Delays on major civil construction projects have blown out and now stand at an average of more than 200 days, a new analysis has found.

In its latest report, construction project machine learning software provider nPlan has analysed its dataset containing more than 500,000 construction schedules covering major projects across eight countries including Australia.

It found that:

  • Overall, the median delay for major projects has more than doubled from more than 100 days before the pandemic to more than 200 days now.
  • Across both post and pre-pandemic developments, nine out of every ten projects are delivered late – with almost two-thirds of projects being late by two-months or more.
  • At the extreme end, almost one in four projects are delivered more than 250 days late whilst almost one in ten are delayed by more than a year.

In reading the above data, it should be noted that nPlan’s client base focuses mainly on civil projects which are larger and more complex in scale.

Above results therefore reflect experiences on these types of developments.

The latest analysis comes as Australia prepares to deliver a massive volume of road and rail projects in coming years.

All up, Australian Construction Industry Forum expects the dollar value of work done on road and rail projects to surge from already elevated levels of $A30.0 billion in 2018/19 to a record $A36.1 billion across each of 2022/23 and 2023/24.

This is happening at a time when the industry is already being impacted by labour and material shortages brought about by strong demand and COVID disruptions.

Dev Amratia, CEO of nPlan, said the pandemic has highlighted many pre-existing problems.

Amrita says project owners and managers can address challenges by improving project forecasting and risk management.

He says software such as nPlan can help by leveraging historic data and artificial intelligence to forecast likely project outcomes.

This can assist teams to better understand and make informed decisions about project risks.

“In construction, as in so many other sectors and areas of public life, the pandemic hasn’t just created new problems, it has highlighted and exacerbated existing problems – in this case the costly project overruns which are endemic to the industry,” Amratia said.

“Because this issue was not dealt with before the pandemic, we are now in a situation where projects have suddenly become much riskier. This will pile pressure on contractors and may mean clients bring forward fewer projects.