July 2018 UK Project Management Round Up

Rail Project Problems, IT Woes Continue, Brexit – Again, Energy, More Good News, British Way of Life Under Threat


UK Project Management Roundup


 By Miles Shepherd

Executive Advisor & International Correspondent

Salisbury, England, UK



The report emerges at a very unusual time.  First, UK is basking in glorious sunshine with above average temperatures (average 28°C / 85°F), and Scotland has had it hottest day in recorded history – 33°C / 91°F!.  Visitors usually remark on the mist, rain and generally dour climate so many are no doubt frustrated by the remarkable spell of sunshine – it has lasted 10 days so far and is expected to stay fine for another week or two.  The other remarkable factor is the triumph of the England football team.  I know the ball is the wrong shape for many enthusiasts, but we have actually managed to get through to the last 8 by virtue of a penalty shoot-out.  Now readers of the popular press know this is almost unheard of in British football history.  Well done the team, no doubt there are many lessons for project people but that will have to wait for another time.

This month, we dwell on some well-known major projects and their problems, BREXIT looms yet again, energy projects have been in the news and we are faced by a national disaster that threatens the British way of life.


One of the other staples of British conversation is the railway system.  This is not just because we invented the wretched thing and had the first fully functional system in place nearly 200 years ago but because it is something we all have to endure.  The latest problem to bedevil the trains is a new timetable.  This came into force on 20 May and immediately plunged the network into chaos with around 1000 trains cancelled on one day alone.   Unsurprisingly, this has caused a great outcry with demands for a public inquiry – the standard response when someone wants to kick a problem into the long grass.  No inquiry has yet been announced but a brief look at the situation is instructive. 

The rail network in UK consists of a series of regional franchises who lease engines and rolling stock and actually operate the trains.  Trains operate across the franchise boundaries and so some coordination of timetables is needed.  Rail scheduling used to be regarded as a profession but like some other so called archaic occupations has been relegated in status and can probably be done by a computer.  Regardless of status and the ability of computers, something has gone badly wrong with the scheduling which was intended to better reflect the faster train speeds achievable and the improvements to the rail infrastructure.  On two of the major franchises in the north of the country, up to 1 in 8 services a day have been cancelled or delayed by more than 30 minutes. 

The problem seems to be a training issue as drivers have to be trained on new routes and not enough time seems to have been allowed for this to take place before the new timetable came into operation.  It is hard to see why more time could not have been allocated or the implementation date altered as the conversion training should have been easy to monitor.  There have been demands for heads to roll over this debacle but so far, only the boss of the biggest rail operating company has fallen on his sword.  Disruption is forecast to last for months as training takes place alongside normal operations.

Still on rail projects, High Speed 2 has been in the headlines as allegations of “petrifying overspends” have been made by the former Head of Property, Doug Thornton.  Apparently, many of the estimates of compensation for land compulsorily purchased were based on SWAGs (Scientific Wild Ass Guesses) and some have been £billions out.  HS2 has not disputed overruns, some of which have been 10,000 (yes, ten thousand) times more than the original estimate according to reports in the Sunday Times (17 June).  The situation was identified in 2016, and the head of planning and performance, Andrew Bruce, was due to report to the main HS2 Board but was sent on leave of absence at very short notice.  He was due to “present major budget, programme and performance issues”.  Both left the Company as the HS2 Phase 1 legislation was at a critical stage in Parliament in 2016.  The National Audit Office is investigating these new allegations contained in papers sent to the Cabinet Office.


There seems to be no end in sight for the troubles TSB legacy system upgrade project.  You may recall that TSB was spun out of Lloyds Banking Group and used the Lloyds computer system while it developed it’s own network.  This is a long-planned development and transfer programme due for cut over from old to new systems in March.  TSB’s owners, Sabadell, reputedly spent £250 million developing the platform, £550 million transferring 5 million customer accounts and more than one billion records from the Lloyds system to their new one.


To read entire report, click here


How to cite this report: Shepherd, M. (2018).  July 2018 UK Project Management Roundup, PM World Journal, Vol. VII, Issue VII – July.  Available online at https://pmworldjournal.net/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/pmwj72-Jul2018-Shepherd-UK-Regional-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/.