The Bristol MetroBus - A view from the customer & supplier, 28 February 2017

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Posted by Catherine Bendell on 27th Feb 2017

The South Wales and West of England branch were very pleased to be able to provide members with an insight into the Bristol MetroBus programme, which is one of the largest infrastructure projects in the area and of considerable local interest.

The branch was very grateful to Faithful+Gould for hosting the event tonight.

Our speakers tonight, Richard Gillingham, is the South Gloucestershire Council Deputy to the Project Sponsor for the North Fringe to Hengrove package of Bristol MetroBus and Adam Rome, of Faithful+Gould, is the programme manager for the North Fringe package and is responsible for the delivery of the programme and its nine major projects.

Richard started the evening with an introduction to MetroBus. The North Fringe to Hengrove Package is one of three projects, the other two being the Ashton Vale to Temple Meads package and the Bristol South link road, which was opened in Jan 2017. The Bristol area road network is already at capacity at peak times and is rapidly expanding with many new houses due over the next few years. To cope with the increasing demand for transport, especially to link the housing areas in south Bristol with employment areas in the centre and north, a rapid transit system is required. It will use new dedicated buses with low emission engines, extra comfort and wifi. Smart, off-bus ticketing will be used to speed up boarding, with real time information at the dedicated bus stops.

The North Fringe package links Cribbs Causeway, Emmerson’s Green, Parkway Station, via the M32 to Bristol city centre and Hengrove. It involves 2 new bridges, 2 replacement bridges, 1 new road (the Stoke Gifford Transport Link). In total there are 18 construction projects with 7 contractors. It is on target to open in Autumn 2017.

Richard explained the background to the project, covering funding, planning applications, tendering and full approval for the £102M project, which is funded by the DfT and Local Authorities. Governance includes a Project Board, a Project Assurance Board and the Joint Transport Executive Committee, which provides the political governance. Gateway reviews have been used at key stages, and have proven very useful to get an independent view of issues and to learn from good practice.

Adam then explained about the contract management and project governance approach used. This includes the programme, sub-programmes and projects. Interface managers are used to manage the integration between the 2 Local Authorities, (Bristol and South Gloucestershire), the client, (MetroBus Board) and suppliers.

As with any construction project there is a lot of risk and uncertainty around what is unknown in the ground, stakeholder management, especially with local communities, 18 different contractor personalities and political sensitivity. This presents a challenge when trying to manage the budget and forecast costs. NEC3 contracts were used to promote collaboration and openness to identify issues and to find solutions. Quantitative risk assessment, with Monte Carlo simulation was used to help forecast costs. Budgets were allocated for identified risks.

Richard outlined some of the risks that did materialise. The M32 works associated with the Stapleton allotment site were identified as a risk, but it proved a lot more difficult and expensive to deal with the protestors, with around £2M extra costs. The allotments have been considerably improved and many more trees planted to replace those lost. Several changes in design were needed to avoid unknown utility systems, even though due process was undertaken to establish the location of utility cables and pipes. This required additional design, delays and costs, all of which needed additional project management work to manage. It had been planned to use a one-way system around UWE, but the local community and politicians raised concerns about the disruption that this would cause and less efficient methods of working had to be used, increasing time and costs. There are ongoing risks for Hartcliffe Way utilities and traffic management. All of the risks were foreseen and planned for, but many more risks have materialised than were anticipated. The materialised risks have increased the current forecast of £102M by around 10%. The Cost Benefit / VfM case is still robust and within the DfT tolerances for the business case. The benefits realisation plan is in place with reviews at 2 years and 5 years of operation.

Planning is now well underway to transfer the MetroBus to business as usual, with the Local Authorities managing the infrastructure and a new governance structure being implemented to oversee the operational management.

Richard outlined some of the lessons from the project which are open to discussion:

  • Procurement Strategy. Fewer, larger construction contracts may have reduced the number of interfaces between different contractors, and therefore reduced risk. However, the procurement strategy was driven by the desire for competition and vfm.
  • Contract approach. Design and build was used for the structures, but in some cases a more traditional approach may have allowed for better control of design.
  • Communication and stakeholder management. There were many interfaces to manage and there was criticism from local communities of lack of information even though many different types of communication were used including print and public meetings. It must be recognised that even in this digital age, many people still rely on print media, so you cannot rely on the internet alone and you still need face to face comms. Recognition that extra resources were needed to manage comms with local communities and the media.
  • Resources. On refection, there should have been more investment in project management resources at the start and through the course of the project, due to the complexity of the project.
  • Risk and Issue Management. It is essential to have clear escalation routes to key decision makers.
  • Planning Permissions. If you are required to undertake a planning application for your scheme, factor in a lot of extra time and effort during and after the planning application process.

In summary, we had a very frank insight into the challenges of managing a highly complex infrastructure programme of huge public and political interest. The identified lessons are very valuable and should benefit future projects in the area.

A copy of the presentation can also be viewed on slideshare.

Martin Gosden
SWWE branch Chairman

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