Contruent Blog

Megaprojects in the UK

Projects in the United Kingdom have kept pressing forward despite the pandemic. According to a 2021 Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA) report, in the last year the government has successfully completed 25 major projects (the most ever in one year!). These forward-thinking projects are designed to help citizens, improve public services, grow the UK economy, and put the UK on the path to net-zero emissions by 2050.

Here are 6 mega projects going on in the UK right now:

1. Birmingham’s Big City Plan

Birmingham’s £10 billion Big City Plan kicked off in 2010 as a 20-year megaproject set to renovate and transform this major city from its unloved “concrete jungle” moniker to a world-class city center. The megaproject’s goal of updating and rejuvenating Birmingham’s infrastructure to create “a well-connected, efficient, and walkable City Centre” includes six major projects:

  • Regeneration of New Street Station 
  • State of the art Library of Birmingham 
  • Midland Metro Line 1 Extension 
  • City Park 
  • High Speed Rail 
  • New City Centre Interchange on Moor Street Queensway

While the megaproject itself is just over halfway through its transformation, Birmingham is already seeing the benefits of some of its completed Big City Plan projects– In fact, the local economy grew by £1.8bn in 2018 and the economic growth in Birmingham between 2017 and 2018 was 6.0% (nearly double the national average of 3.3%).

Overall, the Big City Project is creating more than 50,000 new jobs and will be contributing £2.1 billion to the economy annually.

2. Battersea Power Station Redevelopment

Battersea Power Station was originally a coal-fired power station with dual power stations (Battersea A and Battersea B) in southwest London along the River Thames. Battersea A was built between 1929 and 1935, and decommissioned in March 1975 due to increased operating cost, age, and falling energy output. Battersea B was built alongside A in the same brick building between 1937 and 1941, and was decommissioned in 1983. 

The brick building is one of the largest brick buildings in the world, and was upgraded to Grade II* status on the heritage register in the UK in 2007. 

The 42-acre site has been under a £9 billion redevelopment since 2013 after being bought by Malaysia developers SP Setia and Sime Darby. Upon completion, the Battersea Power Station will comprise a blend of shops, cafes, restaurants, art and leisure facilities, office space, more than 4,000 residential houses and apartments, and an extension to the London Underground’s Northern Line. Once fully complete, it is estimated that the 3.5 million square-feet of mixed commercial space will attract 40 million visitors per year. 

The first Battersea residents moved in in May 2021, and the site opened its open-air theatre and retail stores in 2019. Many plans were made for redevelopment of the Battersea Power Station since its decommissioning, but none of them worked out financially due to the upkeep needed for this graded heritage site. This refurbishment project took the existing historical building and site and positioned it for future enjoyment with a megaproject that restored it and will make it a part of their lasting heritage.

3. Sellafield

Sellafield, located near Seascale, England, is Europe’s largest nuclear site. Sellafield has numerous projects in progress, including more than one megaproject. Currently the Replacement Analytical Project, Sellafield Product and Residue Store Retreatment Plant, and SIXEP Continuity Plant are all underway. 

According to the 2021 Infrastructure and Project Authority report, “the Replacement Analytical Project is a key component of the Analytical Services Programme, which provides essential services to operations on the Sellafield Site supporting 22 Programmes & approximately 200 Operational Facilities. The existing facility is 60 years old and cannot provide long-term capability so new analytical facilities need to be established.”

Sellafield’s Product and Residue Store Retreatment Plant project will provide a facility that will receive special nuclear material from existing stores on-site at Sellafield and process them into forms that are suitable for safe and secure storage until 2120.

The SIXEP Continuity Plant project is a decommissioning project. Once complete, it will replace the existing effluent treatment plant at Sellafield as it approaches end of life and will provide interim waste storage capability. 

The entirety of the decommissioning program is set to take approximately 100 years at a cost of £121 billion. These critical project’s create long-term construction and manufacturing opportunities for the local and national economies, and once complete will treat and store historic nuclear waste to establish a safer environment for future generations to come.

4. Highways England / National Highways

Highways England, now National Highways was established as the steward of the strategic road network (SRN) to operate, maintain, renew and enhance England’s motorways and main ‘A’ roads. The program’s second Road Period (RP2), covering the financial years 2020-2025, commits the government to spend £27.4 billion to be used to build new road capacity, operations, and improving the quality of and reducing the negative impacts of the existing SRN. 

The Highways England strategic business plan generates benefits worth more than their costs, expecting more than £2 of benefit for every £1 spent during RP2. Maintenance objectives include repairing concrete road surfaces approaching their end of life, renewing bridges and structures before they pose safety risks, and replacing safety barriers in poor or very poor condition. Enhancements to the highways and roads include junction improvements, widening roads, smart motorways, and new bypasses to make the roads more efficient and safer for users.

Improved travel time has far-reaching economic impacts beyond saving travel time at a given moment. Per the economic analysis of Highways England’s RP2 “…travel time savings for business users can drive increases in business productivity and employment, resulting in increased economic output. Increases in productivity and competitiveness will increase the Gross Value Added of the local economy.”

The RP2 infrastructure investment will have “a stronger focus on the differing needs of road users and adoption of new working practices and technologies”. Highways England’s goal for RP2 is to provide people with smoother, more consistent journeys, and to make the most of green infrastructure and good design so that those using and living near the highways and roads experience less noise, light, and air pollution.

Highways England’s RP2 consists of 56 committed major enhancements schemes and 12 new major enhancements schemes.

5. Covid-19 Programs: England’s Vaccination Program & The Test-and-Trace Program

The global COVID pandemic spurred the creation of several megaprojects including England’s vaccination program and the Covid-19 Test-and-Trace program. 

According to a December 2020 report by the National Audit Office (NAO) on the investigation into preparations for potential COVID-19 vaccines, the “total expected investment required from government to purchase and manufacture COVID-19 vaccines for the UK, deploy them in England and support global efforts to find vaccines” is £11.7 billion.

On December 2, 2020, the first vaccine for use in the UK was approved by the regulator and deployment began on December 8, 2020. 

There are numerous challenges in vaccinating a nation during a pandemic– it is a massive program. There are complexities of transporting each different type of Covid-19 vaccine, especially since they are temperature-sensitive products. Rapid deployment of vaccines means storage space, transportation solutions, and a massive quantity of accessible medical supplies like syringes and people to administer the dosages.

As of August 2021, more than 47 million people have had a first vaccine dose – nearly 90% of the adult population – and about 39.5 million – around 75% of adults – have had both doses.

In March 2021, England’s Covid-19 Test-and-Trace program had carried out more than 83 million tests and successfully reached 93.6% of the contacts of positive cases at a cost of £22 billion. Many private and public sector organizations contributed to the testing and tracing program. 

The program involved designing, building, and maintaining a digital platform for booking appointments and registering test kits. Launching the Test-and-Trace program was a large undertaking; it went live in just three weeks and kept up with the very high amount of website traffic.

The program also entailed coordinating and setting up testing facilities, including 550 drive-through and walk-in test sites. It also managed logistical support and a digital solution to enable the program to distribute more than 25 million tests to NHS staff.

6. East West Rail

The UK has prioritized rail; recognizing the importance of rail in the long-term in providing economic growth and jobs while building a sustainable transport system for the future and its generations. For instance, HS2 will link Britain’s largest cities with a new low-carbon and high-speed rail line improving capacity and connectivity, and Crossrail Ltd is building the new railway (the Elizabeth line) with 10 new stations for 200 million annual passengers to open through central London.

The expected £5 billion East West Rail (EWR) program will create a rail link from Oxford to Cambridge by the end of the decade, and is a key part of the government’s ambition for the Oxford to Cambridge Arc.

According to East West Rail Company, the major railway megaproject consists of four main undertakings that will occur in three connection stages:

  • Upgrading the existing railway section between Oxford and Bicester
  • Bringing back a section of railway between Bicester and Bletchley
  • Refurbishing existing railway between Bletchley and Bedford
  • Building brand new railway infrastructure between Bedford and Cambridge

East West Rail’s improved connectivity will significantly reduce travel costs and travel times between these two university cities while providing nearly 1,500 jobs and reducing road traffic pollution.

Contruent project controls software is familiar with many government and nongovernment mega projects in the UK and across the world. We are a member of the RICS Tech Partner Programme, and our software is utilized on many projects and megaprojects within the UK to help control costs and manage project changes. 

These types of major infrastructure and energy projects make for a better, more sustainable future; Contruent is excited to be a part of projects that leave a lasting positive legacy.

To see how Contruent Enterprise project controls software can help your organization, schedule a virtual demo!