63. We explored NMEC's contingency plans for cost overruns or reduced revenues in our Report, The Millennium Dome. Mr Mandelson told us that "there would not be an overall cost overrun", and that the Company would deliver the Experience within the agreed budget. In that Report, we concluded: "We found both the Company and Mr Mandelson reluctant to elaborate about their contingency plans, if indeed such contingency plans have been prepared as they should have been ... We conclude that a comprehensive contingency plan has not yet reached final form."
107. The marketing campaign has had to counter many preconceptions and media insinuations about the Dome. The Company did not place a sufficient emphasis on marketing before the Dome opened and was unduly reliant on free coverage in the press. That approach proved to be disastrous when the press coverage became largely hostile.
The Millennium Commission said that it encouraged "projects to learn from one another". The Magna project felt that it had benefited from the Commission's "ability to bring experience from other projects". We consider the sharing of best practice to have been beneficial both to the capital projects and to the Millennium Commission. We recommend that the Government consider ways to ensure that the increased expertise in project management that has resulted is not dissipated when the Millennium Commission concludes its work.
35. The demands and risks associated with the project were such that no private operator would ever have taken them on. The concept of time was intended to be the theme of the Millennium Experience, but is perhaps more salient in explaining the nature of the project management and delivery than as a theme of the Experience. First, the Dome was faced with an immovable deadline for opening--31 December 1999--and thus engaged in a highly risky "race against time". Second, the project was intended to be time limited. It was assumed throughout the project that the Millennium Experience would run for only one year. That time limit was always incompatible with a full commercial return on the investment.
Visitor attraction expertise
44. The public sector in the United Kingdom has undertaken activities in many different spheres. However, traditionally it does not build, design and operate visitor attractions. In consequence, it does not have the expertise to carry out those tasks. The project as a whole required many skills associated with the public sector, such as project management subjected to political control and urban regeneration. For the Dome to succeed, NMEC, in view of its unique task and hybrid nature, had to combine the right balance of...