The view on High Speed 2
Doug Oakervee (pictured right), chairman of HS2, speaks to Project about the challenges of the scheme that will deliver a high-speed rail network between London and the West Midlands.
He has spent the majority of his career in the transport sector, having previously worked as the executive chairman of Crossrail Ltd, and as the project director at Chek Lap Kok International Airport in Hong Kong. Now, Doug Oakerve is the chairman of HS2 Ltd – the company set up by the UK Government to deliver the second high-speed rail network to England.
Phase one of HS2 – from London to the West Midlands – is a huge infrastructure programme for the UK. The redevelopment of Euston alone is expected to have a footprint equivalent to the size of 17 Arsenal Emirates stadiums. It will also be a complex project integrating the existing rail services and other modes of transport ensuring it is user friendly for all.
Mr Oakervee explains the other aspects of phase one of the programme: “Old Oak Common, in north-west London, will connect with both Crossrail and the Great Western services and offer regeneration and development opportunities for the area.
“We will also be linking to HS1 in Camden. Building the main section of the 140 mile route that is to run through Buckinghamshire, Oxfordshire, Northamptonshire and Warwickshire, and developing the Birmingham Airport interchange station and the new station in the east of Birmingham.
“We have many exciting challenges ahead to build an affordable world-class railway system as well major redevelopments. Each of these present significant challenges.”
He explains that with such programmes, there are always a multitude of challenges that will “test the minds of most of the technical disciplines and many other professions”. He stresses though that any such risk will be analysed and solutions found well ahead of construction.
“The task is easier than just a few years ago with the use of Building Information Modelling (BIM),” he explains. “For HS2 this will be at the very heart of our approach to management through all stages including operation and maintenance in the future.
“However, there are three major challenges for the immediate future; firstly to complete the public consultation programme which requires us to listen to people’s concerns and see how best they can be addressed; secondly to complete all the various studies to the highest standard possible within the timeframe and lastly to provide the secretary of state Justine Greening and her officials all the support needed to deposit the hybrid bill with Parliament in late 2013.
“These may not be the challenges expected by many, but believe me they are demanding, even for the sizeable and skilled team here at HS2 Ltd.”
The hybrid bill Mr Oakervee refers to is the legislative bill required to obtain suitable powers for HS2.
Hybrid bills are different from most Government bills because they address both public and private matters. The majority of Government bills are public one as they include proposals for law that are of general interest. Private bills change the law in a way that affects certain individuals in a different way to other people. A hybrid bill does both.
The HS2 London to West Midlands Bill is likely to change railway legislation, which will affect the entire railway, and so is public law. However, it will also provide powers which affect the private interests of specific individuals, such as compulsory purchase powers.
It is something that has been introduced in the past to secure powers to construct major infrastructure schemes including the Crossrail Act (2008) and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link Act (1996).
As with other bills, MPs and peers will have the opportunity to debate it and propose amendments at a number of different stages. However, a hybrid bill also has the addition of the Select Committee stages, which provides an opportunity for people or organisations affected by the scheme to appear before the Select Committee and submit an objection against it. The Select Committee will consider all petitions to determine if any changes should be made to the scheme.
The Government expects to introduce the bill for HS2 in late 2013, and is aiming for it to become law by 2015.
Special measures for stakeholders
On stakeholder management, Mr Oakervee explains that HS2 is implementing a number of special measures to minimise the programme’s impact and any disruption that it will cause to residents. “Mitigation and amelioration of any disruption, during both construction and railway operation, is of paramount importance to HS2 Ltd.
“To assist us we have worked with our development partner CH2MHill and put in place skilled specialist design and environment teams, both in-house and from contracted professional services contractors such as Arup, Atkins and Parsons Brinckerhoff. They are working on many fronts but paying particular attention to ways of reducing the noise and visual impact of HS2.”
Also, as part of the engineering and environmental assessment that needs to be carried out for the hybrid bill that the team will put before parliament in late 2013, Mr Oakervee and his team are running a comprehensive stakeholder engagement programme. This consists of planning, environmental and community forums. “We have 25 separate community forums covering the whole route that are meeting every couple of months,” he says.
“They provide an opportunity for those representing their community to raise local concerns and report back on the project, as well as working on ways of minimising the environmental impact. They will also explore with us what we can achieve by way of potential community benefits.”
So have these measures impacted on the deliverables of the programme such as time and cost? “A realistic provision has been made in the budget to cover all the activities involving stakeholders, the community and mitigation services,” explains Mr Oakervee. “For all we have a sensible contingency allowed for mitigation measures deemed necessary during the parliamentary process.”
“We believe that the estimate of expense produced to date is both realistic and reasonable for the scope of work expected,” says Doug Oakervee.
He explains that a detailed and quantified risk analysis has been conducted and that this process will continue and be refined throughout the duration of the programme. He adds: “This will enable decisions, design and construction development to be adjusted to maintain the high standards required without exceeding the given budget.
“The performance of UK construction has changed dramatically over the last decade in being able to deliver mega projects within budget and programme. The London 2012 Olympics are a prime example as was HS1 from St Pancras to the Channel Tunnel and Crossrail is well on the way to achieve its target.
“The cost for the entire HS2 network is expected to be in the order of £32bn. This makes no allowance for the direct and indirect revenues to be generated and the wider economic benefits it will bring not only to the cities and communities it links but to the nation as a whole. The case for this will become clearer as we continue to analyse these benefits.”
Mr Oakervee tells Project that extensive research continues to be carried out on similar projects and railway systems throughout the world to review and understand the lessons learnt. “Our research extends to China and elsewhere in Asia where the scale and technology advances are developing at an unprecedented pace. Japan also teaches us much, for the Shinkansen (or bullet train) first came into operation in 1964 and has gone through many stages of development and so have the well-established high-speed networks throughout Europe.
“My ambition would be to have the finest four year-old railway in the world on opening. I say four years because that would indicate we have embraced proven technology rather than being in the experimental field.”
Doug Oakervee says that HS2 is challenging the industry to look at designing and building each element differently from the past and focus on manufacturing as much as possible off site within a factory environment. “This will not only provide the workforce with a safer and more congenial working environment but also ensure a high quality product,” he says.
“An added advantage will be the workforce required at the actual workface along the route can be small, with other employment opportunities being shared more widely around the country. This will bring benefits to many people based much further from the HS2 route.”
He is keen to stress that although this may “sound as though IKEA is coming to town, and in many ways that is the aim”, there is an important caveat that “functionality, aesthetic appeal and user friendliness will not suffer”.
He says: “The whole life cycle of all the systems parts are of equal importance and components will need to be replaced or exchanged quickly without undue disruption to our customers and stakeholders.
“Strong financial discipline is needed to ensure even the best product is kept within budget and that scope creep is avoided. As already indicated, invaluable lessons can be taken from the previous projects I have worked on both in the UK and abroad.
“The importance of the funding structure and how it should be managed can be gained from examination of Crossrail, the Olympics and HS1.”
Springboard for the future
The Department for Transport has stressed that HS2 will be publicly funded but has also said that there could be development opportunities at the new stations. This is currently being examined to see how best this might be optimised to encourage private investment to ease the burden on the public purse.
Mr Oakervee says that political support for a programme on the scale of HS2 is vital. “We are fortunate to have the backing of the three main parties and successive transport secretaries have recognised and understood the benefits of a new rail network rather than simply improving the existing one,” he says.
“We have much more work to do over the coming months and years to promote HS2 and ensure people understand the benefits of it. It’s not just about speed. It will provide greater capacity on the present West Coast Mainline enabling Network Rail and the operators to improve services and increase the much needed freight capacity to better serve industry and commerce.”
Mr Oakervee concludes: “So many times during my career I have been told the construction industry can never get things right first time, exceeds budget and cannot work to programme. Why can’t we be like the car industry?
“The main reason is that unlike the automotive industry our end product was not the product of endless design development prototypes but each project was itself a prototype. Today we can overcome this huge hurdle by the proper and extensive use of BIM, which allows us to build many virtual prototypes and iron out mistakes, explore alternatives and spot unforeseen opportunities to optimise our actual product.
“All this provides greater surety as to cost estimates, the resources required, risk mitigation and programme. I have every confidence that with the enthusiastic and highly competent team we have here at HS2 Ltd we will deliver the exemplary system that is required of us by government and provide the industry with a springboard to the future.”
The case against HS2
Stop HS2, the national campaign against the programme to construct a new high-speed rail service between London and northern England, has recently reported that the government’s Major Projects Authority (MPA) has “confirmed that there hasn't been enough evidence-based material produced to support HS2”.
The announcement was made a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) meeting in June and, as a result, a new assurance and oversight group has been set up to provide more assessment of the project.
In a previous PAC session in April, Department for Transport (DfT) officials said that the MPA had assessed the HS2 project as “Amber Red”, meaning “The successful delivery of the project is in doubt, with major risks or issues apparent in a number of key areas. Urgent action is needed to ensure these are addressed, and whether resolution is feasible”.
At the PAC meeting in June, Margaret Hodge MP, chair of the PAC, asked: “Did they [The Treasury] use the hard evidence to ensure assurance recommendations or not? When we looked at this, we felt that they had not used the appropriate hard evidence in taking that decision? There may have been other reasons for taking it, but it didn't look to us to be based on hard evidence, which is what you require."
David Pitchford, executive director at the MPA, said: “I think that is a function of where the project is at. There is only so much evidence based material in relation to it now because of what needs to be done to get the project to full blown definition and therefore assessment stage, and that's why we've put a whole lot of new assessment activity into it. Since you had your hearing about HS1, and related to HS2, you may be interested to know that we have put in an integrated assurance and oversight group, which will include the MPA, The Treasury, The Department [for Transport], HS2 Ltd, The NAO as an observer and IUK, together with the engineering consulting partner, so we've started to look at the overall piece again so that there is another element to this.
“With the hybrid bill demanding complete definition of the design elements of it and then all of the elements which go to the planning approval stage for this project, which is going to be massive, there is just not going to be sufficient evidence to be able to nail it at this point."
Stop HS2 campaign coordinator Joe Rukin said: “One of the reasons that opposition to HS2 has been so vocal for the last two years has been that the Government and HS2 Ltd have never been interested in doing this properly, they have only been interested in doing this quickly, a point heavily underlined at the farcical Community Forums which have been recently taking place.
“The head of the MPA has now gone on record saying that there just isn't the evidence to back up the claims about HS2. We know that because there never has been any real evidence, the arguments to support HS2 were thought up after Lord Adonis decided we needed it without conducting any appraisals. It is welcome that more scrutiny of the plans for HS2, but no matter how hard you stare at a load of old rubbish, at the end of the day, it will still be a load of old rubbish."
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