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The Best of the Best

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Network Rail’s supply chain recognised at the Rail Partnership Awards

The Rail Partnership Awards, in which Network Rail shows appreciation and recognises its supply chain for its achievements over the previous year, took place in Birmingham in June. First held in 2009, when 11 awards were presented and Balfour Beatty won the coveted Supplier of the Year trophy, the 2019 version saw a total of fifteen categories on the list.

Thirteen of these could be entered by the suppliers. 214 nominations were received from organisations both large and small, all hoping to win an award for categories as varied as collaboration, diversity and inclusion, safety and putting passengers first.

The fourteenth category was for the Standards Challenge. To increase innovation and creativity, and to reduce costs, Network Rail introduced a new process at the end of March 2018 to enable suppliers and other stakeholders to raise a challenge to a standard where they considered it to be incorrect, to not enable the application of best practice, or to drive increased cost without comparable benefit.

The best challenges were put forward for this year’s special award.

Then, of course, there is the fifteenth award – the Supplier of the Year – which would be chosen from the fourteen individual winners.

This year, every category had two judges, one from Network Rail and one from the industry. Between them, they would whittle shortlists of six to eight entries down into a winner and, if they felt the standard was high enough, one or two ‘highly commended’.

Hello and Welcome

Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines (pictured) welcomed guests on the evening. He spoke of the work that the industry and supply chain does, throughout the year.

“It’s right that we take times like this, not to slap ourselves on the back, but to recognise the really fantastic work that’s done by such a diverse group of people.

“This is a brilliant, brilliant opportunity to recognise just how diverse the railway family is, a partnership that does brilliant things, day in, day out.”

He then spoke of the money that was being spent on the railway over the next five years. “£42 billion that could have been spent on schools, hospitals, defence, policing,” he said, “so we have to fight to make that case and that we’re value for money.”

Andrew’s ‘catchphrase’ is Putting Passengers First – it was on the front of the booklet in front of every diner, replacing 2018’s “A better railway for a better Britain”.

“I make no apologies for being unremittingly relentless talking about putting passengers first,” he exclaimed, “because I believe it is absolutely where our future lies.

“All too often, we talk about the system as being congested, and the system being nearly full, as if it’s a bad thing. But is it? How many of you would choose to carry a significant amount of spare capacity? Earning nothing for you, month after month, because your assets are not sufficiently reliable or because your maintenance practices weren’t up to scratch, or because your systems and skills were not fit for purpose? And if you did, what would your shareholders make of it?

“We must stop talking about the railway being full as a bad thing. It is actually a fantastic thing. It’s an indication of the long-term economic growth that actually underpins the economy of our country and it’s what we do. And, as colleagues would have heard me say, I passionately believe that trend of growth will continue to be strong over the next few generations.”

Safety is another big topic, and Andrew remarked on the industry’s significant change to worker safety since he has left and come back to rail: “In the years that I’ve been out of the industry, I’ve seen a complete transformation in the approach to that, the significant reduction in worker injuries and fatalities as a consequence. We can do it when we put our minds to it and, frankly, the supply chain is leading ahead of us in many ways.”

“If we can do it on safety, we can do it on reliability.” Which brought him back to serving the customer, and Putting Passengers First.

Your host for the evening

One of television’s most experienced, and versatile presenters, Julia Bradbury (pictured below) was the host for the evening. A former presenter of both Watchdog and Countryfile, Julia can currently be seen in her new series ‘Australia with Julia Bradbury’ on ITV, in which she travels 12,500km from the western coast of this giant continent across to the east.

Julia Bradbury.

Outside of her presenting duties, she is the current President of the Camping and Caravanning Club.

“It is wonderful to see you all here tonight, gathered in the heart of the country, at this amazing venue, to celebrate your achievements,” she told the audience. She then joked with Andrew Haines, who claimed that, since he joined Network Rail in August 2018, he had done more public speaking than she had!

Following dinner, and plenty of conversation between the audience that filled the room at the NEC’s Vox conference centre, Julia returned to the stage.

She then spoke about her career in television, where she is perhaps best known for Countryfile. “Countryfile was an amazing show to work on,” she said, “and there are too many highlights to recount here – travelling up and down the country to some of the most beautiful locations, covering such diverse stories, from county shows to the plight of our crayfish populations in the UK, under threat because of a ‘crayfish plague’ (carried by the American signal crayfish).”

Earlier, she presented the consumer show Watchdog on BBC1 for five years with Nicky Campbell, and it was during that time that she became involved in a four-part series on Alfred Wainwright, and his famous walks around the Lake District. That spawned a second series, of six episodes this time, and then Railway Walks.

“The walks followed Britain’s lost rail empire,” she said. “The first episode explored a route in the heart of Derbyshire – the Monsal Trail. (This runs along the former Midland Railway line for 8.5 miles between Blackwell Mill, in Chee Dale, and Coombs Road, at Bakewell.)

“We also went to Cornwall where tin and copper once made the area around Redruth the richest patch of land in the country. They inspired great engineering feats and pioneering tramways, the forebears of the rail empire. I crossed an entire county, winding past Cornwall’s crumbling engine houses and following a railway that has not operated for 140 years.

“The Railway Walks series inspired many people to head out walking, and every day we get people heading to my website, The Outdoor Guide, and downloading the routes. We’re all passionate about getting people into the great outdoors, sharing outdoor adventures, getting some green therapy.”

All too soon, it was time for Julia’s fascinating reminiscences to end and for the awards to start.


This year, the evening was sponsored by five organisations, without whom the evening would not have been possible.

Atkins, a member of the SNC-Lavalin Group, is one of the world’s most respected design, engineering and project management consultancies. One of very few firms to provide clients with comprehensive end-to-end project solutions, including financing & asset management, consulting & advisory, digital & artificial intelligence, design & engineering, procurement, construction & project management, operations & maintenance and sustaining capital, Atkins was “delighted to share an evening with Network Rail, Rail Media and supply chain teams to celebrate the very best of 2018’s achievements in the rail industry”.

Colas Rail is fully committed to the continual maintenance and upgrading of the UK’s rail network. Thinking, investing and operating at the forefront of the industry trends ensures the company has the capabilities to meet the future demands of its customers. Ian Anderson, managing director of Colas Rail Urban, said: “Our leadership in this industry is directly linked to our attention to our customers’ needs, executing effective solutions to meet and exceed expectations and our talented staff’s dedication to achieving success.”

RSSB helps the industry work together to deliver a better, safer railway, so celebrating successful partnerships is something it values very highly. The next five years are set to be a transformative time for rail, and RSSB wants to ensure the supply chain can do business with rail unhindered, but also safely. This is where supplier assurance comes in. The organisation’s work includes managing industry schemes that provide supplier assurance services, including RISQS – the Railway Industry Supplier Qualification Scheme.

Total Rail Solutions is investing in the future. The on-track plant hire specialist was the subject of a management buy-out last November and, under new CEO Paul Bateman, is continuing to invest heavily in the three areas which it considers its operational enablers – its plant, its people and its processes. “The focus for the next six to 12 months is to be looking at the business and professionalise things,” Paul Bateman explained. “That means introducing new systems to enable us to upscale, with a big push on recruitment too, but all while trying not to lose the company ethos that has got us to where we are today.”

VolkerWessels UK is a leading multidisciplinary contractor that delivers innovative engineering solutions across the civil engineering and construction sectors, including rail. The skilled teams in its VolkerRail and VolkerFitzpatrick businesses are recognised as sector leaders, delivering high quality projects through a safety conscious and collaborative approach. VolkerWessels UK said it was proud to sponsor the Rail Partnership Awards, highlighting its commitment and contribution to the industry, and recognising the efforts of those who dedicate their career to improving the national network.

Best Collaboration

Jo Kaye, who is managing director of Network Rail’s System Operator, joined Julia on stage for the first award. She had judged the category alongside James Brewer, head of rail supply chains at the Department for Business, Energy & Industry Strategy.

Between them, they had selected the Buckingham Group Contracting as the winner for its work on the Liverpool Lime Street station upgrade.

Best Collaboration – Buckingham Group for Liverpool Lime Street station.

Delivered by a fully integrated team, applying ISO44001 principles and working from a bespoke co-located project office, the £148-million Liverpool Lime Street upgrade project provided increased platform capacity by reconfiguring and improving asset condition within the 1.5-mile approach and 24-metre deep footprint of this Grade 2 listed station.

The project was a key regulatory milestone for the Northern Hub and Great North Rail Project programmes, that was undertaken whilst ensuring Liverpool was ‘kept open for business’.

Collaboration was key to the successful delivery of the works, with all parties working as one team to deliver the project under a hub and spoke arrangement. The ‘hub’ was led by Network Rail IP Signalling (The Client). The key stakeholders were Buckingham Group (principal contractor under CDM), Buckingham Group (civil engineering contractor), IP Northern Programmes (programme management), S&C North Alliance (track and OLE contractor) and Siemens (signalling contractor).

Amey, Atkins and Siemens, on behalf of the Rail Supply Group, were highly commended for the Rail Sector Deal – launched by government as a process to create partnerships between the government and industry on sector-specific issues that can create significant opportunities to boost productivity, employment, innovation and skills.

So too were Siemens Mobility and Galliford Try for the Derby Area Remodelling Project, a major £200 million enhancement and renewal programme that was successfully commissioned on 8 October 2018, following the completion of a 79-day partial closure – the longest continuous partial closure ever undertaken in the UK.

Investing in People

Alison Rumsey, group HR director of Network Rail and attending the event on her last day working for the company, came on stage to make the award for Investing in People. Her fellow judge, San Johal, HR director of Highways England, has also recently changed jobs.

This category recognises suppliers that have created an environment that promotes accountability, opportunity and diversity. In the judges’ opinion, Story Contracting’s Fit4Future business strategy was the best example from the entries.

Investing in People – Story Contracting’s Fit4Future business strategy.

When the company was founded 30 years ago by Fred Story, he had just three colleagues working with him on a variety of projects in and around Carlisle. Today, the company employs over 700 local people across the UK, delivering a wide range of rail, civils, housing and manufacturing projects.

Story Contracting recognises that it is successful because of the skills, commitment and professionalism of its people, who define its uniqueness and ability to deliver the high level of service and quality demanded by its growing customer base. As the business expands further in Cumbria, Yorkshire, Birmingham, Manchester and Scotland, investing in people, and encouraging them to achieve their full potential, is a critical part of the company’s Fit4Future business strategy to keep this growth going.

GB Railfreight was highly commended for its Seat to Seat training programme. Four trainee drivers, with no previous experience in the railway industry, underwent training at the company’s recently renovated Peterborough facility, which houses three high tech classrooms and, in 2018 alone, delivered 60 trainee drivers. Once trained, they would be driving in the London area, based out of GB Railfreight’s Willesden facility in North London. 

Diversity and Inclusion

Recognising suppliers that can evidence success in initiatives which recognise and respect differences between people whilst valuing the contribution everyone can make to the rail industry, winners in this category had to demonstrate inclusion and evidence safe and welcoming workplaces and fair cultures that encourage innovative and fresh ways of thinking.

Once again, Alison Rumsey judged this category for Network Rail, joined this time by Chloe Chambraud, gender equality director for Business in the Community.

Alison Rumsey (r) presented the award for Diversity and Inclusion to Babcock.

Babcock’s ‘Being Babcock’ training programme was developed to help the company understand some of the cultures and behaviours within its business and the actions that can be taken, as individuals as well as a business, to address diversity bias and discrimination in the workplace.

Employees were invited to complete e-learning training and attend a half day workshop to address the subject of Respect, with a particular focus on a zero-tolerance approach to inappropriate behaviours and the end to discrimination in the workplace. The judges were impressed by this initiative and gave it the Diversity and Inclusion Award.

Capita was highly commended for its 20by20 campaign, to help Network Rail employ 20 per cent more women by 2020. To do this, Capita’s aim in 2018 was to change people’s attitudes and perceptions towards working within railway and infrastructure and to communicate the opportunities and benefits of working within the sector, and in particular with Network Rail.

Babcock had a second success in this category, being highly commended for its Workplace Equality project. In a bid to end mental health discrimination in the workplace, Babcock engaged once again with the Scottish mental health charity ‘SeeMe’ to pilot a project designed to create a more inclusive, stigma-free working environment focused on proactively managing the mental health of all employees.


Chief engineer Jon Shaw stepped on stage to present the Safety award. The judges for the category had been Allan Spence head of public and passenger safety with Network Rail and Johnny Schute, chief operating officer of RSSB.

Safety should never be taken for granted, and this award highlighted organisations that showed a continuous improvement towards safety within the workplace and on or near the railway.

Safety – Colas Rail.

Colas Rail set about creating a means to gain robust and constructive feedback from the business on how to improve safety and sustainability within the industry. From this, the Safety and Sustainability Challenge was born.

To do this, Colas needed to embed a culture of continuous improvement and empowerment within graduates and apprentices and instil the message that their voices are powerful and that they can make a positive change in improving the safety and sustainability within the rail industry.

The project takes place across all three of Colas’ divisions and spans every office and depot within the organisation. It includes all individuals on Early Careers programmes, including graduates and apprentices.

A consortium of ABB and UK Power Networks Services was highly commended for having managed to maintain a Lost Time Injury free record while delivering 27 sub-stations across a 140-mile area, from Berkshire to South Wales, and working 1,200,000 hours. This is an outstanding accomplishment considering the nature of the environment in which the consortium’s employees – the ‘best of the best’ from both companies – work.

Balfour Beatty, principal contractor delivering the Angerstein signalling renewals project, working closely with Siemens and its subcontractors, is responsible for managing the interfaces which this collaboration brings, especially the safety of all those involved. Realising a clear opportunity to continuously improve on project performance, learning and embedding lessons learnt during earlier projects, the Angerstein project was successfully commissioned in April 2019, on time, to budget and without injury at any point – achieving Zero Harm and sending Everyone Home Safe Every Day. A result that was well worthy of a Highly Commended certificate.

Community Engagement

Network Rail’s Caroline Murdoch, director of communications, was the next judge invited by Julia Bradbury to make her presentation. Aided by ACoRP chief executive Jools Townsend, Caroline had decided that Story Contracting, which has been working hard to remove the stigma of mental health, would be a worthy winner of the award.

Community Engagement – Story Contracting.

The driver was simple – no-one should have to face a mental health problem alone. To gain buy-in from staff, Story held workshops with employees from all levels of its business to identify ways this could best be achieved. It had to be something sustainable, that would first of all make a tangible difference to people in the local area, and it needed to be a long-term commitment to employee wellbeing.

To enable this, Story set up a strategic partnership with MIND, the mental health charity, which provides advice and support to empower anyone experiencing a mental health problem. MIND also campaigns to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding of mental health.

The project to remove the stigma of mental health at Story was hugely successful. Wellbeing sessions, which were delivered in-house by the occupational health team, created a wellbeing calendar, created a network of mental health first aiders and launch a promotional campaign. The result has been a palpable change in people’s attitudes towards mental health and sickness absence reduced by 600 days, equivalent to one day per full-time employee per year.

Enhancing Lives, a programme delivered by BAM Nuttall in conjunction with Network Rail, Mott MacDonald and B Keogh Construction, is part of BAM’s sustainability agenda, led by the culture and diversity team. It includes education support, working with charities and community groups, work placements, employment support and training, and helping local businesses and SMEs to grow. It was also Highly Commended by the judges.

VolkerFitzpatrick was similarly commended for having volunteered its services to ensure the creation of an extraordinary and emotionally moving art installation at Aerospace Bristol and the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford, marking the centenary of the end of the First World War. The Shrouds of the Somme memorial, designed by artist Rob Heard, took five years to complete and is a graphic representation of loss and remembrance for the commonwealth servicemen who fell at the Battle of the Somme and whose bodies still lie beneath the battlefields in France. For both events, VolkerFitzpatrick donated, supplied and installed the viewing platforms, temporary walkways, fencing and marquees needed for visitors. The team also provided construction advice, planning and the full development of the events’ design layout, ensuring each shroud would be placed with precision.

Preserving History

The category for Preserving the History of the Railway was judged by two noted heritage enthusiasts, Network Rail chairman Sir Peter Hendy and Andy Savage, executive director of the Railway Heritage Trust.

Sadly, neither could attend the dinner so it fell to Andrew McLean, head curator of the National Railway Museum, to present the award. To the Ferryhill Railway Heritage Trust.

Preserving the History of the Railway – Ferryhill Railway Heritage Trust.

Working with Network Rail and Babcock Rail, the trust has recently restored the 70’ Ransomes and Rapier turntable, built in 1906 and located near Aberdeen, to full working order. Apart from restoring the turntable, the works included a substantial de-vegetation operation, replacement of the main-line access railway track to the turntable, replacement of two sets of points, and general clearance and tidying of the site.

Provision was made for public access (including disabled access) by the construction of a new footpath to the site, funded by the Common Good Fund of Aberdeen City Council. The turntable restoration was funded by Historic Scotland (40 per cent), the Railway Heritage Trust (40 per cent) and the Association for Industrial Archaeology (20 per cent). The upgrade of the trackwork was funded by Network Rail.

To date, steam locomotives hauling three charter trains have been turned. Fourteen more charter trains have been planned for 2019 and 2020. The public have been able to safely observe the coaling and turning operations, with a dedicated viewing area being protected by crowd control barriers.

Buckingham Group Contracting was highly commended for its work on the three-span Runcorn Railway Bridge, also known as the Queen Ethelfleda Bridge, which was first opened in 1868 and carries the West Coast main line over the River Mersey and the Manchester Ship Canal. Now grade II* listed, it required extensive maintenance after 150 years of service. The project designer, Arcadis, highlighted the deteriorating condition of the structure plus concerns over the articulation of the structure, caused by the bearings all being seized so that articulation was made through flexure of the piers, which had cracked and flexed seasonally as the temperature varied. Buckingham refurbished the bridge, using both recovered and remade parts, and replaced the bearings so that the bridge should be safeguarded for the next 100 years.

The other team highly commended was Construction Marine, working with Arcadis, David France and Metalock Engineering. Following examination and inspection by Network Rail’s LNE Structures Route Asset Management team, the footbridge at Thickley Wood, Shildon, was deemed weak in several key structural areas and without intervention would have had to close. The multi-span listed structure carries pedestrian traffic over the Darlington to Eaglescliffe railway as well as the redundant sidings that, when laid down in 1875 had a total length of 27 miles, making them the largest in the world at that time. While refurbishing/remodelling the bridge in compliance with its listed status, close liaison was required with Durham Council and the adjacent rail museum ‘Locomotion’ in designing and planning the works to achieve the required outcome.


To recognise the work of its smaller suppliers, often in second or third-tier roles, this award recognises outstanding SME suppliers with annual turnovers of less than £25 million. It was judged by Eoin O’Neill, Network Rail’s commercial and development director, who also presented the award, and Darren Caplan, chief executive of the Railway Industry Association.

The Award went to Senceive, a company of around 30 people specialising in wireless solutions for geotechnical and structural monitoring, which has launched two major products/services in the past year. The first is the Optical Displacement Sensor (ODS) with in-built triaxial tilt meter. This ODS uses a highly accurate laser to measure sub-mm sliding movements up to 150m range, whilst at the same time measuring rotation using a triaxial sensor. This highly precise and reliable device is completely wireless and has a battery life of approximately 10-12 years.

An even bigger advancement is the launch of GeoWAN, a wireless platform that offers long-range monitoring at up to 15km range. This complements the existing FlatMesh system, which is used for dense sensor distributions. The new GeoWAN platform allows clients to have even more remote locations, such as those in Australia, and also has the ability to penetrate through buildings, which is ideal for urban environments and buried equipment geotechnical sensors.

ATL Transformers was highly commended for supporting Network Rail in its copper-elimination, Class II safety and sustainability charter initiatives to reduce carbon emissions. ATL engaged with the industry to define the requirements specific to magnetics, to find a solution and to deliver that solution to Network Rail while, at the same time, further beneficial enhancements that could be engineered into the product solutions presented.

Driving Efficiencies

This category recognises companies that have made strides in designing and delivering work more efficiently, to generate cost savings and value for money to create a more efficient railway. Network Rail chief financial officer Jeremy Westlake and Graham Richards, director of planning and performance for the Office of Rail and Road, were the judges for this one.

The award for Driving Efficiencies went to Great Western Railway, Network Rail, Oxford University, Incremental Solutions, Icomera for the OLErt project.

They decided to recognise Great Western Railway in this category, supported by Network Rail, Oxford University, Incremental Solutions and Icomera. Although electrified railways offer huge customer experience, operational and environmental benefits, the costs and challenges of operating and maintaining them can be significant, particularly when things go wrong.

As an example, the Schedule 8 cost of OLE and pantograph incidents on Network Rail’s Western route for the last 12 months was £5.5 million, with 750 trains failing to arrive within the allotted time. To address this, OLErt is a ground-breaking project that exploits imaging from the cameras that are fitted as standard to all new electric trains to enable early interception of potential faults. Based on cutting-edge research by Oxford University, developed through collaboration between Great Western Railway (GWR) and Network Rail, this new technology helps to avoid potential disruption to the train service and will benefit passengers, train operators, infrastructure managers and the tax payer.

Currently deployed on a Class 387 unit running in the Thames Valley, OLErt has successfully demonstrated how image recognition technology can be used to monitor the OLE and pantograph interface, enabling the early intervention that prevents potential faults turning into failures.

Staying with an electrification theme, Alstom was highly commended for its work to reduce the cost of rail electrification projects and increase efficiency. This initiative looked at developing the optimum solution for installing 25kV overhead line contact and catenary systems, using efficient equipment and processes, within an operational possession regime, to achieve unrivalled production rates in UK electrification, showing the rail industry that electrification can be undertaken cost effectively and efficiently, and so removing the stigma around the cost of electrification.

Also highly commended was the way in which VolkerRail and Unipart Rail have transformed overhead line electrification by developing new, innovative solutions around pre-fabrication build, facilities and tracking of over 250,000 multi-assets. A step-change in material fabrication, installation, delivery and traceability capability was needed to ensure the successful installation of over 1,100 overhead line structures and over 200km of overhead line cable between Preston and Blackpool within an 18-month period, and the complete overhead electrification installation needed at Blackpool depot. Together, VolkerRail and Unipart Rail used existing systems and dedicated facility solutions from previous projects to develop a plan to open a pre-fabrication facility in Crewe, which would house all materials and pre-fabrication requirements.


Aidan Hancock, chief information officer for Network Rail, presented the award for Best Use of Technology, judged by Route Services managing director Susan Cooklin and Professor Phil Blythe, the chief scientific adviser to the Department for Transport.

Best Use of Technology – Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction, along with AECOM, Network Rail and the Alan Turing Institute, for the development of innovative Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) systems.

The award went to the Cambridge Centre for Smart Infrastructure and Construction, along with AECOM, Network Rail and the Alan Turing Institute, for the development of innovative Structural Health Monitoring (SHM) systems that combine high-end sensing technologies with ‘big data’ analytics, providing effective asset management tools for better maintenance, protection, and operation of ageing railway bridges.

Roughly 50 per cent of bridge stock is ageing masonry arch bridges, most built over a century ago, before the enforcement of building codes, and their condition continues to deteriorate with time. Working on two bridges in Yorkshire, the team was able to test and compare new smart-sensing technologies and explore optimum configurations. Over time, these can be developed into structural alert systems, moving towards a digitised railway with smart infrastructure.

Great Western’s OLErt system, already a winner in the Driving Efficiencies category, was highly commended for best use of technology.

Also highly commended was WSP, which worked with fixed-wing UAV (drone) specialist SenSat to survey an area of rail, road, crossings, greenfield and urban spaces. Due to the complexity of the site, and to compressed timescales, a conventional survey would have taken too long. However, this novel use of UAV technology reduced to two months the delivery of a survey that would typically have taken five.

Major project – over £50 million

Mike Putnam, a non-executive director of Network Rail, joined Julia Bradbury on stage to present the first of two project awards, this one for projects valued at over £50 million. Mike had judged the closely competitive entry with Alasdair Reisner, the chief executive of the Civil Engineering Contractors Association (CECA).

Major Project over £50 million – Siemens Mobility for Derby Area Remodelling.

The winner was Siemens Mobility for the Derby Station Area Remodelling Project, a £200 million scheme that included a 79-day partial blockade of Derby station, the longest continuous partial closure ever undertaken in the UK.

The project represented a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to replace and upgrade the life-expired infrastructure and bring enhancements and improvements both to the station and its approaches. It is already delivering a range of significant benefits to passengers, train operators and the infrastructure owners and maintainers.

Highly commended was the Brighton Main Line Improvement Project – an extensive £67 million engineering programme, carried out in partnership by Network Rail, the UK Government and Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), to improve the reliability of the railway as part of the Thameslink Resilience Programme. The work took place between September 2018 and May 2019 and focused on an area at the southern end of the Brighton main line, from Three Bridges to Brighton/Lewes, where four Victorian tunnels (Balcombe, Haywards Heath, Clayton and Patcham), ageing track and signalling systems were causing almost half of all delays experienced on trains entering the southern end of the Thameslink Core.

Despite its bad press, also highly commended were the teams working on Great Western Electrification. The Amey, Amey Inabensa and Network Rail teams, working with Keltbray Aspire and Lundy Projects, have delivered transformational improvements to rail service capacity and performance between Maidenhead and Westerleigh junction and Reading to Newbury. A staggering 134 track miles of OLE installation has been constructed across a number of distinct programmes in an array of disciplines.

Smaller project – under £50 million

The same judges had reviewed the entries for projects under £50 million, which can sometimes be overshadowed by their bigger siblings but are nevertheless still vital to the railway’s wellbeing.

Eoin O’Neill, Network Rail’s commercial and development director, had the job of opening the envelope to reveal that BAM Nuttall had scooped this one for the upgrade of the Highland main line.

Eoin O’Neill (l) presented the award for Best Project under £50 million to BAM Nuttall for the Highland main line.

A programme of infrastructure improvements, undertaken in 2012 during phase one of the project, increased the number of services from nine to 11 trains per day in each direction.

BAM Nuttall was awarded a £10.3 million contract, as part of Phase Two of the scheme, to deliver enhancements at Aviemore and Pitlochry stations. These enhancements will deliver an hourly service with average journey times reduced by around 10 minutes, alongside other timetable improvements.

In simple terms, the project benefits are delivered through three strands: station and track enhancements delivered by BAM Nuttall, an overhauled signalling system delivered by Siemens and ScotRail’s revised timetable that brings more trains through Pitlochry and Aviemore than ever before.

Atkins’ Cornwall capacity enabling scheme was highly commended. It provided an additional 10 signal sections (21 new signals and associated signalling equipment), and seven level crossing upgrades, to enable the Department for Transport and Cornwall Council (a project funding partner) to meet their aspiration to run an additional hourly train service from Plymouth to Penzance from May 2019.

Highly commended, too, was Morgan Sindall’s involvement with the Stirling-Dunblane-Alloa (SDA) project that formed part of a wider Scottish Government rolling programme of electrification works being delivered by Network Rail. Under SDA, Morgan Sindall’s rail and electrification team in Scotland undertook a £37 million package of works on a route that spanned 50km, starting at Falkirk in central Scotland and up to Dunblane in Stirling and Alloa in Clackmannanshire.

Sustainable Excellence

Jon Shaw, Network Rail’s chief engineer, and Professor Miles Tight of the University of Birmingham collaborated to come up with a winner of the Sustainable Excellence award, which is open to organisations that can clearly demonstrate sustainable and responsible ways of working. It can cover anything from working effectively with lineside neighbours through to carbon off-setting and reduced waste and recycling innovations.

Alex Hynes, MD of ScotRail Alliance, presented the award for Sustainable Excellence to AmeySersa and the S&C North Alliance.

The award went to AmeySersa and the S&C North Alliance, which are working on improving freight routes in Scotland. Combining their expertise and knowledge, they improved collaboration and joint accountability by developing innovative solutions, adopting engineering excellence, sharing best practice and common policy on key strategies, all while successfully tackling the most complex projects.

In Scotland, that means working closely with Transport Scotland’s strategy to deliver a safe, efficient, effective and sustainable transport system, for both passengers and freight, supporting sustainable economic growth and by transporting products and materials in a greener way.

Buckingham Group Contracting continued its excellent record for the night by being highly commended for extending the Up Relief Sidings at Buxton, allowing 525-metre-long freight trains to undertake the run around manoeuvre required to egress to the Peak Forest Line. This required extending the sidings through a disused unlicensed council tip, which dates back to the 1970s, and into privately owned farmland.

Skanska’s Sustainability Performance Tracker, which it is using on its ONW (on-network works) contract for HS2 enabling works at Euston, was also highly commended. Skanska is working with Network Rail and other stakeholders to ensure Euston station is ready for the arrival of HS2. To ensure that sustainability excellence has been considered and achieved across all of the work packages from the design through to construction, a team of engineers and sustainability professionals produced a tracker which, to date, has identified over 41 sustainable initiatives.

Standards Challenge

This year’s new award, for entries into Network Rail’s Standards Challenge, was judged by Jon Shaw and HS2 technical director Andrew McNaughton.

Jon Shaw (r) presented British Steel with the award for the best Standards Challenge.

The winner was British Steel, a company which has had its problems recently, for its challenge to the standards for OLE mast design. This identified that some current overhead line mast standard designs are fabrication intensive, may use higher cost products and may require structural steel that is not produced / stocked domestically within the UK.

An industry workshop was held in December 2018, with British Steel and other suppliers, to discuss potential changes to standard designs resulting in the identification of short, medium and long-term proposals. The short-term proposals have been progressed into new standard designs. In the case of Twin Track Cantilever masts the new design will reduce the cost by around seven per cent.

Two other challenges were highly commended. Kwik-Step submitted three challenges, all relating to the standard for Lineside Facilities for Personnel Safety, which dates back to 2005, and the need for improved clarity relating to a number of requirements. Kwik-Step has provided excellent input on how this standard can be improved.

Train operator Grand Central has challenged the controls that are applied to trains following measurement of forces at Wheel Impact Load Detection (WILD) sites. In response to this challenge, Network Rail conducted a detailed technical study and the resulting technical report is currently being peer reviewed. It may enable the speed restrictions that are imposed for certain train types following a Level 2 alarm to be raised to a higher speed, benefitting train operators and improving the consequential impact on train performance.

Putting Passengers First

Andrew Haines’ catchphrase has become a Partnership Award category, judged by Network Rail’s managing director of transformation, Becky Lumlock, and Paul Plummer, chief executive of the Rail Delivery Group.

This award was established to celebrate suppliers who have put the needs of rail passengers at the heart of what they do and can demonstrate that they are genuinely putting passengers first.

Buckingham Group Contracting were judged to have Put Passengers First.

Buckingham Group Contracting’s name came out of the hat again, this time for the Liverpool Lime Street station upgrade. This £148 million project was wholly about putting passengers first, from the main driver, which was to increase capacity to enable the doubling of passenger numbers to more than 32 million per annum by 2043, to enhancing the passenger experience through improved concourses plus new and extended platforms to facilitate more frequent reliable services and longer trains.

People using Lime Street were 93.8 per cent satisfied, according to the National Rail Passenger Survey published in January 2019, putting the Liverpool station ahead of both St Pancras (93.6 per cent) and King’s Cross (92.9 per cent).

Amery Sersa and the S&C North Alliance also did well, highly commended for high-speed handbacks. A collaboration between Network Rail, Amey and Rhomberg Sersa, the S&C North Alliance has spearheaded the initiative to hand back at line speed following major track renewal interventions. Work sites have been handed back at speeds of up to 125mph, a world first. Crucial to this achievement are various techniques to fully consolidate the track during construction, which means it no longer requires the passage of trains to do this.

Osborne received the second Highly Commended certificate for its use of virtual reality (VR) at stakeholder events. Combined Building Information Modelling (BIM) technology with Virtual Reality equipment makes design solutions accessible to a wider range of stakeholders, helping those who would never have usually commented on a scheme see how it would impact them, and offer their opinions on the solution.

Supplier of the Year

So that was it for the individual categories. All that remained was the big prize, the coveted Supplier of the Year Award, to be presented by chief executive Andrew Haines.

He joined Julia on stage to announce the winner. Everyone present was a winner in some way – they were all on the short list, many had won or been commended for their work in the individual categories, and together they represented the cream of Network Rail’s suppliers.

Supplier of the Year 2019 – Buckingham Group Contracting.

So, without further ado, and without too much of a shock considering the results of the other categories, Andrew Haines announced that Network Rail’s Supplier of the Year was Buckingham Group Contracting.

Two category wins and one highly commended had sealed it, and it was an impressive performance from a company that had won the same overall award in 2015.

Fergal Kiernan, senior project manager at Buckingham, said afterwards: “Buckingham Group, for the last two years, has been top of the charts with regards to the KPI performance. That’s down to the dedication of the teams and a number of people who are assigned to manage and coordinate the KPI process for us, and that was testament to the excellent job they’ve done.

“Buckingham has, over the last two to three years, delivered a huge amount of work for IP Signalling and for the various rail contractors, and I think receiving the award is a really, really pleasant surprise. Our rail director Simon Walkley, who couldn’t be here tonight, will be absolutely chuffed.”

And probably sorry he missed the evening…


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