Saturday, 29 March 2008

Terminal 5 Teething Troubles

I wonder how many people were like me and thought of the London Olympics while they watched the chaos at Heathrow Terminal 5. I could visualise a complete catastrophe of an opening ceremony with the Olympic flame turning up late, the stadium only half built and any members of the public who had tickets being sent home as the health and safety police hadn’t completed the risk assessment and put in place the required emergency plans.

Maybe Seb Coe could explain it all away as “teething problems”

This country’s record on major projects is not exactly an example to the rest of the world at the moment. Wembley stadium was years late and millions over budget; the millennium dome was an embarrassment and now Terminal 5. What is wrong with this country? Maybe if we spent less time being politically correct and more time doing the jobs that need doing then we might get somewhere! The London Olympic Authority should be concentrating on getting the infrastructure in place to enable the games to be held, however there are much more important things to consider such as the ‘gender equality’ present in the construction industry. Lord Coe and his team are currently recruiting two Employment & Skills Managers (Women’s Project) to proactively promote construction related employment opportunities for women, assist in removing the barriers facing women wishing to enter the construction industry, broker on-site construction related work placements and direct employment for women and offer additional support to women on-site to ensure retention and career development.

According to the Olympic Delivery Authority Website ( “Understanding gender specific schemes will be new to many contractors and to the construction industry as a whole. The successful candidate will have a proven track record of supporting women/under-represented groups in gaining employment within the industry and also facilitating relevant training and development opportunities. In addition, they will have experience in educating and assisting companies to place women/under-represented groups into construction jobs.”

The salary on offer for these jobs, a quite modest £35,000. However, from such little acorns might empires of politically correct jobsworths can be grown.

Hartlepool’s own major project, the tall ships race looks at the moment to be relatively free from too much political correctness, although the aim for Hartlepool to “make its mark by setting a world first. The first Tall Ships' Race with the environment at the forefront” could ring some alarm bells. How long before the Council Taxpayers of Hartlepool are picking up the bills for a Tall Ships Race Office Climate Change Manager?

The “work steams” announced in the Hartlepool Mail also caused me some concerns. Event technical, fleet technical, event management, visitor accommodation/marketing all seemed to be fairly sensible but two others, finance/legal and safety advisory made me wince. As an experienced project manager (and qualified health and safety advisor) I know financial responsibility cannot be delegated to a sub-committee and both financial and safety issues need to be part of each group’s own working brief otherwise they can easily spiral out of control.

Terminal 5 might take several weeks to sort out their teething problems but at least they will have that time. The London Olympics (and the Hartlepool Tall Ships) are one off projects. Get either of these wrong and there are no second chances.

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