The London Power Tunnels (LPT) Programme is the biggest upgrade to the national electricity transmission system since its construction in the 1960s.

The £1bn project, led by the National Grid and supported by Arup, aims to rewire the capital to meet the increasing demand for electricity. Over an eight-year period, 32km of tunnels will be constructed, 180km of 400kv cables will be installed, two new substations will be built, and major upgrades to four more substations will be completed.

Establishing best practice from the start

During the development of the project, we undertook a validation review of the overall plan to identify the inherent risks. Our findings recognised that without a central guiding and coordinating function, there was significant risk to success. There was also a danger that decisions would be made in the interests of individual projects, rather than the programme as a whole.

We recommended establishing a Programme Management Office (PMO) to act as a central hub with the thirteen individual projects being coordinated through it.

Bringing together an integrated team

The primary function of the PMO was to provide strategic advice to the National Grid’s senior management team and align individual project deliverables to meet the programme’s requirements. 

From the outset, the creation and setup of the PMO was sponsored by the NG Programme Director. To avoid any friction between programme teams, the PMO aimed to get buy-in and acceptance from all stakeholders. This was the biggest challenge for the PMO to overcome. We helped NG to develop its delivery model for these large, multi-disciplinary programmes, enabling a unified team to operate at high levels of integration and encouraging contractors to familiarise themselves with the tools and processes involved.

Designing a process to resolve issues ahead of time

We built close relationships with all the key contractor personnel and local operations. We achieved this by facilitating communication between all parties to resolve any issues by developing a PMO Charter, systems and maintenance teams. We also instigated a client-only “site leads” meeting, bringing together decision-makers to resolve higher level issues. This approach allowed the PMO to implement agreed controls, together with appropriate support, analysis and recommendations, without taking responsibility away from Project Managers.

A strategic service of value to all

Our goal was for all stakeholders to view the PMO as a strategic, value adding service, not just an administrative function that added unnecessary layers of process and bureaucracy. 

The programme is now complete, having been delivered approximately six months early and more than £50m below the budget approved by the NG board. As a result of the success of the PMO, many of the tools and processes established on the London Power Tunnels project are now included in the way NG delivers other capital projects.