Tuesday, 2 December 2014

The dream of the Stonehenge tunnel procurement

As we approach the Winter Solstice (and the next election) it has been announced that a new road is to be tunnelled near Stonehenge - a world heritage site and one of the wonders of the world.  As I understand it no one actually knows the origins of Stonehenge and I doubt they know what is actually underneath or surrounding it - the new tunnel may turn into an archaeological discovery mission.

But a modern myth is also being told, after all this scheme dates back to 1995! Are we being sold a dream which can easily be set aside in future spending cuts? We have the mystical belief that the UK has the skills and money to delivery such an ambitious project - on what basis? It could create jobs but when and how sustainable will they be? It will require money but when will the money flow?  Is there a justification for spending so much money on a road tunnel when we have people in the UK reliant on food banks and there are potholes in virtually every street?

Was it only last year that we learnt that a third of major projects were over budget or late? Could we have an update on the lessons learnt which will be transferred to the Stonehenge project?

Dominic Cummings, in today's Times claims the civil service lacks skills in budgeting, contracts, procurement, legal advice, and project management.  If he is right, and history provides plenty of examples, what are the chances of effective project delivery of the tunnel? Perhaps euphoria over the award of the east coast rail franchise has been a cause for a vision of such a landmark project. Perhaps it is easier to visualise completion of the Stonehenge tunnel than something which may impact on the lives of people today.

The amazing thing is that 5,000 years ago someone conceived and delivered Stonehenge - whether it was to time, cost and quality we haven't a clue, but for all our sophistication, it strikes me that they had skills which are not common and are urgently needed.

What I would like to know is, will anyone be accountable for the delivery of this dream?

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