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Flying high

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Network Rail’s annual Partnership Awards moved out of London again this year, to the Imperial War Museum at Duxford, just south of Cambridge.

The evening gave Network Rail the opportunity to thank its partners and suppliers for all their hard work over the previous year, and to recognise those projects which had gone particularly well.

Guests were welcomed into an impressive display hall where they were able to have a drink while standing underneath Concorde and next to a Sunderland flying boat. The whole aircraft display was lit by multi-coloured lights while a jazz band played next to a large aero engine on a floor stand. It was all most impressive.

Dinner was served in the conservation hall. Two large aircraft dominated the sides of the room, while the 500 guests took their seats in the space between them.

Sir David Higgins, Network Rail chief executive, welcomed the company’s guests to the fourth Partnership Awards. As he told his audience:

“They offer an opportunity for Network Rail to recognise and reward our business partners and suppliers.

“This has been an exciting and challenging year for the rail industry. I’m proud of what’s been achieved, hope you are too. The future, as we start to plan for CP5, sees rail as having a central role in the nation’s infrastructure – which is good news for us all. With your help and dedication we continue to improve Britain’s railway for the future.”

Dinner was then served, before the hosts for the evening took the stage. BBC Radio 4 sports presenter Gary Richardson regaled diners with some stories from his years as a sports reporter, before he asked England football player and former manager Kevin Keegan to join him. Kevin was “interviewed” about his time in the sport, and was asked for some predictions as to England’s performance in the current European competition.

Then it was time for the awards, which were announced by Gary Richardson and presented by Kevin Keegan. Gary started by congratulating all who had been shortlisted, calling it a “Major achievement in itself”.


This year Innovation was the first award to be presented, and Neil Thompson, regional director, joined Kevin Keegan to make the presentation. The award was for “Working with Network Rail to create smarter and more efficient ways of working and delivering for the passenger.”

Neil announced that the winner was Omnicom Engineering Ltd with PLPR: OmniVision Plain Line Pattern Recognition Pilot Project. He commented: “Through this company’s innovation, a standardised approach to track inspection has been delivered across the network which has not only reduced costs, but more importantly has improved safety for employees working on the live network.”

The PLPR system, which is called OmniVision®, consists of an image acquisition system called OmniInspector® linked to a track geometry measurement system. The captured data is processed using machine vision technology and a supporting rules database to output assets and potential defects for validation on the inspection train. The outputs of the system are also used to provide improved understanding of the actual condition and deterioration characteristics of the inspected assets.

The judges also chose to highly commend Futronics Rail Ltd for the Sudbury User Worked Crossing Phase 1 – Train Approach Warning System.

Community Engagement

The Community Engagement award recognises companies who have made a clear impact on society and local communities through community or charitable giving programmes. Patrick Hallgate, route managing director, took the stage to announce the winner as Sole Events for the Sole Sports Community Project.

“This project has not only continued for over four years but has progressively expanded from six to over eighty sites, and delivers education programs focusing on the implications of negative and antisocial behaviour around the railway. This is an excellent example of turning negative attitudes and behaviour into positive ones.”

Skanska Civil Engineering was highly commended for its work on Borough Viaduct.

Sustainable Excellence

Robin Gisby, managing director of network operations, announced the award for sustainable excellence. “We are becoming increasingly aware of the need for sustainable resources and our effect on the environment. This winner’s approach demonstrates an excellent understanding of the social, environmental and financial dimensions of sustainability and has implemented this clearly.”

The award was presented to ScotRail, which has made remarkable progress towards its green goals during the last year. The introduction of a diverse range of new initiatives – from gardening and recycling to renewable energy and eco-driving projects – has led to the most impressive set of environmental results in the company’s history.

For this category the judges highly commended Costain/Laing O’Rourke for Farringdon Station.

Information Technology

This award, recognising ways in which some of the problems Network Rail faces have been overcome by the application of Information Technology, was presented by chief information officer Susan Cooklin. She had an interesting announcement to make.

“This was an outstanding year for contributions in this category and as such, the judges have chosen to award two winners for this category.
“Our first winner delivered a large scale complex and challenging project on time and to budget. We were impressed with the approach that was used, not because it was necessarily ground breaking but because it had been well executed, showed strong partnership and also controlled the scope well. Our first winner for this category is CSC with Oracle EBS R12 Upgrade.”

The ERP system is a business critical tool for the whole of Network Rail. By working as partners, Network Rail and CSC accelerated the start of the upgrade, absorbed ongoing changes and minimised risk and cost.

“Our second winner for the Information Technology award exemplifies the need to deliver at pace, and at a low cost. The judges picked out the innovative approach taken – a solution that represents a simple but effective way of explaining the major investment projects to the general public. Our second winner in this category is Further for Network Rail Interactive Maps.”

Network Rail needs to communicate with a wide audience about how travel will be disrupted during planned works and also explain the long-term benefits. Further was asked to design and deliver an intuitive and highly visual online tool that highlights the ongoing scope of work. The result is a simple, yet engaging isometric map interface. Users are able to learn what is happening through various levels of interaction, as well as link to separate project pages for additional information.


The Heritage Award recognises organisations and projects that have made a concerted effort to restore the heritage of Britain’s railway. Jerry Swift, head of community rail, commented that one entry really stood out to the judges for the complexity, quality, craftsmanship and beauty in a single project. He was pleased to make the award to ARUP, John McAslan & Partners and VINCI Construction UK Limited for the King’s Cross Station Western Range Building & Western Concourse.

The Western Range consists mainly of the original 1852 railway offices designed by Lewis Cubitt, as well as some later additions. Careful assessment, planning and execution by the project team have resulted in a thoughtful and coherent conservation of significant elements, and reinstatement of part of the building which was destroyed in 1941, giving clarity to the architecture of the Western Range building.
The judges also chose to highly commend the Costain/ Laing O’Rourke Joint Venture for Thameslink – N222 Farringdon Station Upgrade.

Investing in people

The heart of any business is its people, and this award recognises an organisation that has demonstrated excellence in investing in people; for example in talent, skills, apprenticeship schemes, training, leadership and development. Robbie Burns, regional director for Western and Wales, announced that the award was going to ScotRail for their drive to boost talent, ambition and skills.

Benchmark Training Ltd was highly commended for behavioural change training for front line staff.

Team Contribution

Teams are similarly important, so Nick Elliott, regional director, Southern, was next up to present an award which recognises those who have shown how teamwork has made a clear difference to the railway and brought benefits to Network Rail.

Balfour Beatty Major Civil Engineering Ltd was the winner of this prestigious award for the Blackfriars Station and Bridge Reconstruction Scheme. Nick explained that the project has demonstrated outstanding teamwork with all parties involved, delivering a challenging project that successfully resulted in no delays to the service and not a single complaint from customers and stakeholders.

The judges also wanted to highly commend ScotRail for its Inverness Team: Partnerships That Work.


Safety is central to the foundations of Network Rail. Nothing would be possible without sound safety practices and the support to implement these.

Gareth Llewellyn, safety and sustainable development director, who spoke at the Rail Safety Summit earlier in the year, was on stage for this award. “This award highlights an organisation which has demonstrated that safety should never be taken for granted, one which not only sustains safety in the workplace but which continuously tries to understand safety culture and improve it through commitment, behaviours and by successfully demonstrating the benefits. The judges were particularly impressed by the comprehensive and well thought-out approach to safety on this project.”

The winner was Skanska Civil Engineering and the Borough Viaduct, Thameslink Programme. Borough Viaduct is located in a conservation area in central London and interfaces with the Borough Market, local residents, businesses, Southwark Cathedral, the public highway, the operational railway and LUL infrastructure.

The key to the success of the project was the engagement of the site team to become part of the community with the main priority of public, site and operational railway safety. This engagement extended past the site boundary to the families of the site team to apply the same mindset used in working life for managing potentially harmful situations at home.

Omnicom Engineering Ltd, for OmniVision Plain Line Pattern Recognition Pilot Project, was highly commended in this category.

Best project – small

The awards for best project are split into three. Best Project-Small is for projects valued at under £3 million that have benefited Britain’s railway.

Simon Kirby, managing director, investment projects, went up on stage to present all three project awards. The winner for the Best Small Project was May Gurney for Bishop’s Grange Underbridge Reconstruction.

Following a procurement strategy that openly encouraged innovation, the contract was awarded to May Gurney on the basis of a challenging alternative design which reduced costs and simplified future maintenance. The excellent working relationship between all parties enabled works to be completed ahead of schedule. There were no accidents or incidents during the works, and the scheme is believed to be the fastest mainline bridge reconstruction carried out in the LNE area.

Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd was highly commended for the Napier Road MDU project.

Best project – medium

Simon Kirby remained on stage for the next award, which was for projects valued between £3 million and £20 million. This one went to a “Ground breaking project which delivered multiple innovative solutions from reducing cost and environmental impact to minimal disruption to passenger flow”. With record breaking output, the winner was Babcock for the Boston to Skegness Track Renewals Campaign.

Emphasising the importance of teamwork, in their entry Babcock credited the support it had received from SES, Hydrex, Balfour Beatty Rail Plant, VolkerRail, DB Schenker and other industry partners.

May Gurney were highly commended in this category for the reconstruction of Arnside Viaduct.

Best project – large

The best large project award is usually awarded to a flagship project. This year has seen several come to fruition, so Simon presented two awards in this category.

The first was for King’s Cross Station Western Range Building & Western Concourse with the award going to Arup, John McAslan + Partners and VINCI Construction UK Limited.

Farringdon Station upgrade, as part of the overall Thameslink project, won the other award for Costain/Laing O’Rourke.

As Simon said, “London’s transportation system has seen huge investment over recent years. In the last year alone we have seen a major transport hub completely modernised and one of London’s key interchange stations spectacularly transformed with improved facilities for passengers and stakeholders. Both projects represent Network Rail’s plans for improving transportation facilities in London and the UK, improving the travelling experience for millions of people every year.”

Special award

There was now a bit of a surprise, as David Higgins came back on stage to present a Special Award to an organisation which the judges felt could not be overlooked.

“This group is a springboard for members to tackle industry issues in a collaborative way, delivering demonstrable results not just for Network Rail but throughout the supply chain. A key forum in leading the industry through change, their greatest achievement to date is the Fair Payment Charter. Ratified by all members, the charter will speed up payment and increase liquidity throughout the supply chain – a positive step in particularly hard economic times.

“This special award is given to all members of the Commercial Directors Forum for the outstanding contribution to driving change in the rail industry.”

Supplier of the year

It was now time for the highlight of the evening, the announcement of the Supplier of the Year. As an introduction, David stated: “This company has demonstrated best practice, excellent working practice and a dedication to delivering complex projects to challenging deadlines. They have made significant improvements to track renewals as well as championing other Network Rail initiatives.”

He then announced that the company Network Rail had chosen as its supplier of the year 2012 was Babcock.

After all the applause, the guests gathered to listen to the Joe Thompson Quartet, discuss the events of the evening, and line up to ask Kevin Keegan for an autograph. He was a real trooper, and stayed on for quite some time, chatting and having his photograph taken.

So it was another successful evening. As Sir David Higgins said during the ceremony, all those companies shortlisted were winners and should be proud of what they had achieved. The rail engineer would like to congratulate all who were there, and to look forward to reporting on another year of interesting and successful engineering projects.

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