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HS2 Shining a Spotlight on Women in Project Planning

Category: Gender Balance, Women in Engineering, Female Leaders, Women Planners, Female Planners

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Hear from Kellie Lynch, Planning Manager at HS2 Ltd.

We often hear planning being described as a “dark art”, no one truly understands exactly what we do and how we do it.  While humorous, this couldn’t be further from the truth.  It’s a blend of logic and creativity, tying together all the moving parts of a project in a format that is easily digestible to everyone.

It doesn’t matter whether it’s small scale or a large, complex and ever-evolving project such as HS2, planning is always key to success. As a Planning Manager sitting within the Civils and Stations & Systems teams, there are so many things I love about our HS2 project and my role.  I could honestly talk forever and a day on it. 

The variety of the work

HS2 is Europe’s largest infrastructure project and uniquely complex, there is something for every planner whatever your preference of industry, scope, or project phase; they all integrate together.  We have some 300 active sites across the route line with significant multiple contractors working concurrently with diverse scopes. It’s hard to imagine the scale of work this brings and types of planning expertise HS2 rely on to deliver it. It is a once in a generation opportunity, and if you’re my age, once in a lifetime.

So, whether your expertise is in tender assessment, concept to detailed design, execution, or project close out, construction, utilities, environmental or land acquisition - HS2 has it all. How many projects can boast this?

The Programme manages the delivery of work ranging from detailed design, environmental, archaeology, demolitions, overbridges, haul and access roads, railway track and utility diversions. It involves over 20 delivery partners, utility and Rail companies, all managed through either Delivery Agreements or NEC3 contracts. Things gets complex pretty quickly when you are dealing with such large numbers of contractors on site, with interdependencies of works to complete.

Behind the scenes HS2’s planners have been quietly delivering key projects since its creation in 2009. The team has been involved in tender reviews, contract awards, concept designs and now the execution of enabling works. The team moves with each project phase taking with them their expertise, knowledge and lessons learned with them into the next, to ensure a smooth transition between project lifecycle phases. 

So how do we manage it?

HS2 brings in planners from a variety of industries such as utilities, rail, construction, Oil & Gas, Defence, Aviation, Nuclear and Highways to leverage different expertise. We value diverse cultural backgrounds and ways of thinking to help us deliver at pace and build up best practice.

Our people

Don’t think that it goes unnoticed. HS2 listens.  We listen when planners talk about lessons learned on previous projects and encourage fresh ideas from across industries. HS2 also rewards - providing opportunities through promotion or supporting colleagues to build on their planning portfolio and move across the project of works. This is why we proudly promote our motto “I care, You count, We matter”.

That expertise and passion is creating industry best-practice in building and integrating programmes.  The benefits are that it brings light to optimising efficiencies and threats to delivery.  It enables commitment from the project teams and sponsors, while improving communication with stakeholders when tasks are to occur.

The best thing I believe, is that we give confidence that the project can be delivered to requirements and trust in the team to deliver. This is the vital value add that the planning team provides. We deliver an essential role in helping stakeholders, sponsors and our teams navigate through this complex project lifecycle.  It’s ensuring we execute the project strategy and determine how the project can achieve its objectives and deliver the required benefits.

For me, HS2 has broadened my knowledge beyond utilities and Oil & Gas, which had been my background.  I have built up an extensive understanding of the different types of projects, their scope and integration into a wide portfolio of works, that would generally have taken many years to achieve.

Planning is an exciting world. So, whether you are new to planning or are a seasoned veteran, it offers rewarding opportunities at all levels - come join us!


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VERCIDA works with over one hundred clients who are committed to creating an inclusive work environment. If you are an employer and interested in working with VERCIDA to promote your diversity and inclusion initiatives and attract the best candidates, please email [email protected] for more information.

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