UK Project Management Round Up


By Miles Shepherd

Executive Advisor & International Correspondent

Salisbury, England, UK


Well, the weather is improving, days stretching out and activity is slowly picking up in the project world here in UK, so it must be nearly spring. In a long period dominated by the downturn in the oil price, many industries have reported a slow-down in new project start-ups as business cases have failed or shown reduced ROI or simply lack of benefits. News is beginning to come through that typical project ingenuity is emerging to find ways to get around some of the worst effects of the latest financial crisis.

Among major topics this month are redevelopment plans for south London, the latest on the Mars lander project, a look at a flagship Government project and recent events at the Association for Project Management.


It seems like everywhere you look there are plans for new bridges across the River Thames. The last new bridge was completed for the Millennium Footbridge that spanned the river opening up views St Paul’s Cathedral from the South Bank and linked the then new Tate Modern to the City. There were problems to do with damping oscillations caused by pedestrian footfalls but these were soon overcome.

Readers will recall the proposals last year for the so-called Garden Bridge to cross the river from Temple Underground Station to a site just east of the National Theatre on the South Bank. The grandiose plan attracted a pledge of £30 million from London Mayor Boris Johnson, towards the projected £175 million overall cost of construction.

Critics were quick to point out a number of issues and The Guardian raised some of these:

  • how can the long-delayed plan for a Thames crossing in east London be revived? There are 16 road bridges west of Tower Bridge, but none to the east, where the city’s growth is burgeoning, until you hit the far-away Dartford crossing?
  • what has happened to the long-awaited plan for a pedestrian bridge at Nine Elms, where 20,000 new homes are being built?
  • why has a well-worked through scheme to make Victoria Embankment a pedestrian-friendly experience has simply fallen by the wayside?

Richard De Cani, Transport for London’s director of strategy and policy says Transport for London (TfL) is “scoping options” for the other projects, but he is reluctant to be drawn on why the Garden bridge – just 300 metres from an existing crossing – has been so magically fast-tracked and received such substantial public funding.

Then there is the money issue. The design was unveiled in June 2014 and reported to cost £60m. However, this had risen to £100m by July and was reported to be some £120m-£150m by the end of the year. The new cost at £175m, is “a genuine bottom line budget” covering aspects such as VAT and “real-estate issues”. According to Lord Davies of Abersoch, chairman of the Garden Bridge Trust, the bridge was always known to cost at least £150m. However, the Government has pledged £30 million to match the TfL funding.

The scheme received planning permission in November and work could start this year. The completion date of 2017 reported in some media seems to be in some doubt. As a legal challenge has been mounted over the whole scheme, an early start seems unlikely. Critics cite a wide range of issues, including the impact of closing Temple Station for a substantial period during construction, restrictions on use and access, dangers arising from crowding at events planned to help fund the construction and lack of clarity over finances, especially running costs expected to come in at about £3.5 million annually. The BBC noted (see their website http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-29627906 for a full summary of opposition) the comparatively poor benefits case which comes in at 1:1.6 compared with other major projects in London, such as Cross Rail which comes in at 3.1:1 and the Victoria Line extension at 5.2:1. Local opposition is considerable and vocal.


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About the Author 

pmwj29-dec2014-Shepherd-PhotoMILES SHEPHERD flag-uk

Salisbury, UK 

Miles Shepherd is an executive editorial advisor and international correspondent for PM World 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 of the International Project Management Association (IPMA). He is currently Director of PMI’s Global Accreditation Centre and the 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/.