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VolkerFitzpatrick – wide scope, tight focus

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To understand the breadth and depth of services VolkerFitzpatrick provides to the rail industry, Rail Engineer talked to two members of the company’s senior team: Paul Lilley – Operations Director (Depots) and Mike Evans – Operations Director (Rail).

VolkerFitzpatrick is part of VolkerWessels UK, a multidisciplinary construction and civil engineering group delivering projects across the UK, in five operating companies. VolkerFitzpatrick itself is one of the leading engineering and construction companies in the UK, delivering multidisciplinary civil engineering and infrastructure solutions across three distinct sectors, for highways and airports, rail infrastructure and depot construction, and commercial and industrial building contracts.

The organisation works closely with its clients to deliver quality projects that are innovative and sustainable. Across its operations, people are key – whether with regard to safety, or providing a lasting legacy for the local communities in which projects are undertaken. 

Transforming infrastructure

Since the early 1990s, the business has been involved with several high-profile infrastructure projects, helping to transform and modernise rail infrastructure and stations in the South East of England, as well as creating some of the UK’s largest, and most prestigious, railway depots.

Paul and Mike attributed the business’ success to its people. Despite its size, VolkerFitzpatrick has worked hard to maintain its original core values and family feel, putting employees first, supporting entrepreneurial spirit, and always ensuring that integrity and ethics are at the forefront of its activities.

Both pointed out the importance of the company’s six “Cs”, the key business drivers that support the delivery of its vision, by setting out the parameters in which it operates: Care for our people and projects; Campaign against defects; Certainty of Programme; Cost awareness; Challenge yourself and others; and Communicate effectively with the team.

The company also places great emphasis on training and development, and on the importance of recruiting the next generation, with a focus on employing university students and graduates and offering apprenticeships, as well as providing local opportunities through work placements.


Paul Lilley led on the subject of depots, which is the division’s biggest portfolio of work and accounts for over £1billion of projects over the last 20 years. Recent high-profile depot projects include Doncaster Carr, Stoke Gifford, Swansea, Craigentinny, York, Feltham, and Gosforth.

Paul emphasised that the construction of new facilities within a live depot environment is a logistical challenge for both VolkerFitzpatrick and the train operators. Communication and collaboration are key to the success of these projects, along with being adaptable. Also, understanding that the best construction solutions may not be the best operational solutions, and the best operational solution may not be the best commercial solution, are key lessons learnt for both parties.

As depots are also often situated close to populated areas, the teams are well versed in working closely with neighbours and local stakeholders, hearing and easing local concerns. They cited the Feltham site, where close attention was paid to keep local residents informed. One solution was the launch of a community app, aimed at engaging and informing stakeholders and providing updates on developments.

Every scheme poses a unique challenge, but the ability to deliver projects on time and on budget, without causing delays to the depot’s daily operations, is a key value that runs through all of its teams, who deliver these multidisciplined projects, along the length and breadth of the country.

Birmingham University Station frame installation.


Mike Evans moved on to talk about the division’s work on stations, where there is a much greater integration with the travelling public, customers, and other stakeholders. The business entered this market around 15 years ago, with a team of 10 people which has now climbed to about 150.

Mike referred to the business’ current high-profile sites at Birmingham, Brent Cross, and Barking, and pointed out that a growing proportion of the portfolio was driven by new housing developments, leading to a growing interface with third party clients. There is an emerging rural stations market, where a robust design and build process has helped to accelerate delivery and, as with depots, close integration and communication with local authorities, neighbours and other stakeholders is vital to ensure effective progress.

Positive culture

An important part of the business’ success is a common approach to health, safety, and wellbeing – including mental health – and a positive approach to sustainability. Mike Evans felt the biggest challenge, but also the area he is most proud of, is the safety journey of the business. Both Paul and Mike explained that considerable effort, and the use of behavioural safety programmes, have helped to create a positive culture change towards safety and sustainability.

VolkerFitzpatrick’s bespoke PALS model – Plan before we start work, have the right Attitude, Lead by example, and Share to help others get it right – has been embedded within the business for a decade. Originally a safety model, PALS has evolved to cover all areas of health, safety, environment, quality, and sustainability (HSEQS), and has been adopted thoroughly by both the supply chain and clients.

Future vision

Mike and Paul also spoke about their digital journey, and the adoption of new digital tools to improve digital collaboration, visual communication, and stakeholder engagement. Examples of this include 4D planning, drone footage used in survey works, pix4D to improve service location, Geniebelt to improve record keeping, and a ‘lessons learned’ app as a valuable completion tool and a reference point for other projects.

Wrapping up the conversation, Paul and Mike moved on to talk about the future of the rail industry. They believe VolkerFitzpatrick’s continued investment is improving the network and supporting infrastructure, and that new digital tools are aiding collaboration between stakeholder groups as they work together to achieve their common goals.


The company’s vision is to be a key part of projects that leave a positive legacy for the country’s rail infrastructure, as well as in local communities up and down the UK. Both Mike and Paul are determined to help the business and its wider leadership team drive towards another successful 100 years of delivery – and beyond.

Peter Stanton BSc CEng FIMechE FIET FPWI
Peter Stanton BSc CEng FIMechE FIET FPWIhttp://therailengineer.com

Electrification, traction power supplies and distribution networks

Peter Stanton undertook, between 1968 and 1972, a ‘thin sandwich’ degree course at City University, London, sponsored by British Railways Midlands Region and with practical training at Crewe and Willesden.

In 1980, following a spell as Area Maintenance Engineer at King’s Cross, Peter took on the interesting and challenging role of being the Personal Assistant to the British Railways Board Member for Engineering. As such, he was project manager for several major inter-regional inter-functional schemes.

Under Railtrack, Peter became Engineering Manager for Infrastructure Contracts, based in Birmingham, and then Electrification and Plant specialist for the West Coast Route Modernisation under Network Rail.

Since 2007, as an independent consultant, he has worked on the national electrification programme, Dubai Metro Red Line, Network Rail Crossrail, and Great Western Electrification. He sits on the Railway Technical Advisory panel of the IET and the Conference and Seminars Committee of the Railway Division of the IMechE.


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