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A day in the life of Tarik Saif

Secondments are an effective means to develop the careers of young professionals and provide added value to important client relationships. For Tarik Saif (Graduate Project Manager, Warrington), it involves working on Europe’s largest infrastructure project - High Speed 2 (HS2).

I joined our Project Management team in Energy in September 2017 (having just finished a PhD in Petroleum Engineering) and within a few weeks, a secondment opportunity appeared at HS2 Rail. Given that many project management skills are transferable, and with HS2 being one of the UK’s mega projects, it seemed a great chance to enhance my core project management skills. Working on such a complex project is a great way to gain experience and exposure to other ways of working.

Since October 2017, I’ve been working on the new High Speed 2 rail project. At HS2, I am in the role of assistant project manager in the Utilities Phase One Delivery Team in the Birmingham office. Myself and other colleagues are supporting HS2 (Phase 1) as part of the Engineering Delivery Partner (EDP) contract. We work alongside HS2 in their offices based in Birmingham and London, as well as on sites along the route, providing expert engineering, programme management and construction management support.

What’s the project?

HS2 is fundamentally about connectivity: the new high-speed rail network will connect London, Birmingham, the East Midlands, Leeds and Manchester. Designed as a passenger-only service, trains will run between London and Birmingham from 2026 (Phase 1). The service will extend to Crewe by 2027 (Phase 2a) and then link to Manchester and the East Midlands and Leeds from 2033 (Phase 2b). When the full service is up and running, a HS2 train will leave London Euston every three and a half minutes. HS2 trains will also integrate into the existing network, serving towns and cities such as Liverpool, York, Newcastle, Sheffield, Preston, Wigan and Carlisle, Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Key facts about HS2:

  • HS2 will serve over 25 stations and half the UK population.
  • The railway is being designed for trains to travel at 250 mph (400 km/h) but the service will initially operate at 360 km/h.  Journey times will be massively reduced and the north and south will be far better connected, and crucially the new high speed route will free up capacity on both the West Coast and East Coast main lines.
  • Total development sparked by HS2 could support up to 100,000 new jobs.
  • From opening of Phase 1 (2026): Birmingham Interchange to London Euston reduces from 73 mins to 38 mins and London Euston to Birmingham Curzon Street takes 49 mins, down from 81 mins.
  • From opening of Phase 2 (2033): Birmingham to Leeds reduces from 143 mins to 57 mins and Birmingham to Manchester reduces from 110 mins to 41 mins.
  • There will be up to 1,100 seats per train, carrying over 300,000 passengers every day (trains will be 400 metres long – much longer than those currently in use on the network).

What's my role?

In developing this new rail scheme, HS2 has had to account for the extent of the utility equipment affected. In my role, I am working to support the co-ordination of asset protection and diversion works between various utility companies, contractors and other stakeholders to ensure their works and programmes can run smoothly and simultaneously. This is focused on utility mains and services such as water, sewerage, electricity, gas, telephone and other services with an emphasis on minimizing disruption to utility operators and their customers as much as possible. Already, I have had great opportunities to assist in the development of detailed project plans, coordinate programme changes, work on identifying and managing key project risks, and supporting contract management plans and budget control. Also, I have been able to help manage specific interfaces and relationships with cross directorate and supply chain stakeholders and initiated various workshops to regularly capture lessons learned.

So, what have your learned on this project?

Each day I’ve been building up knowledge of programme and project management techniques. The scale and complexity of HS2 means there are many challenges with exceptional scrutiny as it must serve everyone in the UK by delivering on requirements set by Government and using taxpayers’ money wisely. Also, given that HS2 is a project that will affect many communities, it has become clear that engaging with communities over the life of the project is crucial.  I now appreciate that structuring and delivering large projects can be extremely complex. There are many different stakeholders entering the project life cycle at different stages with different roles, responsibilities, risk-management capabilities and risk-bearing capacities and often conflicting interests, and it is important that these are anticipated and managed from the outset. For me this continues to be a brilliant secondment and a fantastic experience to be supporting our client on this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that will expand our choice of where to live, work and visit by connecting our cities with ease and speed.