February 2019 UK Project Management Round Up

Bad news: IT Projects, HS2, Crossrail, BREXIT, skills shortage and new nuclear; Good news: Meggett extension, Hybrid Air Vehicles, Silverton Pier, Bloodhound Project, Alton’s Hydrogen Train Plan; and Captain Flinders’ grave found



By Miles Shepherd

Executive Advisor & International Correspondent

Salisbury, England, UK



Last year closed with a very pessimistic review of the British railway industry and its flagship projects, focusing on Crossrail but taking a swipe at High Speed 2 (HS2) in the process.  So, for a change, I will start with the bad news before looking at some of more optimistic events of the month.


IT projects seem particularly prone to receiving a bad press and there are two currently in the firing line: the long-awaited Ministry of Defence (MOD) modernisation programme and the Law Courts programme.  The former, run by Fujitsu is reputed to be about 2 years behind schedule and £210 million over budget which is pretty good going considering the contract was only signed in 2015.  The systems are also said to be mission critical, handling top secret data.  The Law Courts IT programme is a complicated one involving multiple systems and is linked to the £1 billon courts modernisation programme.

According to press reports, the court system failure has resulted in delay to cases coming to court, trials adjourned and even cases abandoned.  Now lawyers are claiming that this, and other “transformational” projects such as the probation service contract and private prisons, were initiated under Chris Grayling who was Lord Chancellor for 3 years up to 2015.  The chairman of the Criminal Bar Association claims that these are all part of Grayling’s “destructive nihilistic legacy in all areas of legal aid and the courts”.  Some may find this an interesting take on the owner’s responsibilities in major programmes where the role of sponsor is often poorly defined.  In this case, the Lord Chancellor cannot have had a detailed knowledge of the system requirements but most certainly did have an informed but political view of the outcomes required – do we have a case of outcomes vs outputs here?  It also throws an interesting light on the legal occupation who are clearly interested in any potential work from possible penalty clauses in the contracts – more work for the boys.

High Speed 2 continues to hog the headlines.  Recruitment continues apace with the search for the construction team that will take the new Curzon Street station from concept to reality closing 2018.  The first tower crane came on site as part of the preparation to demolish Euston Towers and opportunities opening for trainee archaeologists.  However, less welcome news comes in the form of renewed speculation on HS2’s ability to meet its business case predictions.  Initially predicated on its speed, then on capacity and currently on improved connectivity between north and south of England, the business case has always been controversial.

HS2 route (courtesy HS2.org.uk)

Leader of the House of Commons, Andrea Leadsom, whose constituency is transected by the new rail line, challenged the value of the business case as it emerged that HS2 is investigating reducing the capacity of the line by 4 trains an hour.  This effectively lowers capacity by 8,800 per hour at peak times.  Original capacity claims were 18 trains per hour, higher than any other high-speed line world-wide.  This reduction in capacity was first discussed late last year in response to claims that the programme is late and over budget.  This month’s announcements seem to be aimed at reducing short term costs.


To read entire report, click here


How to cite this report: Shepherd, M. (2019).  February 2019 UK Project Management Roundup, PM World Journal, Vol. VIII, Issue II (February).  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/02/pmwj79-Feb2019-Shepherd-UK-project-management-report.pdf


About the Author

Miles Shepherd

Salisbury, UK





Miles Shepherd is an executive editorial advisor and international correspondent for PM World Journal in the United Kingdom. He is also managing director for MS Projects Ltd, a consulting company supporting various UK and overseas Government agencies, nuclear industry organisations and other businesses.  Miles has over 30 years’ experience on a variety of projects in UK, Eastern Europe and Russia.  His PM experience includes defence, major IT projects, decommissioning of nuclear reactors, nuclear security, rail and business projects for the UK Government and EU.   Past Chair and Fellow of the Association for Project Management (APM), Miles is also past president and chair and a Fellow of the International Project Management Association (IPMA).  He is currently a Director for PMI’s Global Accreditation Centre and is immediate past Chair of the ISO committee developing new international standards for Project Management and for Program/Portfolio Management.  He was involved in setting up APM’s team developing guidelines for project management oversight and governance.  Miles is based in Salisbury, England and can be contacted at [email protected].

To view other works by Miles Shepherd, visit his author showcase in the PM World Library at http://pmworldlibrary.net/authors/miles-shepherd/.