Collaborative Processes

Collaborative planning, management and delivery of the Thameslink London Bridge Area Partnership works

In December 2017 Jacobs were commissioned to undertake a review of the collaborative aspects of the planning, management and delivery of the Thameslink London Bridge Area Partnership works in Key Output 2 in order to produce a legacy document that will inform and inspire subsequent programmes of work.

To gather the required information, a series of seven workshops were held during January 2018 with a cross-section of key staff, both past and present, from all partner organisations. Workshop discussions were captured and reviewed and a number of recurring themes identified.

The full report can be read here

Background Information

Programmed fire-breaks

Programmed ‘fire-breaks’ are possessions booked without major works in order to facilitate re-sequencing if required. These were usually booked on Bank Holidays. If the possession was not required for key LBAP works, it was always used for something worthwhile, even in some cases maintenance work.

Robust application and adherence to GRIP

LB followed the GRIP process rigorously with mandated stage gates etc.

Success Factors

Team building events

A series of team-building events were held to help create a common culture. This engendered good buy in from the Partners and enabled a clear understanding of common goals and objectives and the challenges posed by the programme’s complexity and risks. The events were held over two days with an overnight stay and focused on manageable elements of the project. This reflected a deliberate managerial decision to put resources and time into building a genuine collaborative base for the project.

Collaborative approach formalised

BS11000 became a standard around 2012 and Network Rail was the first organisation within the rail sector to implement and gain certification. The company adopted the standard as a framework for developing the policies and processes, culture and behaviours required to drive continual improvement with key suppliers. The LBAP programme was the first NR programme to apply for independent BS11000 certification and all the Partners were consulted and actively engaged in the process. As LBAP had already been created a certain amount of retro-fitting and re-writing of key documents had to take place to achieve this and accreditation was valued more as a test than as a guide. The key value proposition of the certification was that it would be a mitigation against over-running.

In-house ‘Partnership Relationship Manager’

This is the first time NR has appointed an in-house Partnership Relationship Manager who has been dedicated full-time to the programme. This dedicated resource enabled the relationships between Partners to be strengthened and drove maximum value from the collaborative approach. Relationships were measured every 6 months with CAT surveys (Collaborative Assessment Tool) looking at management, leadership, empowerment etc. Dashboards were developed for the Management Board and for the Delivery Partners Forum (DPF) with both leading and trailing indicators.

Introduction of a ‘Construction Before AFC’ process

Traditionally, some work often starts before Approval for Construction (AFC) has been signed off. On London Bridge, because the project was high risk and was being closely scrutinised this could not be allowed to happen until a design was fully approved and therefore properly integrated. Some unapproved construction did occur initially, but this was stopped and a new process put in place to manage it referred to as the CBA or Construction Before AFC process. CBA allowed low risk construction to commence prior to AFC but not higher risk works. This formalised approach allowed early construction to take place in a risk assessed, managed way rather than potentially driving it out of sight.

Surveyors and designers collaborating to improve performance

A formal Survey Collaboration Agreement was developed for LBAP and signed by all the Partners. It covered surveying principles including standards, grid, sharing, co-ordination and tracking. The process identified duplication and early needs and £2m savings and £800k missed opportunities were identified. Surveyors and designers held a joint session in the station, so that designers could show surveyors what they needed to get accuracy in terms of setting out points. This improved the quality of outputs, leading to better information being entered into the 3D model making it easier to produce accurate designs.

Ability to obtain and discharge own access

LBAP had the resources to obtain and discharge its own access and this was seen as a key enabler for delivery. The key to the success of this approach was the development of a close working relationship with Routes and TOCs. There is no shortcut to this collaborative approach with trust and respect having to be built up through the repeated successful delivery of possessions.

Effective management of site interfaces between principal contractors

Some issues around site interfaces between the principal contractors were experienced early in the project. These were largely attributed to poor briefing out to people on the ground. This was resolved by putting an NR Construction Manager in the team who introduced more clearly defined signage of site teams’ areas. Handover of track beds was another issue and this was resolved with drop fencing.

With different contractors crews coming through the site all the time it was probably inevitable that some issues would recur, especially as some contractor staff were very transient. Despite this staff working on the project felt that site interfaces were better managed than on most major projects.

Station Interface Manager

A dedicated Station Interface Manager proved to be a key enabler for the project. They managed access in a collaborative way to maximise benefit to the project within the constraints of a live station environment.

Collaborative approach to Section 106 requirements

There were very clear Section 106 requirements for the project around apprenticeships, jobs, training, community engagement and employability. The Partners collaborated to design a joint approach that would meet the requirements and a decision was made by NR to put in place a dedicated workplace manager. This freed up the project managers and contractors to enable them to focus on delivery.

Collaborating to ensure compliance with sustainability requirements

KO1 had varying levels of compliance around sustainability and it was felt that NR had not directed the supply chain properly. A totally different approach was taken on KO2 where NR looked closely at:

  1. Giving sustainability an appropriate weighting in the procurement process
  2. Collaborating properly and clearly on what sustainability meant for Thameslink
  3. Identifying the same clear objective and targets for each organisation
  4. Embedding the requirements in contracts and cascading them down the supply chain
  5. A central team to deal with sustainability and consents to provide an integrated and co-ordinated approach
  6. Dedicated consents managers to manage sustainability and consents on a daily basis and ensure consents process was built into the schedule

As a result, contractors felt they had a clear role within the team in contrast to the usual approach where they often feel ‘bolted on’ and are therefore less effective.

Engagement with passengers and with political and business stakeholders

NR put in place a fully integrated Thameslink Programme Communications Delivery Team, with membership from each partner organisation, to manage this area. The sheer scale of the task (impacts at 284 stations) and complexity of messaging required an integrated campaign delivered collaboratively with industry partners. There were multiple strands to this engagement:

Passenger engagement

The team directed passengers to online tools, identified relevant industry stakeholders and kept them informed, managed the impact on passengers, employers and businesses, engaged with Network Rail and Train Operator Company staff and developed water-tight contingency communications.

Engagement with political and business stakeholders

The team prepared bespoke presentations and stakeholder information packs and ran many MP drop-in sessions and stakeholder tours, including an event at Parliament and tours for the Greater London Authority, cabinet office, CBI, London First and London Chamber of Commerce, amongst others. They also proactively engaged early on with numerous business groups across London to inform them of the changes and understand any concerns they may have.


The campaign made maximum use of all partner and TfL websites to keep the travelling public informed about the planned engineering works and closures, including through a comprehensive journey planning microsite. The bespoke travel advice tool was widely acknowledged as a game changer in allowing for “one source of the truth” to underpin the campaign and deliver joined-up passenger messaging.


The team co-ordinated a series of carefully targeted media interviews, site tours, press releases, thought leadership blogs and articles linked to key programme milestones and achievements. Extensive proactive media briefing succeeded in embedding complex messaging about passenger queuing arrangements at stations during peak times, ticket acceptance arrangements and changes to train services and operations.


Potential Learning

Align design philosophies of Rail Systems and Civils Design teams

Very different design philosophies exist in Rail Systems and Civils Design, with them effectively approaching the design process from opposite ends. Rail Systems (signals and track) approach each stage as a project in its own right, whereas for Civils Design the final product is key (with 9 interim stations). This issue should be recognised on future projects and appropriate resources dedicated in advance to identify the high risk interfaces and make sure the right people are in place at the right time to address them.

Develop more detailed arrangements for collaborative 3D Modelling

There was an initial aspiration to apply collaborative modelling using a 3D CAD live design tool. Indeed, the Station team modelled in 4D (with time included). However, the signalling team were not used to this modelling approach. Protocols were put in place for live online working. Whilst this aspiration was good it proved to be too big a step and cultures didn’t allow it to succeed.

Track design, electric track equipment (ETE) and signal bonding plans were integrated and Civils added their data. The Station team was way ahead of others. There was so much information in a small space with so many changes that this model was vital in order for delivery to succeed and avoid clashes. Workshop attendees recommended that, in future, as a minimum track, ETE and signalling bonding plans should always be integrated into a 3D model.

Key issues experienced included:

  1. Model not always updated as new information or data was gathered, limiting and eroding its potential effectiveness for clash detection.
  2. Utility companies refused to produce As-Built drawings so they could not be put into the 3D model. A similar issue existed inside the station with people “too busy”. Updating the model should have had more emphasis. This had a real impact on rail systems who could not understand what the station would look like at any particular moment in time.
  3. Partners must all be clear on when the 3D model is to be used and how it will be kept up to date. A conscious decision and plan are required to be in place.
  4. There was no clear strategy for moving to Asset Management/BIM. This needs to be properly thought out from the outset.

‘Chainage’ versus ‘Absolute Global Position’

Linear scheme plans are based on chainage and contain significant potential for error when compared to the use of absolute coordinates. The 3D model can accept both sets of data and was used on LBAP to manage this issue. This approach has been expensive. In future it would be sensible to have both linear references and coordinates managed centrally by the survey assurance manager. Signals will also need to adopt this approach, especially in the placing of balises.