Blackfriars Programme Challenge

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At the heart of the Thameslink programme

The ambitious project started in 2008 and included creating a common entrance at the north end of the bridge, increasing the length of the platforms, refurbishing the Underground station and the construction of a brand new station on London’s South Bank for the first time in 120 years

– no small undertaking. With so much work to incorporate, the project did run into some issues, which is where Project Leaders (PLL) came in.


When the Blackfriars contract was awarded to PLL, the programme at early contractor involvement was already overrunning by a year and an over budget. The client, Network Rail, and Principal Contractor, Balfour Beatty, could not see a way forward to reduce timescales or the budget. Just two members of Project Leaders came into the project for an initial two weeks, had to quickly establish the issues facing the workforce, from planners to constructors, and formulate a solution.

Our Solutions

Primarily, PLL was able to lean on the support of the CEO from each of Network Rail, Principal Contractor, Sub-contractor who were steadfast in their support of the resources and needs of PLL. Despite originally having just two weeks to suggest changes, this was soon extended to six weeks, and then staying on for four years, until completion in 2012, in time for the London Olympic Games.

After assessing what was causing the delays in the Blackfriars programme, Project Leaders created the ‘Programme Challenge’ methodology. By looking at the key drivers of the project - time and money - PLL was able to speak to the key project planners and establish that the original programme lacked the cohesion to enable the project to run smoothly.

By separating the original programme into its key strands, i.e. the aforementioned north entrance, Underground refurbishment, etc., PLL was able to work with the planners to demonstrate, through give/get and interface points and closing critical paths, that their works could be both delivered on time, and integrated fluidly with each other.

Meanwhile, a peer review of the engineering ‘solution and design programme’ allowed the programme adequate time to prevent the design straying on to the critical path.

A key change in logistics approach from road to river enabled 24 hour logistics and saved time on the schedule and costs on the estimate. Ultimately this led to a long term strategy for the project and opened the use of the river for commercial projects.


Quite simply, this allowed for the project to finish on time, 13 months earlier than originally scheduled at the point of early contract involvement. Project Leaders’ methodology saved a year of the programme and brought it within the authorised budget; the savings were not small. This was all through the introduction of just two people with the skill, innovation and experience to bring success to the project.

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