Crossrail, Europe’s largest infrastructure project and among the most significant infrastructure projects ever undertaken in the UK, involves a network of railways mainly in central London. In 2001, Cross London Rail Links (CLRL) was established to oversee project appraisal and design. From the outset, CLRL recognised the sheer scale of the project and the need for buy-in from stakeholders in national and local government, the transport sector, local businesses and residents. CLRL created a consultation strategy based on principles of transparency, accessibility and inclusivity. The strategy provided clear objectives: to identify and contact stakeholders; to record positive comments; to identify areas of concern; and to deliver mitigations.
To achieve this, CLRL developed a well-resourced and empowered Public Affairs department team. Their first task was to undertake a significant stakeholder mapping exercise to identify all bodies with a consent-granting function, or a geographic or functional interest. To facilitate an effective and open dialogue during the consultation, a major awareness campaign was conducted. A stakeholder database was created to track stakeholder interactions and record feedback and comments.
Communications were targeted to the most impacted stakeholders to encourage participation in the dialogue. Land-owners that would be directly impacted by the project were contacted and provided with access to the project team to field any queries or concerns.
CLRL developed “information papers” which provided brief, plain-language explanations on items expected to raise concerns along with publishing relevant information in newspapers. CRLR also set up a 24/7 helpdesk as a first point of contact for enquiries, operated by well-briefed in-house staff that did not use scripts to provide responses. By providing access to knowledgeable project representatives, full answers could be given to questions, and the project team gained a better understanding of stakeholders’ concerns. CLRL also wrote to relevant statutory bodies and representative groups to offer meetings to discuss the project. The awareness campaign developed familiarity with the project and the perception of Crossrail as a transparent and inclusive project helped promote buy-in among stakeholders. As a result, the initial consultation saw good levels of participation with high-quality responses. A summary report of the results of the consultation was made publicly available and formed the basis for ongoing communications. A second consultation was then carried out, which allowed feedback to be provided to stakeholders on concerns raised in the initial consultation.
By placing such emphasis on stakeholder participation at the outset of the project, the delivery body was able to foresee those areas of most critical concern and, in a number of cases, introduce mitigations or changes to the project in response.
Source: Crossrail Limited