Number deemed ‘in doubt’ has doubled

Less than one in 20 of the government’s major projects are expected to be successfully delivered and more than one in four – including HS2 – are at risk of failure.

Figures contained in the annual report of the Infrastructure and Projects Authority (IPA), released this week, reveal that the proportion of projects deemed “highly likely” to be successfully delivered has fallen from one in seven to less than one in 20 over the past five years.

In contrast, the number of projects at risk of failure has risen from one in seven to one in four during this time.

The number rated red by government officials – which means they are expected to fail – has fallen from 4% in 2013 to 3% in 2017.

But the proportion rated amber/red, meaning they are ‘in doubt’ and have major risks requiring urgent action, has doubled from 12% to 24% during this time.

In its latest annual report, the IPA stated: “Some projects will need more support and oversight than others to maximise their chances of successful delivery.”

There are currently 143 major government projects, which will cost around £455.5bn in total.

The report said: “The largest growth area in the portfolio has been in infrastructure and construction, with infrastructure projects reaching a record £222bn, making up almost half the value of the GMPP [Government Major Projects Portfolio].”

Some of the projects rated as red or amber/red include HS2, St Helena airport, and the A303 Amesbury to Berwick Down.

Over the past five years the number of projects rated ‘amber’, meaning that “Successful delivery appears feasible but significant issues already exist,” has risen from 30 to 50%. 

Major infrastructure projects such as the priority school building programme and a new cancer hospital offering proton beam therapy currently fall into this bracket.

Tony Meggs, IPA chief executive, commented: “The majority of government projects are complex, and there are still many areas for further improvement.”

Writing in the foreword to the report, he added: “The most common causes of failure are well rehearsed: lack of clear objectives, insufficient resources, and over-ambitious cost and schedule, among others. All these mistakes can be avoided if tackled early and effectively.”

Responding to the findings, Richard Threlfall, head of infrastructure, building and construction at KPMG, said: “We aspire to an industry that is both from a client and a contractor point of view seen as delivering best in class day in day out, and if a smaller proportion of projects are reaching that standard then that’s a cause for concern and we need to up the ante in terms of the standard of leadership and management around big projects.”


How confidence has slipped


191 projects

4 per cent rated red

12 per cent rated amber/red

30 per cent rated amber

26 per cent rated amber/green

17 per cent rated green



143 projects

3 per cent rated red

24 per cent rated amber/red

50 per cent rated amber

16 per cent rated amber/green

3 per cent rated green


Source: Percentages derived from IPA 2017 annual report