In the White Paper: Time to Decide (2001), the EU addresses the need for a Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). To create the TEN-T, the EC has invested in the construction of several Large Infrastructure Projects (LIPs). Yet the EC has limited possibilities for forecasting and monitoring the effectiveness of these projects: it is unclear which elements in the management and organisation influence the LIPs success. Active European development and knowledge exchange is scarce.
The NETLIPSE project aimed at setting up a network for the growing demand for knowledge and that allows the projects to benefit from the experiences of other projects.
The objectives of the NETLIPSE project were:
- Setting up a continuous and interactive knowledge network;
- Gathering information on best practices and lessons learnt in the management and organisation of 15 LIPs in Europe;
- Disseminating the knowledge gathered and promoting the research results;
- Translating the best practices into an evaluation and monitoring tool (called the Infrastructure Project Assessment Tool) that will allow for the quick and effective implementation of new policies.
The best practices not only focussed on the management and organisation of these projects, but also provided insight into such subjects as innovation and new technologies. As a result the EC was able to deploy, monitor and evaluate LIPs more effectively.
The project is carried out by five research teams, representing public and private organisations and knowledge institutes from the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Germany and Denmark. However any large infrastructure project, governmental or private organisation interested in NETLIPSE can join the network.
The 15 projects researched concern infrastructures for road, rail and waterborne modes of transport. The NETLIPSE research started with defining the research question and designing the Knowledge Protocol, the protocol used to govern research of the 15 projects. NETLIPSE incorporate a dual focus in the Knowledge Protocol, assessing the management capability of the project delivery organisation as well as the historical development of the project in its context. The Knowledge Protocol was tested in two pilot projects (Betuweroute and West Coast Main Line), evaluated, adapted and assessed as being fit for use by the Technical Verification Board. The Knowledge Protocol covers 8 themes that were used to structure the interviews and clusters the best practices and lessons learnt:
- Objectives and scope;
- Financial management;
- Organisation and management;
- Risks (threats and opportunities);
- Legal consents;
- Knowledge and Technology.
The knowledge gathered is disseminated through a wide variety of communication media:
- A website is available, which provides downloadable information and interactive forum discussions;
- People in the network will receive regular updates via abi-annual electronic newsletter on the NETLIPSE progress, meetings and project information;
- Several network meetings, conferences and project visits are organised;
- At the end of the two-year research period, the best practices are published in a book: 'Managing large infrastructure projects', which includes a report describing the attainability of the development of a quality model, and an Infrastructure project Assessment Tool, which will allow the EU to monitor large infrastructure projects more effectively.
During the research, lessons learnt and best practices were formulated for each of the themes investigated. From the overall analysis of all best practices then the overall conclusions are formulated. Some conclusions are:
- Large similarities in best practises and lessons learnt. NETLIPSE research shows that although the investigated projects are executed in very different contexts, the identified best practices show large similarities. Apparently large infrastructure projects in Europe are facing similar challenges. This makes an international comparison and knowledge exchange both interesting and practically fruitful.
- Integration of scope and objectives is most effective. With respect to goals and objectives, based on NETLIPSE findings it is possible to state that projects must be conceived, managed and operated as an integrated whole, with the prime purpose being the user and economic benefits derived from a new or improved transport link, rather than the completion of a physical project as an end in itself. Where the success of the outputs depends on operational interfaces as well as infrastructure construction, these must be managed from the outset and integrated into the programme management of the whole project.
- Address and manage checks and balances within the project organisation. In major projects there is a fine balance to be drawn between the need for control and constructive interaction between the parties. Strong control helps to prevent purpose and scope creep. Constructive interaction can help projects to accept new an often external changes or delivery methodology. These changes might potentially improve the project outputs, reduce costs or speed up the project delivery
- Promote an open culture with stakeholders. Regarding stakeholder management NETLIPSE found in many cases that an open culture within and between project organisations and with external parties and stakeholders is critical to the smooth progression of a scheme. The communication between the client/sponsor and the project delivery organisation is of paramount importance, both on a formal and on an informal basis. This open culture leads to successful implementation and the joint ownership and management of emerging project problems. Clear contracts are essential but must be supported by joint solutions if the end outputs of the project are not to be compromised. This is true, irrespective of whether partners are public or private.
- Be careful with experiments. Large infrastructu
- Develop the Infrastructure Assessment Tool (IPAT). The IPAT has a dual focus: (a) to assess (evaluating ex ante and ex post, monitoring and benchmarking), as well as (b) to improve projects. The tool will be an important tool in the management of large infrastructure projects for the EC, member states and financial institutes.
- Invest in knowledge exchange. The current knowledge exchange in Europe is scarce. The unambiguous experience of the NETLIPSE project is that knowledge exchange is beneficial. It can be an important contribution in the improvement of the management and organisation of Large Infrastructure Projects and therefore to fulfil the ambitions of the European Commission. The NETLIPSE consortium has the intention to establish a foundation in October 2008.
- Develop a training programme. To open up the knowledge to managers for infrastructure projects, a training programme will be beneficial for the management of the large projects.