Transport Central: Benchmarking

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Ben Shepherd: Hello and welcome to the fourth in our series of transport video blogs. I am Ben Shepherd and I’m joined by Richard Scott.

Today we are looking at how benchmarking can play a critical role in shaping our transport infrastructure, but the word ‘benchmarking’ means different things to different people.

Richard, how have you come to think about benchmarking within the transport sector?

Richard Scott: Benchmarking can increase the value and the returns on major transport infrastructure projects. There are a number of fundamental principles that should guide its application.

Perhaps most importantly this is not just about cost comparison. Many of us may think about benchmarking as a comparison of costs of one project with another but it’s much more than that. For example, how does the specification of one railway project compare to another? How long should it take to construct a typical mile of motorway? Or in fact how frequently should we repair or renew a new bridge?

Ben Shepherd: So it’s about multiple comparisons then and many types of performance. Are there any other considerations that we should bear in mind?

Richard Scott: Benchmarking shouldn’t be a one-off exercise. It should be applied and inherent across a whole lifecycle of a project. Benchmarking can help to inform the scope of a project during the development phases. It can also help to build confidence during the procurement phase and then again it can help inform decisions during the delivery phase of the project.

Benchmarking needs to be supported by other more conventional techniques of cost, risk and benefit analysis. What benchmarking does is it points the engineers and the project managers to the areas of further investigation and opportunity.

Ben Shepherd: OK, so let’s get a bit more granular. How would we actually apply benchmarking to a new infrastructure project, new transport infrastructure project?

Richard Scott: So we are all familiar with transport projects both here in the UK and internationally and often we are impacted by them. Whether that’s a mega project like Crossrail or in fact whether that’s a more local project like a ring road that would help you get to the office more quickly in the morning.

No two projects are the same, but notwithstanding that it is possible to compare particular elements or assets within these projects. Projects are commonly put on hold or scaled-back because of affordability constraints. By comparing one project with another and looking at some of the cost drivers that drive the individual costs of those elements, it’s possible to unlock significant efficiencies and some of those projects can be brought back off the drawing board.

Ben Shepherd: The application is benchmarking abroad. It’s not a replacement for bottom-up cost estimating but it does provide a useful way to bring challenge and insight to our projects to help optimise them and deliver the performance they were set out to achieve

Thanks Richard and thanks for watching. We hope you found this informative.
If you would like to know more please watch the other videos in this series and get in touch with us.

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