High Speed 2 (HS2) seems to have been plagued by delays since the word ‘go’. The latest of which was revealed last week, when reports emerged that ministers had delayed signing off on the first half of spending for the project over concerns about spiralling costs.

A formal “notice to proceed” on the major construction works for the first phase of the project has been put back six months until December – suggesting the government-owned firm behind the scheme will miss its target begin building its tunnels, viaducts and bridges later this year.

The order, which would have unlocked up to £27 billion for the first phase of the line, was due to be issued in June. Rumours that the project is struggling to stay within its budget of £56 billion perpetuate, and that in turn means that ministers will not allow the firm to enter agreements with contractors to begin construction based on the current design.

High profile but not unusual

It’s actually quite a familiar story in the world of construction, and while this particular version is getting a lot of publicity and vitriol implying a certain level of incompetence because of its public nature, the issues cited are ones that can arise very easily.

Big projects have a lot of components; planning, moving parts, natural delays and plenty of room for human error. It all has a knock on effect. If you’ve ever built your own house you will know that it almost never runs exactly on time.

The result of course is that arguments can end up happening, claims are often raised as tempers rise, and projects are stalled.

How to keep a project moving

In the work that we do in construction claims we work with clients at a number of different levels. We work at the project planning stage to try to help prevent claims from happening. We also work with clients to resolve claims at mediation. This allows clients to maintain relationships as best as possible, keep costs down and to keep projects on schedule.

For HS2, time frames and costs are already looking as though they could escalate, with the project being delayed by as much as two years. It’s a good reminder for anyone entering into a large construction project to think about what their goals really are.

Delays happen, mistakes happen, but if you appreciate that from the start and make provisions for them by having the right people in place to help deal with them as soon as they arise, then the bigger picture should stay in clear focus: to keep your project moving forward without letting costs spiral more than necessary.