Getting it Right..the earlier the better

Author: Keith Upton
Introduction Day
Session: Resilience

There's always criticism about projects going over budget and over time. As a project increases in cost, the onus is on getting the core of the work completed and so the "extras" often associated with improving the future resilience are cut. In other words, the next 2, 5, 10, 20, 30 years are often side lined. This could mean that the signalling systems installed now may not be as resilient as the signalling systems that are being replaced.Cost increases are often due to scope changes during the later stages of a project when detailed design starts. It is widely known that a scope change later in a project will be more expensive than a scope change early in a project. In the UK, Network Rail (the infrastructure owner) define a project in GRIP (Governance for Railway Investment Projects) stages. These consist of eight stages – the first four are all the scheme development stages where costs will be lower, stages 5 and 6 are detailed design, construction, testing and commissioning. Changes at stages 5 and 6 will mean significant changes to the overall cost of a project. These eight stages are generally well defined, and particularly within signalling, specific deliverables are required at certain stage gates.Objective and Methods:This paper will explore the GRIP stages for the UK. The author will look at whether these stages are still suitable and will look specifically at GRIP stages 1-4. Then the author will explore why the scheme development stages are so important to build in resilience at an early stage and avoid costly scope changes at a later stage. It will also look at how the stages for signalling compare with other disciplines, and the challenges that the signalling stage gates have compared with other disciplines.Conclusions:The stage gate reviews, introduced by Network Rail in 2015/2016, are good and help to further define the stages of a project but they are sometimes seen as a tick box exercise with a minimal budget and are only seen as a requirement to close out as quickly as possible so that the detailed design can get started. However, the scheme development stages are critical to the successful development of a project. These are the stages when all aspects of a scheme should be thought through, assessed and stakeholders can agree on the scope of the project. Therefore, by the end of GRIP 4 the scope can be frozen with all stakeholders agreeing that the scheme will give the required output. The scheme development stage is also a good chance to look to the future and build in resilience and future proofing. This can be designed in at the outset rather than being a "bolt on" during GRIP stages 5 or 6. The scheme development stages are also a good time to start producing outlines for any deliverables that are normally produced at GRIP 5. The current strategies are good but there perhaps needs to be a culture change that duly recognises the importance of the early GRIP stages.