HS2 Harnesses Untapped Ingenuity to Deliver UK’s Largest Ever Infrastructure Project


Over the past decade, the UK has spent more than £74 billion in attempts to rejuvenate its century-old railway network. Still unable to meet modern capacity demands and public expectations, the UK launched HS2 – a revolutionary high-speed railway that will form the new backbone of Britain’s transportation network. To deliver an infrastructure project of this magnitude, the leaders at HS2 needed a solution to help establish an innovation program that could leverage the collective knowledge and ideas from a nationwide supply chain of over 2,000 contractors and businesses.


With Planview solutions as the base, HS2 could generate and capture thousands of ideas from across its ecosystem. Now, with the capability to manage the entire lifecycle of a new concept from ideation to impact, HS2 can evaluate and act on the projects with the highest potential return on investment – driving innovation, fostering collaboration, and delivering massive value throughout the programme.

“Culture and people have been the core of what we’ve been trying to do, and with Planview front and center, we have created a pathway for innovation.”

– Robert Cairns, Innovation Manager

About HS2

The UK government set up HS2 Ltd to develop, build, and operate HS2, a national high-speed railway linking London, Birmingham, Leeds, and Manchester. HS2 is one of the UK’s largest and most complex infrastructure projects ever undertaken. Once completed, HS2 will have 345 miles of new high-speed track connecting 30 million people.

Challenge: Cultivating a Broad Range of Innovations from a World-class Supply Chain

Most of the UK’s railway network was built over 100 years ago. And while rail travel has more than doubled over the last 20 years alone, the same network is still in use today. The UK has invested more than £74 billion to modernize its railway system in the past decade, but the rails still aren’t equipped to meet present-day capacity demands.

HS2 is a new high-speed railway that will form the backbone of Britain’s transport network. Once fully completed, HS2 will consist of 345 miles of new high-speed track spread over 25 stops, including 8 of the UK’s largest cities, connecting 30 million people and revolutionizing travel throughout the country.

HS2 is Europe’s largest infrastructure project, unprecedented in scale, size, and longevity. The program will run for nearly 20 years over three phases and involve most of the major supply chain in the UK from rail and construction: over 2,000 businesses will contribute to HS2 ranging in scale from large companies to SMEs and Micro organizations.

Innovation management at HS2 is responsible for procuring and bringing together this mammoth supply chain of designers and contractors to deliver a world-class railway experience like no other in UK travel. “To build this tremendous piece of infrastructure, we need to approach things differently. That’s why innovation is so critical for us,” says Robert Cairns, Innovation Manager at HS2.

Gathering the best ideas from wherever they can be found and implementing them throughout the entire supply chain takes a lot more than a suggestion box next to the water cooler. Robert and his team needed a solution that would help them develop, manage, and evolve a sophisticated yet straightforward process of identifying and executing a broad range of innovative ideas from within HS2, the supply chain, and the wider community.

Solution: From Idea to Impact – Managing the Entire Lifecycle of Innovation

“We very much see innovation as a team sport and the best ideas can often come from the places least expected,” said Robert while speaking about the need to create a culture that would draw in ideas from “our supply chain, our academics, anyone working in any position across any contract or organization who can contribute to innovation.”

After learning how Planview® could enable HS2 to extract ideas from across its entire ecosystem, centralize them for evaluation and development, and provide visibility and management from ideation to implementation, Robert had found what HS2 needed to help deliver one of the largest and most complex infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK. From design and planning to construction, maintenance, and operations, HS2 could now harness the creativity and ingenuity locked within its collective to innovate in the areas of efficiency, cost, and safety.

Powered by Planview’s enterprise innovation management solution, Robert launched HS2’s Innovation Hub to inspire anyone working with the program to share their knowledge and ideas through innovation challenges. The best ideas progressed to a feasibility stage that vetted which ideas merited investment.

Then, utilizing Planview’s work management solution, Robert established collaborative workspaces where supply chain and partners were encouraged to contribute their input on ideas prior to commercial rollout. Utilizing the solution’s chat functionality and document management capabilities, HS2 was able to track, progress and deliver on work, all in one place. Upon successful rollout with one contractor, an idea was then shared for exploitation across the entire supply chain – which constitutes a mass-market rollout considering most of the suppliers in the UK are working on HS2.

Results: Driving Programme Benefits Through Ideas That Deliver Value

Since implementing Planview four years ago, Robert says, “We’ve seen real success and realized commercial value through following this process of taking ideas from ideation to delivery.” The HS2 ecosystem has grown to over 7,000 users who have participated in over 100 challenges, submitted over 3,000 ideas, offered over 6,000 comments and 10,000 idea views, resulting in an innovation portfolio with more than 100 active projects.

HS2 has invested over £7m into its innovation projects. The return on that investment has completely rewritten HS2’s expectations as to what the innovation program can accomplish. In 2021 alone, the program enabled savings of £112m. HS2 projects to save £800m by the end of Phase One and £2bn over completion of all three phases.

Robert believes those results were, in large part, “achieved by making sure Planview was accessible to any and everyone.” He continues, “culture and people have been the core of what we’ve been trying to do, and with Planview front and center, we have created a pathway for innovation.”

Future: Building a Legacy that will Prosper Future Infrastructure

Everything starts with an idea. Imagine you’re designing HS2’s future stations and service experience. What are your bright ideas that will enable a new benchmark in customer experience? Questions like these continue to help Robert cultivate what he calls “an environment that allows innovation to succeed.”

Over 20,000 jobs are now supported by the HS2 project, with many thousands more jobs and UK businesses connected through the wide supply chain. Robert wants to tap into the ingenuity, wisdom, and insight of everyone connected to the HS2 project using Planview to help build an inheritance of shared knowledge and expertise that can reverberate across generations. “We’re trying to leave a legacy that will hopefully prosper future infrastructure projects,” declares Robert. “By bringing new products, services, and solutions to market, we can better the industry and set the bar for innovation in the construction and rail industry.”

To learn more about what Planview® solutions can do for your organization, visit Planview.com.