More scrutiny than ever on future infrastructure projects, says MCA

The ‘Value of Consulting in the Infrastructure Sector’ paper by the Management Consultancies Association (MCA) examines the important role of consultants in helping ensure projects are delivered efficiently and create value to society at a time of unprecedented levels of investment and new technologies in the sector. The report highlights the added scrutiny future projects will be under with even more focus on costs and benefits due to societal and behavioural shifts towards the importance of infrastructure.
With a Government infrastructure investment programme of £640bn and Project Speed, a task force designed to fast track major building projects across the country, the aim is for new projects to help the UK’s economic recovery as well as provide additional employment.

The recent MCA Annual Industry Report 2020 revealed that consulting in infrastructure projects saw a 5% increase in 2018-2019 with demand particularly high for work in the areas of transportation, energy, and digital infrastructure such as fibre broadband. This is expected to increase significantly due to new-build programmes such as HS2 as well as infrastructure upgrades.

The ‘Value of Consulting in the Infrastructure Sector’ outlines some of the key challenges for the industry in the UK and ways consulting firms are assisting clients with these issues. With Government actively seeking to keep construction work moving to help the economy recover, there is the opportunity to bring forward both projects but acknowledging that uncertainty and risks will always be key factors. There also needs to be a careful balance of the need for short term immediate projects to help with employment and making the right decisions for the long term.

Tamzen Isacsson, Chief Executive of the MCA, said:
“Despite the complexity of infrastructure projects there is a time-pressure for quick decision making, and a greater demand than ever before to see work starting and people employed quickly but at the same time costs must be carefully scrutinised and managed throughout the entire process. This paper shows the expertise that management consultants can bring to help navigate complexity and solve these problems at a time when infrastructure is seen as a critical driver to the UK economy.”

Greg Bradley, Managing Director, Business Transformation, Arcadis, and chair of the MCA Infrastructure Working Group, added:
“The Covid-19 pandemic has meant that there is now increased focus on infrastructure, and how it can support our economy. The successful use of digital infrastructure during lockdown has enabled schools, businesses and essential services to continue to function, and shows how important future infrastructure projects are for our society. The pace at which the Nightingale hospitals were successfully delivered also shows what can be achieved. As an industry, we can work together to achieve the acceleration, cost efficiency and innovation ambitions we all share for the UK infrastructure programme. It is a once in a lifetime opportunity, and by collaborating we will be able to build back better.”

Examples of how MCA Members have helped deliver infrastructure more efficiently and effectively include:
Working with Highways England in the way construction schemes are delivered and maintenance carried out with £300m in capital efficiencies over a five-year period
Securing over £380m of cost saving for a major UK utility in the way it changed how it worked with its contractor and suppliers for a construction and maintenance programme
Helping Network Rail digitise its infrastructure, targeting improvements in capacity, journey times, reliability and customer experience
Working on the Thames Tideway Tunnel (TTT) to improve collective understanding of technical and construction risks for investors. This led to a reduced cost in finance resulting in customers paying £55 a year less on their annual bill.

The paper ‘Value of Consulting in the Infrastructure Sector’ is available here.