HS2

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IvanV
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Re: HS2

Post by IvanV » Mon Aug 16, 2021 2:21 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 16, 2021 1:45 pm
Is that to do with property prices in southern England, labour costs or what?
That's the first thing everyone thinks of, and I forgot to get in my "no it isn't the land costs" first, like I sometimes remember to.

British railway construction costs are ridiculous even on projects where they don't have to buy any land, because they already own it, like Oxford to Bedford.

Now it is true that land costs are a lot higher here. Land costs are something like 5% of the cost of HS2, well less than 10% anyway. That still means that the land costs of a British high speed line construction project can cost something like 50% of the total cost of a continental high speed line. But, once that is deducted, the cost difference remains ridiculous.
Last edited by IvanV on Mon Aug 16, 2021 2:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: HS2

Post by IvanV » Mon Aug 16, 2021 2:24 pm

WFJ wrote:
Mon Aug 16, 2021 2:08 pm
Under $250/km sounds like a bargain to me :shock:

How comparable are those other projects? Are they completely new lines or do they follow existing routes?
They are every major rail construction project in the world in the last 25 years or so, for which a construction cost is available. So a zoo, but includes plenty that are on entirely or mostly on new alignments.

ETA: The accompanying text remembered to include the m after the $.

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Re: HS2

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Aug 16, 2021 2:33 pm

IvanV wrote:
Mon Aug 16, 2021 2:21 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 16, 2021 1:45 pm
Is that to do with property prices in southern England, labour costs or what?
That's the first thing everyone thinks of, and I forgot to get in my "no it isn't the land costs" first, like I sometimes remember to.

British railway construction costs are ridiculous even on projects where they don't have to buy any land, because they already own it, like Oxford to Bedford.

Now it is true that land costs are a lot higher here. Land costs are something like 5% of the cost of HS2, well less than 10% anyway. That still means that the land costs of a British high speed line construction project can cost something like 50% of the total cost of a continental high speed line. But, once that is deducted, the cost difference remains ridiculous.
Fair enough. So what accounts for the remainder of the excess?
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Re: HS2

Post by IvanV » Mon Aug 16, 2021 3:10 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 16, 2021 2:33 pm
Fair enough. So what accounts for the remainder of the excess?
I have sketched my opinion a number of times on Scrutable, and I still can't give a satisfactory answer. I think I have even on a previous occasion given a link to the article in a US publication that presented much of the data the Economist graph is based on, and included an extended commentary. But I forget the details.

If it was an easy question, it would have been fixed a long time ago. The consensus is that it is a combination of many things, which are much entrenched into the British way of doing stuff, and suffer a particularly unfortunate collision in the case of railway construction. Matters that get mentioned include:

The legal planning methods, public administration and control of major constructions
The effect of the common law legal system making contract a lot more expensive than in countries (ie contracts between, say, Network Rail and constructors)
Risk management methods used in Network Rail contracts to cover the tails of the Network Rail people
The insufficiency of skills and experience of public sector people involved in the specification and oversight of such procurements (ie, DfT overseeing what Network Rail does with DfT's money)
Technical standards for building railways in Britain, despite common EU standards that currently still also apply, and were intended to supersede them, resulting in a lot of money for very small additional benefit on top of the sensible stuff
Safety standards applying both to the constructed item and the methods of constructing it, resulting in a lot of money for very small additional benefit on top of the sensible stuff
National pride in wanting the best railway, rather than just a fit railway, and the consequent over-specification in numerous dimensions of the technical capability of the asset
Poor supply chain management resulting in a lack of retention of skills and capability in the supply chain (stop-go purchasing, etc)

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Re: HS2

Post by Sciolus » Mon Aug 16, 2021 5:38 pm

This is sort of your fourth point, but project managing these megaprojects is fantastically difficult, and I wonder if the fact that there have been several such projects over the last few years (Heathrow 3R, various nuclear) has spread this very limited skillset too thin. Having been involved on the outer periphery of a few of these, I'd say part of the problem is that the cost of capital is so high that timescales are made as short as possible, meaning a lot of work has to be done out of order and then repeated. There was always huge pressure to reduce costs, but it never really seemed to feed through into actual savings because of all the rework, and because corner-cutting invariably ends up costing more in the long term.

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Re: HS2

Post by dyqik » Mon Aug 16, 2021 6:09 pm

The "marching army" cost of administrative delays (as it's known in NASA projects) is always a massive inflator of costs. This usually comes up in the context of things like the James Webb Space Telescope. Every time there's a shortfall in funding, or a decision put off, you have to pay all your expert staff for another year before the project restarts (delays mostly come in units of Financial Years).

A chunk of that intermediate time is used to redesign and optimize the project, but that very rarely saves more money than the cost of the delay. But if you don't keep those people on board, you no longer have the ability to complete the project at all.

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Re: HS2

Post by IvanV » Mon Aug 16, 2021 7:55 pm

Sciolus wrote:
Mon Aug 16, 2021 5:38 pm
This is sort of your fourth point, but project managing these megaprojects is fantastically difficult, and I wonder if the fact that there have been several such projects over the last few years (Heathrow 3R, various nuclear) has spread this very limited skillset too thin. Having been involved on the outer periphery of a few of these, I'd say part of the problem is that the cost of capital is so high that timescales are made as short as possible, meaning a lot of work has to be done out of order and then repeated. There was always huge pressure to reduce costs, but it never really seemed to feed through into actual savings because of all the rework, and because corner-cutting invariably ends up costing more in the long term.
I once interviewed the guy who had managed the building of the Channel Tunnel. He said to me, the trouble with megaprojects is that no one ever has a major role in two of them. You learn an awful lot the first time, which would be very useful on another occasion. But either there is insufficient time before you retire to do it again, or you got so many grey hairs from the last one you never want to be involved in another such thing again.

Nevertheless, there's those other countries out there building high speed railways repeatedly, and managing to do it at a fairly consistent cost much less than ours.

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Re: HS2

Post by Woodchopper » Mon Aug 16, 2021 8:19 pm

UK Treasury reports from 2010, cover much of the ground that Ivan has mentioned.

Infrastructure Cost Review:Main Report
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.u ... 211210.pdf
There is no single overriding factor driving higher costs. However, the investigation has identified that higher costs are mainly generated in the early project formulation and pre-construction phases and provided evidence of a number of contributing factors including:

- stop-start investment programmes and the lack of a visible and continuous pipeline of forward work;

- lack of clarity and direction, particularly in the public sector, over key decisions at inception and during design. Projects are started before the design is sufficiently complete. The roles of client, funder and delivery agent become blurred in many public sector governance structures;

- the management of large infrastructure projects and programmes within a quoted budget, rather than aiming at lowest cost for the required performance. If the budget includes contingencies, the higher total becomes the available budget;

- over-specification and the tendency, more prevalent in some sectors than others, to apply unnecessary standards, and use bespoke solutions when off-the-shelf designs would suffice;

- interpretation and use of competition processes not always being effective in producing lowest outturn costs, with public sector clients in particular being more risk averse to the cost and time implications of potential legal challenges;

- companies in the supply chain typically investing tactically for the next project, rather than strategically for the market as a whole;

- and lack of targeted investment by industry in key skills and capability limiting the drive to improve productivity performance.

Over many years in the UK there has been fragmentation of the construction industry and a significant shift towards the use of subcontracting. Compounded by the problems of infrastructure pipeline uncertainty and overly complex procurement approaches, this has increased transaction costs and deterred industry from a more strategic approach to investment in skills, technology and innovation.
Infrastructure Cost Review:Technical Report
https://assets.publishing.service.gov.u ... 211210.pdf

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Re: HS2

Post by Woodchopper » Mon Aug 16, 2021 8:56 pm

Perhaps I'm being cynical, but maybe the ultimate reason for British construction being so expensive is that one of the purposes of the project is to spend a ton of money. To show the voters that something is being done, and to line the right pockets.

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Re: HS2

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Aug 16, 2021 9:22 pm

Woodchopper wrote:
Mon Aug 16, 2021 8:56 pm
Perhaps I'm being cynical, but maybe the ultimate reason for British construction being so expensive is that one of the purposes of the project is to spend a ton of money. To show the voters that something is being done, and to line the right pockets.
Hmmm. I'm not sure the bold bit applies to HS2, where pretty much everyone seems to be wincing at how recockulously expensive it is.
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Re: HS2

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Aug 16, 2021 9:36 pm

Thanks Ivan, Sciolus and Chops for those points.

I do now recall some previous discussion along these lines - I suspect it was the lack of an easy/obvious answer that caused it to slip from my mind.

I guess I'm also surprised that the UK could conceivably be one of the worst places in the world at things like managing contracts and large projects. In other contexts, London has a reputation as being a good place to conduct business because of the strength of its contract law, for instance, and it's generally considered a fairly well-organised and competently-managed place (at least until the last decade or so).

The only large-scale infrastructure projects I've been involved in were coastal flood defences. There was quite a lot of pre-studying going on, because of the huge number of stakeholders - very high population densities, complex land-owndership structures, conservation concerns, archaeological concerns, etc etc., which all add up to a lot of things to take into account. Tunnelling through a Swiss mountain is conceptually far simpler from that angle. Far fewer meetings necessary.

Nevertheless the project I worked for seemed to do a decent job, and even won some awards IIRC. That was a bit simpler than a railway, though, as at least generally everybody involves wants to be protected from flooding whereas a lot of people might not be that interested in train travel (especially given the myriad other concerns I shan't invite controversy by mentioning).

But maybe I'm not fully grasping the issue. What would be some suggestions to speed up and cheapen UK infrastructure projects?
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Re: HS2

Post by dyqik » Mon Aug 16, 2021 10:01 pm

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 16, 2021 9:36 pm
But maybe I'm not fully grasping the issue. What would be some suggestions to speed up and cheapen UK infrastructure projects?
The first and most fundamental is usually to get government to commit a stable and fixed budget to achieve clear goals, supply sufficient authority for the project to proceed efficiently, sell the project and mitigations to get approval from the relevant bodies and interest groups, and placate NIMBYs, and then keep the f.ck out of the way of the technical decisions.

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Re: HS2

Post by Bird on a Fire » Mon Aug 16, 2021 11:18 pm

dyqik wrote:
Mon Aug 16, 2021 10:01 pm
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 16, 2021 9:36 pm
But maybe I'm not fully grasping the issue. What would be some suggestions to speed up and cheapen UK infrastructure projects?
The first and most fundamental is usually to get government to commit a stable and fixed budget to achieve clear goals, supply sufficient authority for the project to proceed efficiently, sell the project and mitigations to get approval from the relevant bodies and interest groups, and placate NIMBYs, and then keep the f.ck out of the way of the technical decisions.
Heh, I think they've done the exact opposite of all of those for HS2.
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Re: HS2

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Tue Aug 17, 2021 6:38 am

Got a few things to say, but will have to do so later on. First, though, a question: for the specifics of HS2, we only started construction last year, ten years after everyone agreed we should do this thing. Now, that's probably not much of the total cost, but how does our ten years of parliamentary w.nk (ten years and counting - still more to do!) compare to other countries?

People should note previous points made btw about the contracting approach taken here, in terms of risk loading massively shoving the price up.
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Re: HS2

Post by shpalman » Tue Aug 17, 2021 7:26 am

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Tue Aug 17, 2021 6:38 am
Got a few things to say, but will have to do so later on. First, though, a question: for the specifics of HS2, we only started construction last year, ten years after everyone agreed we should do this thing. Now, that's probably not much of the total cost, but how does our ten years of parliamentary w.nk (ten years and counting - still more to do!) compare to other countries?
High-speed rail in Italy
A line from Milan to Genoa was approved in 2006 at €6.2 billion; construction work started in 2011. Work between Genoa and Tortona was temporarily halted due to funding problems, but restarted in 2019 and now is expected to be completed by 2023.

The construction of the line from Naples to Bari began in 2015 and will cut Naples–Bari journeys from four to two hours. Totaling €6.2 billion for the whole project, the final €2.1 billion needed to complete the project was approved in 2019. The completion of the line is projected for 2027.

The Turin–Lyon line should connect Turin, Lyon and Chambéry, and join the Italian and the French high speed rail networks. It would take over the role of the current Fréjus railway. The project costs €26 billion, with the Mont d'Ambin Base Tunnel, a 57.5 kilometer trans-alpine tunnel between Italy and France, costing €18.3 billion. Although the plan was highly controversial,* the Italian senate approved funding in mid-2019,with the project tentatively due to be completed in 2029.
I've done Milan-Turin and Milan-Rome. I've also done Milan-Chambéry.

* - regular violent "No TAV" protests
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Re: HS2

Post by Woodchopper » Tue Aug 17, 2021 7:37 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 16, 2021 9:22 pm
Woodchopper wrote:
Mon Aug 16, 2021 8:56 pm
Perhaps I'm being cynical, but maybe the ultimate reason for British construction being so expensive is that one of the purposes of the project is to spend a ton of money. To show the voters that something is being done, and to line the right pockets.
Hmmm. I'm not sure the bold bit applies to HS2, where pretty much everyone seems to be wincing at how recockulously expensive it is.
Yes, good point. Though with other things the message can be something like "we are taking this seriously, we've spent X billion".

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Re: HS2

Post by plodder » Tue Aug 17, 2021 8:50 am

Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 16, 2021 9:36 pm
But maybe I'm not fully grasping the issue. What would be some suggestions to speed up and cheapen UK infrastructure projects?
This is a perennial question, and there are lots of reasons upthread, and the industry is trying to do something about it.

The current focus in infrastructure is on making sure everything is done properly - an integrated team, appropriate allocation of risk, embracing digital technology, proper capabilities within the team etc. It's all being rolled up in an initiative called Project 13 (for some reason). Disclaimer: one of my projects was used as an exemplar case study for the early stages of Project 13, so make of that what you will.

https://www.ice.org.uk/news-and-insight ... principles

The fact that they are focusing on improving these things tells you what you need to know about the current state of play. The polite term is "immature".

Everything I hear about HS2 is that it's horrendously expensive because it has all (all) the shiny fancy cutting edge best-in-class everything, everywhere.
Zero carbon plant, anyone? https://mediacentre.hs2.org.uk/resource ... wler-crane

Accredited Environmental Specialists? https://mediacentre.hs2.org.uk/news/hs2 ... tion-pilot

3D printing of concrete? https://mediacentre.hs2.org.uk/news/3d- ... 50-percent

The legacy of this will of course reduce spend and carbon in the long term, but it does contribute to the fact that HS2 costs an arm and a leg.

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Re: HS2

Post by IvanV » Tue Aug 17, 2021 9:03 am

El Pollo Diablo wrote:
Tue Aug 17, 2021 6:38 am
Got a few things to say, but will have to do so later on. First, though, a question: for the specifics of HS2, we only started construction last year, ten years after everyone agreed we should do this thing. Now, that's probably not much of the total cost, but how does our ten years of parliamentary w.nk (ten years and counting - still more to do!) compare to other countries?

People should note previous points made btw about the contracting approach taken here, in terms of risk loading massively shoving the price up.
The 500km Madrid-Seville line cost €3bn to build then, so call that very roughly €8bn today. We spent that on 300km London-Birmingham before putting a spade in the ground.

So, yes, the 10 years of parliamentary pissing about is certainly a big part of why it costs so much here. Sometimes you can have a surfeit of democracy, in the sense that it costs you a lot of money to no very good end.

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Re: HS2

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Tue Aug 17, 2021 9:13 am

I think all the points made so far are good ones, and I'm not sure I have many other reasons to give. I can, however, flesh some of them out a bit with a few anecdotes.

In my current role I've worked with four different flavours of East-West Rail. The first was for Phase 1 (Oxford to Bicester), where Network Rail wanted to know how much the upgrade of the line (which Chiltern Railways had made happen) would cost extra in terms of operating costs. The second was in the early days of Phase 2, McLoughlin was Transport Secretary, and there was lots of excitement both within the industry and amongst MPs about how the line could be built and what it could be used for (four tracks?! electrification?! ETCS?! a service o Heathrow?!), and I was helping them firm up some of their decisions. The third was after EWR had been separated off as a separate company, Grayling was Transport Secretary and the enthusiasm hadn't so much died down as been hanged from the neck until dead. We were still on board, feeding them information, but the ethos of the project at that time was cutting scope no matter the cost, and my line of work (finding the best balance of capital spend now and operational spend in the future) was disregarded - hence my oft-repeated story of them deciding to avoid an increase of 2% capex by shortening the life of track by 30%, and at one point refusing even to install passive provision for electrification (I don't know if they've backed down from this now).

They're now in a fourth zone, which I haven't figured out yet, we've been contacted for a fourth time to help, but god knows what state they're in. They've begun some construction, they're currently replacing all or parts of the Bletchley viaduct (we advised them to; they said nah; they appear to now be doing it anyway).

East West Rail is a good project. There isn't much dissent that the project is worthwhile and should go ahead. Phase 1 seemed to be sorted, from where I was sat, fairly straightforwardly. However, Phase 2 though is a story of dithering and delay. The DfT have f.cked around again and again and again and again. The line originally was supposed to open in 2018. Now it's 2025. They just seem incapable of deciding what they want in any meaningful timeframe, and then sticking to that. We see this in other areas - the Transpennine Route Upgrade keeps having its scope changed over and over again despite having great benefits. Northern Powerhouse Rail is much earlier on as a project but is now in jeopardy. Crossrail 2 is similar - it's been lined up for f.cking decades, is an essential enabler of HS2 (people arriving at Euston need to go somewhere; the current underground station's capacity is too low) and is now in the long grass again. And every time every one of these projects gets f.cked around with, more money bleeds away.

Compared to that, HS2 is a model of vision and consistency of scope. What will certainly have made a difference though is the amount of tunnelling that's been specified during the parliamentary committee stage, as well as any number of other mods. But good god, the parliamentary process took a long time.

Another commonly agreed pillar of lowering costs is constancy of work. Again, the government has failed. Network Rail electrified the Great Western main line, and did it badly (they managed to triple the cost from ~£1bn to ~£3bn, and that's with a fair amount of scope reduction). Despite everyone agreeing that decarbonisation of the railway is impossible without significant electrification, Grayling decided to stop all the rest of it. Midland main line electrification got as far as the great metropolis of Corby (which isn't even on the Midland main line and didn't have a station until 2009) and then ceased (bi-mode trains, god almighty) - the dream of electrifying to Nottingham, Derby and Sheffield lying in tatters. Part of the reason for the stupid cost of electrification is the fact that we'd done barely any new electrification since 1992. Yes, some oldies in the rail industry knew about it from back then, but not enough of the industry knew how to handle it, and had to learn on the job. And now that they have learnt, they've all packed up and f.cked off. Another of Grayling's great steaming turds. GBR will probably pick it up again in five years, with just fourteen years to electrify 40% of the railway, and f.ck that up royally due to lack of consistency.

Unit rates of capital works is, in my area, a hugely important factor. I work mainly in planning work and budgets for the five year funding settlements that the railway gets from the government, providing evidence for what's needed. Given a particular level and type of work, you estimate its cost using unit rates. Except that the unit rates for much of Network Rail's estimates are f.cking huge, and have increased loads in the last ten years. Some of that is better estimating, but much of it is the cost genuinely going up enormously. There are lots of factors which affect this, but a couple include:
  • Access to the railway - not relevant to HS2 really, but of huge importance is how frequently and for how long you can ensure you can get onto the railway without being squished. The longer, the better - stopping all trains for a week is brilliant for construction or renewal of assets, considerably more efficient in terms of cost, and much easier to plan and execute. But we don't do that. Access slots have reduced from 48 hours down to 32 hours down to 16 hours down to 8 hours, generally because TOCs and passengers hate trains being cancelled. Once you've confirmed the last train has passed (which could be late), got men to site, set up, got plant in place and ready to operate, you'll often have less than four hours to get stuff done before the first train of the next day wants to start operating. With timescales that tight, if anything happens to perturb the execution of the night's work, the whole thing can get canned. There are stories of rail renewals having been booked in two or three years in advance (the TOCs want that much notice), and having to be cancelled last minute because some f.cker of a signaller has put a freight train through which shouldn't have been allowed to pass. Hopefully, the GBR era will lead to this sh.t getting sorted, but a big problem is that the senior leaders in rail don't care about it as much as they should.
  • Trust in planning - Network Rail hasn't been very good at forecasting how much work it's going to do. in Control Period 5 (2014-19), it delivered around 60% of the signalling work that had been estimated to take place. The main reason for the difference was that the costing of the work had been poor (it wasn't me, guv, and the methods have been changed to make them much better now), so much less could be afforded once the CP began. This wasn't exactly a surprise or especially new, and one of the problems with a regular failure to contract as much work as you say you need to do is that contractors stop believing that you'll deliver what you say you will. If they have full confidence in you, they will gear up two or three years in advance, making sure they've trained up enough staff, and things go smoothly. Without that confidence, they don't gear up because they don't want to waste money, and when NR want to get going, the contractors have huge delays before starting, and don't have the capacity to do as much work, and they work they do becomes more expensive per project because of how these things are contracted. The whole thing becomes a vicious circle.
  • Senior leadership - the current Chief Exec of NR is ex-BR, but is the fourth CEO of the company in the 11.5 years I've been there. The current one is expected to leave in the next year or two. As happened with pretty much all the previous CEOs, when they are replaced, they will generally replace most of the key Chief and Exec Director roles underneath them with new staff, most of whom will not be from the rail industry and will have no experience of the business planning process that secures our funding. That churn means there isn't sufficient knowledge of where the focus is best put. One of those key focuses should be on unit rates which, as we've gathered, are very high. It isn't. And that's not just the current exec committee, who frankly haven't even reached the stage of deciding whether they give a sh.t, it's also down to the DfT and ORR, who also don't care that much and bizarrely haven't put that much pressure on NR to get costs down. It's mad, and our bafflement at the lack of focus is repeated in meetings at least once a week.
There are spots of light in all this. I am currently involved in an R&D programme looking at how to systematically reduce the unit rate of signalling works, and despite plenty of reasonable-enough scepticism, it does have a realistic chance of impacting things. It needs to, a lot of signalling will need to be replaced in the next twenty years, and the cost of it will be unaffordable without huge reductions in the unit rate. But that approach needs to be rolled out across every other asset area - track, electrification, earthworks, structures, etc. The point about too much bespoke activity is a strong one.

There's also a recent effort to change the project management approach in the railway towards a much swifter and less bogged-down approach, cutely called PACE. It's cross-industry rather than specific to NR. In addition to that, there's also a DfT-led Sector Deal effort going on, to try to get suppliers to agree to lower their rates with negotiating levers (hypnosis? anaesthetic?) I'm not aware of. Again, let's see, but hopefully these things will help.

Anyway, sorry, I've rambled and it's not really much to do with HS2, but there are systemic issues in the rail industry that send costs shooting up, and the focus of chiefs isn't often in the right place.
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Re: HS2

Post by shpalman » Tue Aug 17, 2021 9:27 am

plodder wrote:
Tue Aug 17, 2021 8:50 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 16, 2021 9:36 pm
But maybe I'm not fully grasping the issue. What would be some suggestions to speed up and cheapen UK infrastructure projects?
This is a perennial question, and there are lots of reasons upthread, and the industry is trying to do something about it.

The current focus in infrastructure is on making sure everything is done properly - an integrated team, appropriate allocation of risk, embracing digital technology, proper capabilities within the team etc. It's all being rolled up in an initiative called Project 13 (for some reason). Disclaimer: one of my projects was used as an exemplar case study for the early stages of Project 13, so make of that what you will.

https://www.ice.org.uk/news-and-insight ... principles

The fact that they are focusing on improving these things tells you what you need to know about the current state of play. The polite term is "immature".

Everything I hear about HS2 is that it's horrendously expensive because it has all (all) the shiny fancy cutting edge best-in-class everything, everywhere.
Zero carbon plant, anyone? https://mediacentre.hs2.org.uk/resource ... wler-crane

Accredited Environmental Specialists? https://mediacentre.hs2.org.uk/news/hs2 ... tion-pilot

3D printing of concrete? https://mediacentre.hs2.org.uk/news/3d- ... 50-percent

The legacy of this will of course reduce spend and carbon in the long term, but it does contribute to the fact that HS2 costs an arm and a leg.
But then the next major project will also feature whatever shiny fancy cutting edge best-in-class everything there is in the future. I remember reading something about how nuclear was always expensive because every new power station was always a prototype; improvements in technology during the length of the (long) project make the project even longer while you delay everything to upgrade the specifications to keep up.
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El Pollo Diablo
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Re: HS2

Post by El Pollo Diablo » Tue Aug 17, 2021 9:41 am

I think that generally tends to be less of a pressure in the general (non-HS2) railway. The process of getting any new type of technology approved for use on the railway can be long and tedious, and often they can perfectly reasonably have some performance issues whilst contractors get used to installing it, people figure out how best to make use of it and maintenance staff work out how to fix it. Unfortunately, thoes performance issues mean the new tech gets a reputation for being less reliable, and people prefer to stick to the old stuff that they know works. There has also been a rather stupid requirement (which I might be wrong about) that if a supplier has a new product, there has to be a second supplier of it so the right one can be procured. If that is right, I think it's been done away with now.

In turn, though, that can make it harder to move to standardised designs, as people distrust the stuff they don't know already. But anything that does make it onto the railway will have gone through shitloads of testing and checking to get there.
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Re: HS2

Post by Woodchopper » Tue Aug 17, 2021 9:59 am

shpalman wrote:
Tue Aug 17, 2021 9:27 am
plodder wrote:
Tue Aug 17, 2021 8:50 am
Bird on a Fire wrote:
Mon Aug 16, 2021 9:36 pm
But maybe I'm not fully grasping the issue. What would be some suggestions to speed up and cheapen UK infrastructure projects?
This is a perennial question, and there are lots of reasons upthread, and the industry is trying to do something about it.

The current focus in infrastructure is on making sure everything is done properly - an integrated team, appropriate allocation of risk, embracing digital technology, proper capabilities within the team etc. It's all being rolled up in an initiative called Project 13 (for some reason). Disclaimer: one of my projects was used as an exemplar case study for the early stages of Project 13, so make of that what you will.

https://www.ice.org.uk/news-and-insight ... principles

The fact that they are focusing on improving these things tells you what you need to know about the current state of play. The polite term is "immature".

Everything I hear about HS2 is that it's horrendously expensive because it has all (all) the shiny fancy cutting edge best-in-class everything, everywhere.
Zero carbon plant, anyone? https://mediacentre.hs2.org.uk/resource ... wler-crane

Accredited Environmental Specialists? https://mediacentre.hs2.org.uk/news/hs2 ... tion-pilot

3D printing of concrete? https://mediacentre.hs2.org.uk/news/3d- ... 50-percent

The legacy of this will of course reduce spend and carbon in the long term, but it does contribute to the fact that HS2 costs an arm and a leg.
But then the next major project will also feature whatever shiny fancy cutting edge best-in-class everything there is in the future. I remember reading something about how nuclear was always expensive because every new power station was always a prototype; improvements in technology during the length of the (long) project make the project even longer while you delay everything to upgrade the specifications to keep up.
Similar applies to defence procurement. Each piece of major equipment has to use UK developed cutting edge technology, but without any of the vast economies of scale that the US has.

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Re: HS2

Post by plodder » Tue Aug 17, 2021 10:05 am

Note the use of the word "major". Most infrastructure spend is for piddly small projects that only cost a few million quid. Use of concrete printing etc is scalable and if it offers savings it'll become the norm.

Plus decarbonising. It's going to cost an absolute packet to figure that out, so it makes sense for the mega projects with the swanky monitoring and controls to be leading the way.

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Re: HS2

Post by Woodchopper » Tue Aug 17, 2021 10:28 am

plodder wrote:
Tue Aug 17, 2021 10:05 am
Note the use of the word "major". Most infrastructure spend is for piddly small projects that only cost a few million quid. Use of concrete printing etc is scalable and if it offers savings it'll become the norm.

Plus decarbonising. It's going to cost an absolute packet to figure that out, so it makes sense for the mega projects with the swanky monitoring and controls to be leading the way.
That probably happens with other areas, but not really with defence contracts. The gap between projects is usually so long that the technology has moved on, and in many areas major projects aren't followed by similar little ones (eg jet fighters).

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Re: HS2

Post by plodder » Tue Aug 17, 2021 7:17 pm

but military innovations often also filter into civilian applications too.

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