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Powering Britain’s railways

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The recent re-planning of the rail industry’s investment programme covered by the Hendy Review revealed that the vast majority of programmes will go ahead for delivery by 2019 despite, for a variety of reasons, challenges associated with costs and timescales on a number of enhancement projects.

There has also been a fundamental change with the reclassification of Network Rail as a public body, curtailing more freely available access to Government backed debt resulting in the requirement for more disciplined capital rationing.

These have all contributed to the funding challenge as has the realisation that some large projects could have been managed on an holistic basis rather than piecemeal. Dame Collette Bowe’s review, published at the same time as the Hendy Review, looks at these issues and draws conclusions for the Department for Transport, Network Rail and the Office of Rail and Road.

Time for something different

These changes have given rise to a number of opportunities, as well as challenges, for suppliers to the rail industry, newcomers and established providers alike. One of the former is SSE Enterprise, which entered the multi- disciplinary rail market in 2015 with arguably the strongest foundation of any new company in the rail sector. It was formed from the substantial resources and industry expertise of SSE plc – a FTSE 30 company with 15 years of rail industry success under its belt.

SSE plc (formerly Scottish and Southern Energy plc) employs nearly 20,000 staff UK- wide, generating a turnover of £32 billion in the UK. It has built an enviable reputation in contracting, utilities, telecoms and other energy- related services such as gas storage, exploration and production, connections and metering.

The newly formed multi-disciplinary rail business falls within SSE Enterprise, which is home to one of the UK’s largest mechanical and electrical contractors with the capacity to deliver the widest range of services to every kind of customer. Believing that the timing is right to enter the rail infrastructure and multi-disciplinary markets in a bigger way, the organisation has something different to offer – particularly surrounding innovative and collaborative ways of powering and funding major projects.

The leadership team is currently assessing both the Hendy and Bowes Reviews to clarify where it believes it can innovate and create value to Network Rail and potentially on HS2. Alongside this, discussions at a senior level with industry partners are also underway.

Strong leadership

SSE Enterprise will benefit immeasurably from the recent appointment of Raj Sinha as one of the key driving forces of the new rail company. Raj has a highly distinguished track record in the rail industry, with notable success with a number of key infrastructure and multidisciplinary businesses.

His expertise in multi-disciplinary rail engineering stands against the best in the business and his work has been recognised through numerous industry awards. This will prove invaluable in helping SSE Enterprise to achieve its ambition of being the rail industry’s go-to name for fully integrated, end-to-end solutions.

With a directly employed workforce of more than 3,500 skilled practitioners offering skills relevant to the railway industry, the organisation self-delivers most of its work. However, it can still turn to experienced supply chain partners for those areas that fall outside its specialist areas of expertise.

From a standing start in the world of multi-disciplinary railway engineering, SSE Enterprise’s rail business is already one of the biggest and strongest organisations of its kind on Britain’s railways.

Experience and qualifications

The company’s expertise ranges from an in-house design and commissioning capability to delivery and project close out. The new rail business employs highly qualified staff at every level, underscoring the fact that the company already holds a Network Rail Principal Contractors’ Licence.


Offices are situated in seven locations throughout the UK, from Glasgow in the North to Eastleigh on the south coast, Nottingham in the Midlands to Worcester and Melksham in the West and Colchester and Aldershot in the South East. The rail business can also utilise another 56 SSE Enterprise Contracting locations situated throughout the country.

Already, the business can count some leading industry names amongst its clients, including Network Rail, East Midlands Trains, First Great Western and South West Trains. Recent projects include:

  • Major electrical enhancement programmes at Clapham Junction, Basingstoke, Salisbury and Fareham;
  • Euston Station high voltage plant, equipment and infrastructure projects;
  • Westbury Panel Signal Box – including designing and installing a complete electrical rewire of power, lighting and fire alarm, upgrading lightning protection and installing a new car park;
  • Bristol St Philips Marsh – designing and installing a new gas radiant heating system for a 250-metre HST maintenance shed, and providing data links for energy monitoring;
  • Station and car park lighting upgrades at Reading station;
  • The Western Area lighting project. The team prides itself on the quality of installation and workmanship of its highly trained and very talented people.

On his arrival, Raj Sinha immediately embarked on a coordinated and mission-driven effort aimed at strengthening the leadership, management and technical skills of his entire rail team. As well as recruiting some of the industry’s most experienced multi-disciplinary operators, other development activities are now in full swing – such as financial planning, leadership development, strategic planning, safety management and engagement as well as team structure and training/ development. He believes that by employing the best as well as engaging and educating his team, that he will create the strongest team of professionals on Britain’s railways.

Safety first and foremost

As with SSE plc, safety is a core value of SSE Enterprise’s rail business – it’s the backbone of how the organisation conducts its business in one of the most safety critical industries in the world. Every member of the team adheres to a strict set of safety codes at all times, from leaving for work to arriving back home, and the paradigm has shifted from an environment based solely on compliance to one that incorporates learning and support – an ideal that Network Rail aims to reinforce across the industry now and in the future.

The company already boasts 30 RoSPA awards, signifying SSE Enterprise’s commitment to raising the standard of safe working, to which other organisations can aspire. Alongside this, the business has been awarded RoSPA’s President’s Award for nine consecutive years, Sector and Gold Awards for more than 10 years, and the Order of Distinction.

The organisation was also the runner up in the Sir George Earle Award, RoSPA’s premier performance award for occupational health and safety, in 2015.

SSE Enterprise’s rail team actively encourage all those engaged on site, as well as office staff, to identify and report hazards, as well as ensuring that the hazard is controlled. Under the leadership of a national safety manager, the team has developed a PoWRA (Point of Work Risk Assessment), a document that has been created to identify dynamic and possibly transient risks and allows assessment and control measures to be put in place to eliminate or mitigate the risk.

Formal feedback and post-work surveys show that customer satisfaction ratings with the rail team’s work remains consistently high with most clients being extremely satisfied with the performance and its safety record.

Opportunities for growth

With the major infrastructure providers looking for new companies offering a unique business proposition, SSE Enterprise’s rail team – drawing upon the breadth and depth of expertise of its parent company- can look forward to significant opportunities within the UK rail industry.

One of the team’s main goals is to increase its market share of Network Rail’s expenditure in renewals and enhancements, which accounts for a significant portion of its planned budget in CP5 until 2019. With CP6 on the horizon, the company intends to be at the forefront of delivery to Network Rail by the time that the work for that control period has been determined.


SSE already has a strong track record and good working relationships with a number of train operating companies and transport authorities and hopes to strengthen and develop collaborative connections over the coming months. This co-operative ambition also extends to current tier one contractors that might be looking to work together for the greater good of the industry. To that end, the team has already started the process for accreditation to the BS11000 standard for collaboration.

A unique solution

SSE believes it has something completely different to offer the rail industry. The company’s financial strength, its experience in owning and operating a range of infrastructure assets and its newly formed team of highly experienced multi-disciplinary rail professionals creates a new vehicle that offers a true end to end solution.Immediate priorities for 2016 are to:

  • Leverage the already strong and existing group skills base;
  • Establish a focused recruitment strategy in senior roles;
  • Promote the business directly and more widely;
  • Develop strategic partnerships with existing industry suppliers;
  • Target strategic projects where SSE Enterprise’s rail team can add value.Over the next 12 months, the company aims toimplement its strategic business plan, expand existing mechanical and electrical business streams and enter the civils, signalling and power, markets.

Ultimately, SSE Enterprise’s rail team aims to be recognised as more than just an ordinary railway contractor; it has clear ambitions to be the rail industry’s partner of choice.

While these are ambitious plans for growth, they are made with the confidence of being part of a market- leading company and having achieved a record of success in a short space of time. The track ahead looks very bright indeed.


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