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Industry and government must unite to promote the benefits of major projects

24 May 2019

An ICE and DfT event discussed how improving procurement and tender processes on major infrastructure projects can help deliver the infrastructure the public needs, at the right price.

Industry and government must unite to promote the benefits of major projects

The ways in which should-cost modelling could help improve the procurement process for owners and contractors was discussed at an ICE breakfast earlier this week.

The joint event with ICE and the Department for Transport (DfT) brought together construction industry leaders and senior government officials to discuss the issue of a widening gap between major project cost estimates and outturns, how to improve public perception of these projects, and how to learn lessons from recent major transport projects.

Miles Ashley, who chaired the steering group for ICE’s latest paper on the same topic, and Bernadette Kelly, DfT Permanent Secretary, led the discussion, which was chaired by ICE Director General Nick Baveystock.

Why these discussions are important

Recognising that confidence and trust in the infrastructure sector is in danger of decline, infrastructure leaders are taking proactive steps to address the gap between initial estimates and outturns for schedule and cost, while finding better ways to amplify discussion around the social, economic and environmental benefit of projects.

The event, held under the Chatham House rule, showcased two recently published reports, by ICE and DfT.

ICE’s report, Reducing the gap between cost estimates and outturns for major infrastructure projects and programmes, looks at how the built environment sector can reduce the gap between cost estimates and outturns for major infrastructure projects.

The paper published by DfT, in conjunction with the Infrastructure and Projects Authority, Lessons from transport for the sponsorship of major projects, offers a ‘lessons learnt’ approach, setting out an examination of cross cutting issues using examples of three major rail projects.

The issues at hand

The underlying theme showed that the problems identified aren’t new, and the consensus among attendees was that the narrative needs to change in order to bring about change.

As seen in the YouGov polling conducted as part of ICE’s recent paper, the public believes politicians should focus more on the benefits of major projects, not just costs.

One of the key points examined during the roundtable was the need for an open, frank relationship between industry and government.

It was widely accepted that while government and clients need to have faith in the construction sector to meet expectations, major project delivery requires a joined-up approach.

Attendees also discussed the frequent fixation on cost reduction and how this detracts from a focus on long-term thinking and the wider benefits of major projects on wider public – the end user.

It was agreed that both industry and government should step up their communication of the benefits of projects, which is what the public want to hear about.

Get involved

If you’re a member with an interest or expertise in this area and are interested in getting involved, through industry conversations or by writing on our Infrastructure Blog, please get in touch.

  • Luke Driscoll, public affairs executive at ICE