last four years, Rob has been leading the firm’s team of experts to work with High Speed 2 (HS2) Ltd. – a Government Arms’ Length Body (ALB) – to deliver on its investment in a new high-speed railway that will form the backbone of the investment in Britain’s transport network. The team’s focus has been on defining and developing the ALB’s right capabilities and operating structures to demonstrate to the Department of Transport and HM Treasury that it can confidently manage multibillion-pound contracts – and effectively deliver on the large-scale transformation required.

A start-up mentality will drive lasting change


Rob says, “ALBs created specifically to deliver megaprojects are like start-ups, but on steroids! In a capital project lifecycle, ALBs need to transform themselves on a number of occasions – like start-ups – as they transition to the next lifecycle, from strategy and feasibility to procurement and design, to construction and decommissioning.”

Once operational, HS2 will be a state-of-the-art, high speed line critical for the UK’s low carbon transport future. It will provide much needed capacity and serve over 25 stations connecting around 30 million people. It will significantly improve connectivity in the North and Midlands and will also integrate the existing network serving stations into Scotland, creating 500,000 extra jobs and 90,000 homes around HS2 stations.2

This is a fantastic project for the firm to be involved in, and ticks every box in terms of making an impact that matters, proactively innovating and pushing the envelope, teamwork at speed and scale, and creating countless personal career highlights for all involved.

Planning now for the long term


Ultimately, developing a clear understanding of the capability required throughout the lifecycle of a major program can both optimise efficiency and value in delivery, as well as support organisations to manage their program’s dynamism and achieve broader organisational objectives over the longer term. Rob concludes, “HS2 is all about creating capacity across the country while giving commuters a low carbon option for long distance travel. Over the next 12 months, having initially focused on Phase 1 between London and Birmingham, we’re switching focus onto making sure everything is in place organizationally for Phase 2a to Crewe, and Phase 2b to Manchester. This extension of the high speed network will free up capacity on the congested West Coast Main Line and deliver significant connectivity, reliability and journey time benefits for passengers. The work we have done, and the insights we have gained, will contribute to delivering on time, on budget.”

Rob Scopes is based in London, UK


1 Infrastructure and Projects Authority Project Routemap, Setting projects for success – Organisational Design and Development, 2021

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