Copenhagen Network Meeting Report

We are looking back to a fruitful 28th edition of the NETLIPSE Network Meeting. Big thanks to all the participants from no less than 13 countries, who made this meeting a success. Special thanks to Helle Lange and Jens Holmboe from the Danish Road Directorate for hosting the meeting in Copenhagen!

Professionals in the field of large infrastructure projects got the opportunity to meet in person, share the challenges they face, exchange best practices, and come up with new ideas to tackle these challenges.

This edition focused specifically on the topics of rising project costs, and the renovation and reconstruction challenge that many countries face. The main conclusion is that while each country has to deal with their specific contexts, all countries are faced with the same challenges. This makes the Network Meeting the perfect place to discuss the different approaches and get inspired!

Day 1 – Sunday:

The Network Meeting started with a workshop that focused on the question how the next generation of project managers and researches could be included in the network. Should we incorporate them in the existing network, or start a separate network tailored specifically to the needs of the next generation? Both the junior and senior participants agreed that the added value of the network lies in the transfer of knowledge. The session ended with the commitment to personally invite younger project managers from the participating organisations, and involve them in the composition of the program for future network meetings. The day was concluded with drinks & dinner in the Copenhagen harbor.

Day 2 – Monday: Rising Project Costs

Monday’s program was all about Rising Project Costs and how to deal with them. The day started with a warm welcome by Jens Holmboe and an introduction into the Danish Infrastructure Plan 2035. This was followed by three case presentations of Rising Project Costs.

Presentation: Josephina Solakova – Department for Transport
The first case was presented by Josephina Solakova of the UK’s Department for Transport. She focused specifically on the increase of steel prices, and the effects on current major rail projects in the UK. In a response to this issue she made a plea to collaborate more between projects, determine critical paths and focus on procuring the critical materials early, and review demand and delivering capacities across the supply chain.

Presentation: Pekka Petäjäniemi – Impacts of Ukrainian War + Material & Price Challenges
The second case was presented by Pekka Petäjäniemi from the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency (FTIA), which focused on the consequences of the war in Ukraine on Finnish infrastructure projects. Pekka explained that EU sanctions on building materials imported from Russia (e.g. bitumen), provide the FTIA with a challange to procure those materials. Additionally, Finnish contracts with a duration of less than two years were not indexed, which meant that rising material costs couldn’t be compensated. The FTIA has reacted quickly by implementing Construction Cost Indexes in future contracts (also under two years).

Presentation: Ľuboš Ďurič – COVID-19 & War Impacts on Transport Projects
The third case was presented by Ľuboš Ďurič, from the Ministry of Transport & Construction of the Slovak Republic. Ľuboš explained that a many construction workers active in the Slovak Republic are from Ukraine. As a result, the war in Ukraine did not only lead to rising material costs, but also to a labor shortage. Moreover, many infrastructure projects are funded by the EU OPII fund, of which the programming period ends in the end of 2023. Delays as a result of COVID and the Ukraine imply a challenge to effectively use all the allocated funds.

The cases were followed by an interactive brainstorm session on how to tackle these challenges. The main conclusion was that hard choices will have to be made between projects. Not everything is possible when budgets remain the same and costs rise. It is our task as project managers to inform our public officials on these choices.

Presentation: Pablo Ovejas – Experiences with client organisations across Europe
The day was concluded by Pablo Ovejas, a Spanish contractor from FCC Construcción who shared his reflections on working with different types of clients and contract forms from a contractor’s point of view. His main conclusion was that “trust, built through personal relationships, is essential, and more important than nationality or type of contract” for reaching a successful cooperation between contractors and clients.

Day 3 – Tuesday: Renovation and Reconstruction Challenges

Tuesday’s topic was Renovation and Reconstruction Challenges. For a long time, the focus has been on building more infrastructure: new tunnels, roads, dikes, bridges, quay walls and railways. However, the current challenge is to renew and future-proof existing infrastructure. Reconstruction is needed because objects are end-of-life, the use has changed (heavier loads), or stricter laws and regulations are in place to which the object has to be compliant. Three speakers presented the challenges that they face in their renovation projects.

Presentation: Monika Milwicz – From Construction to Maintenance
The first speaker was Monika Milwicz from the department of Infrastructural Programs of the Polish Ministry of Funds and Regional Policy. She presented the Polish challenge of increasing costs of operating, repairing and construction and – at the same time – decreasing available funding. To address this challenge, a shift has been made from a ‘worst first’ approach to a best total value/optimal cost approach. In order to do this, a Road Asset Management System has been implemented. This system is unique as it takes into account an elaborate set of indicators, parameters and forecasts, supported by IT-tools, to determine which roads are up for maintenance.

Presentation: Ivo Visser – To be Predictable & Agile
The second speaker was Ivo Visser from the Amsterdam Bridge & Quay Wall Program. He presented his challenge of 830 bridges and 205 km’s of quay walls that have to be assessed and possibly repaired or renewed, while at the same time keeping the city accessible and Amsterdam’s citizens pleased. In order to achieve this, the program concluded that they would have to be predictable, but agile at the same time. This resulted in programming of activities in three layers, which range from a rough 20 years look-ahead on city level, to a detailed plan for a period of 2 years on city-block level. This approach makes sure that third parties that want to piggyback on the activities of the renovation program (e.g. adding electric cables now that the pavement is opened anyway), have enough time to define their plans and arrange required funds. The area focused bundling of activities makes sure that only one crucial traffic corridor is being worked on at any moment, ensuring that the city remains accessible. The program temporarily reinforced unstable bridges an quay walls to buy time to execute the plan. With a risk-based method, the program would then determine which bridges and quay walls to renovate.

Presentation: Jochen Eid – Federal Bridge Modernisation Programme
The third speaker was Jochen Eid from the Federal Bridge Modernisation Program of Die Autobahn. The challenge his program is facing is to double the number of annually renewed bridges from 10 to 20. This is necessary because many of the bridges (especially those built before 1985) show systemic deficits, and do not meet the current ‘LM1’ standard for traffic loads. Individual bridges are then prioritised on a set of criteria ranging from condition, life-expectancy, critical structural deficits, traffic load and location in the network. Similar to the approach of the Amsterdam Bridge & Quay Wall Program, the Bridge Modernisation Program coordinates between the individual projects based on routes and corridors in the German road network.

Following the presentations, the group was divided in groups to think of possible solutions to the presented challenges. The main conclusion was that in order to move from single individual projects to mass production, contractors will need to be able to innovate, and apply these innovations over multiple similar projects. This would require a closer cooperation between clients and contractors, and awarding contracts for a longer period (i.e. 10 years) and over multiple projects. If regulations limit this approach, we should re-evaluate whether the regulations still serve the goal for which they were implemented.

Presentation: Silas Christian Nørager & Eelco Negen – IPAT Assessment Copenhagen Nordhavn Tunnel
The day was ended with a presentation on the IPAT Assessment of the Copenhagen Nordhavn Tunnel by Eelco Negen of the Dutch Directorate for Public Works & Waterways, and Silas Christian Nørager of the Danish Road Directorate. The project consists of the construction of a 1,4 km tunnel and the construction of a replacement harbour for approximately 600 boats in Færgehavn Nord. After finishing the detail design and tender of the project, the project team had an IPAT Assessment carried out at the end of 2021, in preparation for the execution phase. Silas elaborated on the useful insights that the project gained from the IPAT Assessment and stressed the value-for-money that the IPAT-Assessment provides.