Hybrid working blamed for UK infrastructure delays

Nick Smallwood, chief executive of the Infrastructure & Projects Authority , giving evidence to the Treasury select committee

Nick Smallwood, chief executive of the Infrastructure & Projects Authority (IPA), told the Treasury select committee yesterday (11th November 2023) that hybrid working was having a negative impact on UK infrastructure projects.

Asked specifically about delays to the HS2 high speed rail project, he said: “I have seen a significant extension of design duration on projects as a result of hybrid working. So where you had designers in one office all working collaboratively together, the durations were pretty normal. What we have seen post-pandemic is a nine to 12-month extension of those durations.”

But it is not just HS2 being affected – designers working from home is slowing down all infrastructure projects, he said.

“They are all impacted in the design phase if those designers don’t work directly in the office.”

Delays caused by designers working from home was one of the reasons why the IPA gave HS2 phase one (London-Birmingham) a red alert warning in its latest annual report, Mr Smallwood said, along with an initial under-estimation at the beginning of the project of the amount of design work required, and the substantial cost inflation in the price of materials that has impacted on the entire construction industry. Phase one flashing red, he explained, meant “we have no confidence that it can be delivered either on cost or on schedule”.

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