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HS2 Project: MPA say “Delivery in doubt”, the Dept. for Transport says “in excellent shape” – can both statements be correct?

May 24, 2014

HS2 Project:
MPA say “Delivery in doubt”
Dept. for Transport says “in excellent shape”
– can both statements be correct?




Yesterday the Major Projects Authority (MPA) in the UK Cabinet Office published its Annual Report, together with its assessment of 199 major Government projects. It was published on the morning that Local Authority election results were dominating the news (and in advance of the Bank Holiday weekend).

7 facts missed that have been overlooked by the main stream media as a result:

1. The £42bn High Speed Rail 2 (HS2) Project is simultaneously on track and derailed

The HS2 project is assessed by the MPA as ‘Amber/Red’ status. This means that “successful delivery is in doubt” and that “urgent action needed to assess whether it is feasible”…but DfT in a commentary in the appendix say “HS2 is in excellent shape” – contradictory statements?

2. There are still many lumbering Government mega-projects

24% of major projects to complete no earlier than 2020s or even 2030s – are lumbering, long projects like this agile?

24 pct due to complete in 2020s or 2030s … this is well illustrated by a graph showing a ‘long-tail’ of 35 ‘black swan’ major projects not due to deliver for 5+ years

Project length - distribution

3. Most £££s spent on major Government Projects are IT driven

The spend on Government Transformation/IT Projects now dwarfs UK Infrastructure and Military spend:

Distribution of projects by type - ICT dominates

4. Everything will be alright on the night…

Only a handful of major projects are now classified as ‘Red’. The MPA are optimistic that most of these projects have now resolved their problems. For example the National Crime Agency IT project, The QE Class Aircraft Carrier project and 6 others.

Handfull of projects now Red


5. Retraining of Government Senior Civil Servants as project leaders is underway…

… but the project leadership training is only 50% complete after 4 years – will it will take as long again to finish retraining the current cohort? By that time will as many (or more) new staff will need the training? Is this training in project leadership a losing battle when there is a 100% annual turnover of bosses (SROs) of major Government projects?

SRO Turnover

6. There is massive project underspending across many departments.

MPA indicates that this is a sign of projects running late in getting things done:



7. MPA have not provided an assessment on the Universal Credit Programme, and are silent about whether the ‘Reset’ Business Case has been approved…

As noted in mydetailed blog yesterday, the MPA report excludes Universal Credit from its analysis.

Did the Treasury sign-off the ‘reset’ business case last month as promised to the MPs on the Work and Pensions committee?

See that blog here.



From → Agile Governance

  1. Reblogged this on sdbast.

  2. andrewspiers permalink


    Yes they can! The difference, I submit, would be the risk register and underlying assumptions.


    Sent from my iPad

    • Andrew, Yes – the MPA status reports are from September and only reported now. So it is entirely possible that some projects that had difficulties now have addressed them. However, the converse should also be probable, but I see no departments coming forward to say that previously Green rated projects are now in trouble. The reporting seems to have an optimistic trajectory…

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