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Planning and managing utilities on HS2 (High Speed 2)

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The HS2 Phase 1 utilities portfolio consists of circa 5000 assets impacted by the line and route, defined as diversions, connections, protections, assurance, and removals. As an essential enabling activity for the project, HS2 required a working partnership with the Utility Asset Owner (UAO) to plan, design, deliver the works on the utility assets. There are key considerations such as planning, setting up a client utilities team, linking in with main civils design, interfaces with rail systems and the operational requirements of the railway.

This paper will review the approach HS2 took in Phase 1 to establish the utility delivery programme, successes, and challenges, and determine the lessons to be learned for subsequent phases and future infrastructure projects

Background and industry context

Utility networks including both buried and above ground apparatus are the backbone of this country’s energy, water, and communications service, serving the entire domestic population and industry. These networks run the length and breadth of the UK, concentrated in highly populated housing and industrial areas, following transport infrastructure both in and away from such populated areas. When discussing major infrastructure projects, the works on utility apparatus can sometimes be underestimated as a constraint in the programme. However, as every experienced developer knows, the utilities can pose significant challenges if they are not planned correctly, resulting in catastrophic and irrecoverable impacts on programme with significant cost increases.

The challenge for HS2, is considering who is best placed to manage the utility works and how they should be delivered.

UK infrastructure and development projects such as Crossrail, Battersea & Vauxhall development, and the Olympics have experienced their own challenges with Utility works. The Olympic Delivery Authority suffered programme and cost impacts from underestimating the impacts of old existing strategic water mains passing through the park, and how these would eventually fail causing significant flooding prior to the games, and their impacts on legacy development. The Battersea and Vauxhall developments underestimated the impacts from reinforcements required on the utility infrastructure to serve the new developments causing unforeseen cost and programme implications. Crossrail suffered from establishing early engagement and integration of Utility Asset Owner’s (UAOs) programmes into the baselines. This led to unforeseen impacts on the programme where assurance and protective measures to critical assets placed pressures on the main civils work programme.

The role of SUs (Statutory Undertakers) is to own, operate and maintain the utilities that provide energy, water, and communications services to over 28 million homes and businesses across the country. SUs operates under statutory frameworks set by government and regulated by independent bodies. When new major infrastructure projects such as Crossrail and HS2 become a reality demanding the diversion, protection, removal, and assurance of utility apparatus, it becomes quickly apparent that SUs are not funded nor resourced to deliver to the demand faced and are ordinarily more concerned by the need to satisfy their statutory obligations.

Creating a client delivery organisation that can support SUs’ need to fulfil their statutory obligations, to coordinate utility works by both SUs and other UAOs, provide timely funding and work collaboratively to facilitate an effective programme is critical for success.

There are several key considerations that major infrastructure projects face with utility works. These have evolved from utility delivery from former infrastructure projects such as Crossrail and the Olympics, that can be combined with learning from HS2; these include.

  • It is necessary to plan utility works well in advance, particularly for national infrastructure where, for example, National Grid (NG) require 2-3 years notice of an outage requirement (to allow disconnection and reconnection of diverted apparatus). As utility apparatus is commonly laid underground and there is little to constrain other works (including other utility company works) from happening around existing apparatus, once apparatus is uncovered to commence diversionary works it often becomes apparent that the works are more complicated than originally anticipated, demanding additional time. The further in advance the preparation for utility diversionary works (survey, investigation, design, planning, etc.) the more likely works will be completed when required.”
  • On large scale projects it is advantageous to assemble a client utilities team to project manage the utility works, to build and maintain a direct relationship with each UAO. Determining the scope of delivery with UAOs is an important stage at the beginning of the project to agree works as contestable or non-contestable. Works that are undertaken by the asset owner itself are defined as “non-contestable” and works that the delivery organisation are permitted to undertake by the asset owner are defined as “contestable.” The decision on how these works is defined is typically based on operational sensitivity, resource capacity and protective provisions agreed through the Act [1].
  • Utility designs rely on a development of the main civils design maturity to determine acceptable designs for utility diversions. Failing to progress the main civils design at an early stage can lead to complicated constraints imposed by advanced utility works increasing the cost of infrastructure design, preventing the infrastructure achieving the optimal design or costly re-work of utility diversions.


For the HS2 Phase 1 project, the utility assets impacted by the line and route (requiring diversion, protection, removal, or assurance, were identified by the professional services consultants commissioned to prepare the phase 1 hybrid bill submission. This information was obtained through utility searches and interfaces with the UAOs, followed by outline design development to create a series of plans determining the works required to existing utility apparatus and connections required to support construction and operation of HS2.

The breakdown of the utility works consisted of the following.

  • Circa 3,700 utility assets affected by HS2, requiring either a diversion, protection, assurance, or removal.
  • Circa 1,150 temporary and permanent utility connections, providing power, water, waste, gas and telecommunications for the construction and permanent operation of the railway.
  • 180 utility asset works were defined as non-contestable to be managed and delivered by UAOs – circa. 40% of the total utilities budget. The breakdown of the non-contestable schemes includes the following: network diversions or protections for water, waste, power, gas, fuel pipelines and telecommunications.
  • Water Resources/Turbidity works required to mitigate the impact of tunnelling and viaduct works activities through the aquifer, which is a source of water supply, comprising, installation of turbidity plant at 4 sites: additional pumping equipment & license transfers at 3 sites, and.
  • 1 cross connection into Thames Water network to provide replacement water.
  • 6 Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) power connections (5 No. non-contestable element only, plus 1 No. full scope) which are required to be in place to allow the TBM works to progress to schedule.
  • 3 Traction Power Grid Supply Points (GSP) required to provide power for operation of the rolling stock.

HS2 assessed the scope of the utility works and developed a strategy comprising of a non-contestable and contestable delivery approach which was then agreed with the UAOs. HS2 took an early decision in the project to manage the non-contestable utility works directly with UAOs rather than through its supply chains. This approach was taken in collaboration with the UAOs enabling HS2 to plan and prepare in advance for these works through a specialist team of utility project managers. HS2 developed agreements with the UAOs to establish the opportunity to instruct non-contestable utility works and advance works prior to the main works civils programme. This included the procurement of early power connections for the major construction demands and coordination of permanent operational power demand to secure capacity and fix outages.


The value of utility works developed at hybrid bill stage was based on estimates prepared by the UAOs for the non-contestable utility works and Professional Services Consultant (PSC) estimates for the contestable utility works. During a series of baselining cost reviews, the data provided by the UAOs, and PSCs (Professional Services Consultant) was challenged and verified by HS2 through a series of structured reviews. Comparisons were made against previously executed projects completed in the UK with UAOs in-house estimating databases, or similar framework contract rates.

Several schemes were significantly underestimated at the preliminary stages due to the maturity of design and, the impact of these changes as design maturity occurred put strain on the overall project cost.

The key drivers of cost pressure experienced within the Phase 1 Utility works were:

 IssueAction /Recommendation
1Requirement for management and integration of a significant volume of individual diversions as a programme, not accounted for in industry standard “C3” estimates provided at an early stage by UAOs that formed the basis of early budget estimatesEarly establishment and communication of requirements to the supply chain when obtaining budget estimates in the initial stages of a programme.
2Additional requirements (e.g., Environmental, Undertakings & Assurances, Technical Requirements) imposed by a major national infrastructure project vs UAOs business as usual activities
3Additional complexity of the works near major civils works vs standard assumptions in early programme estimates – several utility diversions required significant enabling and protection works not foreseen in the early design stages or accounted for in estimatesEnsure adequate provision and modelling of risk, in addition to ensuring early assumptions and commitments are appropriately translated into point and risk allocations
4Realisation of “high impact, low probability” risks identified at hybrid bill stage related to unforeseen scope and additional network reinforcement requirementsEnsure adequate provision and modelling of risk, in addition to ensuring early assumptions and commitments are appropriately translated into point and risk allocations
5Schedule pressure and prolongation introduced through challenges to sufficiency of the HS2 Act provisions – e.g., Utility Land RightsEarly engagement with the supply chain, enhanced programme management coordination where issues are identified to support timely implementation of mitigation measures
Table 1- The key drivers of cost pressure experienced within the Phase 1 Utility works


From the first baseline, the utilities programme schedule underwent substantial change with further development of design and knowledge from the UAOs and main civils programme, enabling a more robust product with refined durations and logic. As part of re-baselining, each of the UAOs submitted their timescales forming the basis of the HS2 schedule, with regular reviews held to ensure accuracy of the data provided, in addition to compliance with known Phase 1 programme constraints.

The Phase 1 non-contestable programme has been delivered over several years initiating in 2014 with early design and feasibility works and with most of the construction delivery through 2019-2022, peaking at circa 70 concurrent live construction schemes across the length of the route. This has necessitated significant coordination with external partners and their supply chains as well as integration with multiple contracts across the broader Phase 1 programme.

Designs for the Utility schemes passed through a series of design reviews to establish an outline network design to determine the high-level approach, followed by an interim stage for coordination, and a final stage for completion before construction. In parallel with the design, the UAOs prepared documentation to satisfy the HS2 requirements under the Act, the management of consents, and the preparation of land requirements. The progress and completion of these activities and documents were monitored through the construction readiness reviews with a final approval for site mobilisation and construction. Efficiency of reaching mobilisation stage against the programme required practice with each UAO project team. Inevitably there was a learning curve with preparing documentation for evidence of compliance with HS2 and Act requirements and seeking acceptance prior to mobilisation.

Additionally, the challenge with developing the utility scheme designs early in the programme meant there would be constraints placed on the overall main works civils design. In some cases, the non-contestable utility schemes were delivered more than two years in advance of the main works mobilisation. The delivery of these strategic utility assets early in the programme was essential to maintain operational planning for the UAOs, and de-risk the overall main works programme. Alongside the delivery of diversions, HS2 also made commitments with procurement of the strategic power connections for the TBM power demands to secure capacity on the networks and plan for network reinforcements. This required early estimations on the demand requirements for the temporary construction demand and the permanent station and rail system demand and connection requirements to supply the railway backbone infrastructure and resilience. HS2 undertook early engagement with external stakeholders to combine these supplies with developers planning for the legacy developments.

The key drivers of schedule pressure experienced within the Phase 1 Utility works were:

NoIssue Action / Recommendation
1Significant long lead in time processes for obtaining required land access for survey works and constructionRobust pre-construction readiness assurance process built into the standard schedule fragnet and regular review cycle implemented to review progress
2UAO learning curve in development of quality documentation to demonstrate compliance with HS2 Act requirements ahead of mobilisationEarly engagement with UAOs and their supply chain regarding HS2 Act and other requirements
3Significant early programme enabling works dependenciesAssess early enabling works dependencies and whether UAOs are best placed or able to deliver the works themselves
4Schedule pressure and prolongation introduced through challenges to sufficiency of the HS2 Act provisions – e.g., Utility Land RightsEarly engagement with the supply chain, enhanced programme management coordination where issues are identified to support timely implementation of mitigation measures
5Significant long lead in time network outage requirements of many UAOs, and seasonal constraints related to the delivery of utility diversion worksUAO network and delivery capacity constraints to be built into the programme at an early stage, as well as consideration of “worst case” impacts of seasonal constraints
Table 2 – The key drivers of schedule pressure experienced within the Phase 1 Utility

Through subsequent phases of the programme, a refined standard fragnet for utilities works has been developed and applied within the schedule, incorporating these key early programme requirements, and learning from the Phase 1 works. This has enabled more robust schedule logic and durations to be developed and to provide the enhanced focus on the pre-construction activities required to be effectively managed by the client organisation to ensure success.


Key points of consideration to determine how to engage UAOs:

  • Determine whether to use Act powers or not prior to engagement of UAOs
  • Avoid agreeing specific terms at the petitioning stage (PPAs: Protective Provisions Agreements) that undermine the Act if it is to be relied upon.
  • Any engagement should be formalised early enough to facilitate all support activity; adequate time must be allowed to negotiate terms.
  • Clearly articulate matters that cause UAOs concern, i.e., access to land & apparatus, rights, cost reimbursement, risk, liability.
  • Government must develop ‘standard utility agreements’ for the entire country to rely upon and provide greater organisational alignment to support projects of national importance.

Key lessons through the delivery of the utility works for HS2 have been in the delivery of contracting agreements with UAOs, early negotiation of utility land rights, and managing the use of the powers within the Act against statutory undertaker powers to avoid entering into agreements that can undermine the Act. There is a need for effective oversight of legislation at project delivery level to manage unnecessary liability, cost, and delay because of not understanding and using powers effectively. Programme features strongly in the lessons learnt with early consideration needed for outage planning, survey and monitoring strategy and allowing time for the securing of resources.

Developers and local authorities typically enter business as usual (BAU) standard agreements with UAOs to enable works on new or existing utility assets. In the case where the government has implemented an Act to facilitate the construction of new infrastructure, several key requirements become law in the delivery of the works. To enable both HS2 and the UAOs to deliver against this Act, HS2 and the UAOs with significant scheduled works have formulated and entered into Design and Construction agreements (DCA). The Design and Construction agreements ensure the works are delivered in accordance with the following.

HS2 Act requirements:

  • Undertakings & Assurances (U&As)
  • Environmental Minimal Requirements (EMRs)
  • Planning schedules/notices
  • NRSWA legislation

HS2 specific requirements:

  • Technical requirements/standards
  • Minimising complexity, using Utility company standard practices & reducing onerous obligations. Applicable to public utilities.
  • Security – additional cost implications

Land & Property for utility works:

  • Strategy for Easements and Wayleaves
  • Use of Permitted Development rights

Outcomes and learning

Some of this has been included about but would be good to extract the key elements – good and bad into this section

Early engagement with UAOs has been achieved on HS2 which has enabled schemes with long lead outage arrangements and complex delivery coordination to be planned into the overall HS2 baseline programmes with clear milestones.

The early engagements also led to the development of bespoke agreements (DCAs) to facilitate project management teams with the key SUs to manage the HS2 works outside of normal regulated business against HS2 requirements. The development of these agreements was time consuming and costly with legal resources on both sides. These agreements provide opportunity on future infrastructure projects to minimise time and cost against common processes and requirements. The use of the DCA was a deliberate decision which reflects the strategic preference in HS2 to adopt collaborative arrangements with third parties.

Managing land rights to form easements and wayleaves is necessary for UAOs to safeguard the land ownership, access, and operation of their assets. Utility land rights must be considered from the outset to avoid delays in energisation of schemes. HS2 and similar infrastructure projects have not taken early steps to manage these complex agreements resulting in difficult and lengthy negotiations beyond the completion of the projects. To avoid this SUs have insisted on completion of these agreements prior to energisation. HS2 experienced delays in schemes early in the programme caused by unclear process and navigation of establishing these utility land rights.

HS2 took an early decision to develop a utilities team that could operate as a client to manage funding and instruct works to the UAOs and HS2 supply chain with contracting arrangements to follow legislation. This was essential for the early programme activities where the supply chains, in enabling and main works activities, were in their initial stages of establishment.

HS2 were able to develop bespoke contracting agreements with the UAOs and working processes that enabled UAOs to develop teams outside their regulated business to work with HS2 to agree process, programme, and delivery coordination.


The relationship with utility UAOs is essential to the successful delivery of utility works in major infrastructure projects. This should be carefully considered in the contracting agreements and where feasible to allow UAOs to operate as closely to their existing delivery procedures as possible. Early coaching for additional project specific requirements such as preparing of documentation to satisfy compliance with undertakings and assurances, consents, and environmental requirements are key for maintaining relationships and programme. Establishing effective PMO (Project Management Office) within the UAOs is critical to coordinate a delivery on top of a UAO’s normal regulated business, and for ensuring coordination of technical, operational, commercial, and legal inputs efficiently.

The organisational structure of the client team is critical to the outcome of the success in utilities delivery. Deciding on whether to remain lean and utilise the delivery partners to manage utilities or retain ownership and manage relationships and programme more closely has a determining outcome on the success of the project. Preparing and establishing a client or delivery partner led utility works team with project management capability to lead delivery of utility works on the scale of HS2 can take circa 5 years to develop.

Try to ensure Early engagement with UAOs and their supply chain regarding HS2 Act and other programme specific requirements to ensure:

  • robust cost, schedule and risk estimates can be developed at the earliest possible stage of the programme
  • identification and resolution of potential challenges or conflicts within the requirements and the statutory undertaker’s regulatory commitments

Consider Early consultation with key stakeholders to determine:

  • long lead-in outage booking requirements and seasonal constraints imposed through the delivery of utility works and.
  • other key enablers such as long lead-in times for land access and compliance documentation to enable construction activities to be built into the schedule and actively managed at the earliest possible stage through a dedicated pre-construction readiness process

Ensure early assumptions and commitments are appropriately translated into point and risk allocations


The relationship with utility UAOs is key to successful delivery. Establishing a close collaborative partnership with agreed outcomes on scope and programme enable all parties to become synchronised in the delivery. There are existing forms of legislation that can provide a common platform for process such as NRSWA, and delivery clients should avoid deviation from these platforms.

Overall key elements for success include:

  • Advanced planning of utility schemes with operational constraints
  • Creating a client utility delivery team that is effective with managing funding, supporting UAOs with delivery against the project requirements, and providing coordination and support to supply chains to deliver in accordance with legislation. The time duration for creating these teams within the client and delivery partners will have a significant duration that should be considered in the programme.
  • Integrated strategy with UAOs to determine non-contestable and contestable works scope, considered against UAOs operational and delivery constraints.
  • Relationship with utility UAOs to coordinate with operational and delivery constraints, legislation and working practices
  • Contestable delivery strategy to apply consistent ways of working and compliance.
  • Early consideration of utility land rights to ensure legal agreements are in place prior to energisation and operation of assets are complete.


David Pugh

Andrew Sawers


[1] The Act – High-Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Act 2017 High Speed Rail (London – West Midlands) Act 2017 (legislation.gov.uk) . Accessed 9/12/21