High Speed Rail (Preparation) Bill

Written evidence from the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) (HSR 12)

1. About ICE

The Institution of Civil Engineers ( ICE ) is a UK-based international organisation representing over 80,000 members around the world, who range from professional civil engineers to students. It is an educational and qualifying body and has charitable status under UK law. Founded in 1818, the ICE has become recognised worldwide for its excellence as a centre of learning, as a qualifying body and as a public voice for the profession. Under our Royal Charter, ICE takes seriously its role as a learned society and we actively contribute to the development of public policy at all levels of Government.

ICE has drawn upon the knowledge of its members to respond to previous Government consultations on High Speed 2 proposals in 2011 and 2012 and will continue to contribute when possible.

2. Overarching ICE view

ICE supports the development of a UK High Speed Rail network as a central plank of a structured integrated transport policy. In this context , ICE believes that the economic case for HS2 is significantly stronger when it is considered as part of a more extensive network, connecting London with Leeds, Manchester, Glasgow and Edinburgh and integrating with the existing UK and European rail networks. As highlighted in our recent report, State of the Nation: Transport 2013, we believe that the maximum benefit would be gained thro ugh full integration with local/ regional transport systems enabled by devolved and fully integrated regional transport bodies.

A strategic approach is also required in nurturing the skills and capabilities required to meet national needs. In the case of HS2, greater continuity between phases of the project and with other projects drawing on the same supply chains will have the dual benefits of reducing costs and helping to maintain and grow the capabilities of UK based industry.

3. Detailed Issues

(i) Capacity and connections

Network Rail have estimated that by 2024, key lines from London to the North and West of the UK will be operating at full capacity and the conventional and next generation tools for increasing capacity on the classic network will be exhausted [1] . In responding to DfT’s 2011 consultation, High Speed Rail – Investing in Britain’s Future, ICE considered a number of alternative packages of work to deal with this shortfall. We concluded that HS2 would allow the UK to deal with capacity problems on the West Coast, East Coast and Midland Main Lines for at least two generations, while providing significant opportunities for urban regeneration and economic re-balancing. The UK would also avoid a further costly, lengthy and disruptive upgrade to the West Coast Main Line.

(ii) Commissioning, procurement and delivery

In recent years the UK construction sector has a good record in delivering complex projects to time, budget and quality requirements. Lessons from these successful projects, including the Olympics, High Speed 1 and Heathrow Terminal 5 have been captured and disseminated.

In addition, the infrastructure sector worked closely with Infrastructure UK (IUK) on its 2010 study into the costs of delivering projects and programmes (the Cost Review) and has continued to collaborate with Government to implement the review findings. The review found that UK on-site construction costs were broadly comparable with competitor nations. The UK was however found to suffer from higher out turn costs driven largely by inefficiencies in in the pre-construction phase, including stop/start investment, poor commissioning and ineffective use of competition.

Having been closely involved in this process, ICE welcome the fact that the Cost Review findings are being systematically applied to HS2 via its Efficiency Challenge Programme and note that a recent IUK report suggests that £1bn of opportunities for savings have already been identified for phase 1 of the project [2] .

HS2’s decisions on procurement strategy will be crucial in realising these and other savings. A collaborative approach will be required that ensures the full supply chain can be engaged at an early stage of the project, allowing it to contribute expertise and innovation to detailed design work and planning for project delivery and hence set the conditions for efficient delivery and operation.

HS2 would be the largest infrastructure project in Europe and a High Speed Rail network has the potential to form a central plank of the UK’s future strategic transport system. It provides the opportunity for the UK to build on the success of the Olympics and demonstrate world class credentials for delivery of complex mega-projects and further establish its credibility in the global market place. Meeting this challenge will involve setting and meeting the highest safety and environmental standards, using innovative procurement and a wholly different approach to infrastructure based on level 3 BIM and new benchmarks for off-site manufacture.

(iii) Construction Schedule

ICE believes the HS2 Paving Bill, in allowing preparatory work to take place in advance of the passing of the hybrid bill, will play an important part in ensuring continuity of workflow through the early years of the project, removing the costs from mobilising and demobilising resources and making it significantly more likely that the target of beginning construction in 2017 is met. As an example carrying out a thorough geotechnical ground investigation prior to the Hybrid Bill will de-risk the major civils works, particularly tunnelling, and hence reduce costs.

More broadly, the key factors driving the existing schedule are the level of annual funding available to HS2 Ltd and the variety of legislative and regulatory issues that need to be dealt with. If these factors are dealt with satisfactorily we are confident that the UK supply chain can deliver the necessary construction and engineering works well within the planned timescale.

(iv) Tunnelling

The already large volume of tunnelling works envisaged in phase 1 of HS2 has increased in response to public concerns. As part of the IUK Costs Review (see above), the British Tunnelling Society (an Associated Society of ICE) reviewed a selection of recently completed tunnel projects in the UK and Europe. Key items of data including the construction costs were gathered for analysis. This study found that on-site construction costs in the UK were broadly in line with comparable parts of Western Europe. There was, however evidence, supporting the general findings of IUK’s work, that indirect costs in the UK were resulting in higher overall project outturn costs. As noted above we believe that the HS2 Efficiency Challenge Programme represents a concerted effort to apply the lessons of the Cost Review to HS2.

(v) Supply Chain Development

HS2 is a major project creating significant demand for a skilled workforce and will be delivered during a period when the UK government has aspirations for a step change in the volume of investment in economic infrastructure. It will therefore be important that robust plans are in place for securing the necessary skills.

Taking tunnelling as an example, the National Infrastructure Plan (NIP) contains a series of projects & programmes that will place significant demand on the tunnelling supply chain over the next decade, including Crossrail, Thames Tideway, London Underground’s Capital Programme, National Grid cable tunnels and the new nuclear programme.

A 2012 study by BIS [3] , to which ICE contributed, found tha t in the five years to 2017/18, Crossrail and Thames Tideway alone have a requirement for 14,500 person years of tunnelling capability.

This capability could potentially be transferred to projects in the NIP with a later start date including HS2. This would reduce the costs of reconstructing and remobilising supply chains and ensuring transfer of knowledge and innovation between projects.

However, the realisation of this opportunity should not automatically be assumed. The BIS study also identified that while the UK has a long established technical expertise in this area, "the historic lack of visibility and certainty of a forward pipeline of tunnelling projects has led to fragmentation of the industry as a lack of continuity of work has limited industry’s confidence to invest in training new workers ahead of contracts being placed. Whilst the industry has been able to solve capacity shortfalls reactively, this carries an increased risk of inflationary pressures and potential delays".

It will therefore be important that HS2 Ltd continues to collaborate effectively with other relevant major projects, including Crossrail on key initiatives such as the Tunnelling and Underground Construction Academy (TUCA).

Government must however play its part by providing a consistent strategic vision for the development of UK infrastructure and a clear project pipeline.

(vi) Environmental Management

Consultation on HS2’s draft Environmental Statement ends on 11 July. This is a substantive piece of work, which we understand draws on much of the learning developed during the delivery of the Olympics and other recent major projects.

July 2013

[1] Network Rail Comparing the environmental benefit of conventional and high speed rail and New lines programme capacity analysis

[2] HM Treasury (2013) Infrastructure Cost Review: Annual Report 2012-13

[3] BIS (2012) Tunnelling – A Capability Analysis

Prepared 12th July 2013