Every year, Network Rail holds an awards evening to recognise the best work carried out by its suppliers over the previous twelve months. This year was no exception, and around 500 people gathered at a London hotel on the south bank of the Thames to celebrate the 2014 Partnership Awards.

The evening was opened by chief executive Mark Carne who told his audience: “These awards are an important part of our calendar, and provide us with a chance to take a step back and look at what this industry, working in partnership, has achieved over the last year.

“This year we had a huge number of entries, the highest since the awards began six years ago. The standard was really high and the judges had a difficult job choosing the winners.”

That got the audience thinking, but Mark left everyone to enjoy their dinner before the awards ceremony proper.

Safety first

Following a good meal and pleasant discussion, comedian Ed Byrne took the stage. He regaled listeners with amusing tales of his experience with the airline industry, being rail’s big competitor. One wonders if, next time he is at an aviation event, he will entertain them with stories of the inconsistencies of rail. Still, it was a funny interlude and the Ed went seamlessly into the awards themselves.

Safety is reflected in everything that Network Rail does, so it was no surprise that the Safety Award came first. To present it, Ed called upon Richard Hardy, managing director of BRE Group (formerly the Building Research Establishment), who commented: “Safety is paramount to this industry and to achieve this, safety should be at the heart of every project, from planning through to commissioning. This award recognises teams and projects that have shown a continuous improvement towards improving safety within the workplace and on, or near, the railway.”

Richard then presented the award to Balfour Beatty Rail for the Finsbury Park to Alexandra Palace capacity improvement project. This addressed the bottleneck of congestion between Finsbury Park and Alexandra Palace and was a major infrastructure project including station improvements, track and switches and crossings renewals and complex modifications to overhead line equipment.

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Balfour Beatty accepting the Safety Award.

Delivered under a formal alliance between Network Rail and Balfour Beatty Rail, the project’s alliance leadership team championed a strong safety culture and a focus on continuous improvement. They used various techniques including mobile site safety signage, monthly periodic safety stand-downs and safety ‘policemen’. All helped to achieve an industry- leading safety performance which is what won Balfour Beatty Rail this award.Two companies were Highly Commended. Mission Room has developed, tested and introduced new technology into the railway to enable 360-degree viewing of whole routes. This improves safety, increases site awareness and enhances operational efficiency by giving staff the ability to ‘visit’ a part of the track and then look around as though they are actually there.

ScotRail’s internal safety culture has been transformed by the introduction of two pioneering initiatives. ‘The Switched On’ awareness campaign and ‘The Professionals’ training package have enhanced employee engagement and created a strong sense of personal responsibility amongst operational staff which impressed the judges.

Engaging the community

Network Rail has over five million lineside neighbours, so it pays to keep them sweet. Bob Winnington, national account director for the Institute of Customer Service, was asked to present the Community Engagement Award to Morgan Sindall for the Haymarket station capacity improvement project.

Scotland’s fourth busiest railway station, Haymarket required significant capacity improvement to accommodate the four million passengers who use it every year. The upgraded facility provides a new concourse, improved platforms and the redevelopment of the existing Grade A listed station entrance, thereby retaining its local heritage. Indeed, the project team worked collaboratively with Network Rail and First ScotRail to ensure the project delivered a lasting community legacy.

Two other entries were highly commended. One was to a Colas Rail and Morgan Sindall joint venture for Energlyn and Churchill Park station – a brand new station constructed for the local community around a live twin-track railway line. The other was to Spencer Rail for Ipswich Chord, part of the strategic freight network and a new 1.2km double track railway that provides an essential connection between the East Suffolk Line and the Great Eastern Line, cutting journey times by at least 30 minutes.

Remembering our heritage

Talk of the Grade A listed entrance at Haymarket was a good introduction to the Heritage Award, presented by Andy Savage – executive director of the Railway Heritage Trust.

“Sensitivity to the rich railway heritage that surrounds us is an important factor for those undertaking projects,” Andy announced. “This award celebrates the conservation, restoration and promotion of this heritage, recognising the particular regard shown to Network Rail’s buildings and structures of national importance.”

Balfour Beatty Rail was the recipient for its masonry arch bridge strengthening work using XiSPAN.

Network Rail owns and maintains the oldest masonry arch railway bridges in the world. A significant amount of these structures, many of which are over 100 years old, have exceeded their expected design life and are suffering the effects of ageing, increasing the burden of ongoing maintenance.

To prolong the life of these vital assets, Balfour Beatty Rail and a team of industry experts worked with Network Rail to develop XiSPAN, an innovative, cost effective strengthening solution that was also sympathetic in preserving the aesthetic appearance of these historical structures.

Buckingham Group received the sole Highly Commended this time. Llandudno railway station has benefited from a complex but successful collaboration between Network Rail, Buckingham, Arriva Trans Wales, Rail Heritage, Conwy and the Welsh Government to deliver high-quality station improvements and a car park with minimum disruption to passengers.

Sustaining the suspense

Making a return to the stage, Richard Hardy introduced the Sustainable Excellence Award. “With record growth, performance and investment in the network comes ever greater pressure to deliver outstanding value for money and service, and achieve the highest levels of both safety and sustainable development. This award recognises exactly that – organisations that clearly demonstrate sustainable and responsible ways of working.”

From amongst some strong entries in this increasingly-important category, it was ScotRail’s energy reduction strategy that had most impressed the judges.

Over the last 12 months, ScotRail has recorded the best environmental results in the company’s history, due to a diverse range of pioneering schemes across all departments. From wind turbines and rainwater capture at stations and depots to innovative eco-driving techniques and at-source recycling on trains, ScotRail is reaping rewards for its long-term commitment to creating a greener railway.

The judges also chose to highly commend Buckingham Group Contracting Ltd for Network Rail’s distribution centre at Ryton, which is believed to be Network Rail’s first ‘carbon negative’ building, and Signalling Solutions
Ltd for the Bristol area signalling renewals and enhancements project that has its own nature garden and is part of the National Citizen scheme for young people.

Innovative award

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Anyone who knows Network Rail chairman Richard Parry-Jones will know how enthusiastic he is about innovation and new technology. So it was no surprise when he was invited on stage to present the Best Use Of Technology And Innovation Award.

“Investing in innovation and technology will help transform our knowledge of the railway making us better at targeting when, where and how we improve it,” he said. “It will enable us to increase the number of faster, better trains we can run on our network.”

The award went to Capgemini UK plc for Linear Asset Decision Support (LADS) which presents data from 14 disparate systems in a form that engineers can use. Such a consolidation of asset information will help Network Rail to make quicker, more informed and cost effective decisions about maintenance and provide a better understanding of how assets degrade and how effective work is.

Representing an industry first in terms of scale of deployment and level of integration with trackside operations, LADS will generate significant savings by improving planning of track maintenance and enabling better decisions in the field.

Dual Inventive was Highly Commended for its ZKL 3000 RC remotely-activated track circuit operating device which significantly improves workforce safety by allowing the remote activation and deactivation of additional protection for a line block without the need for staff to enter the track.

Also Highly Commended was MiPoint (MITIE and Reference Point Ltd) for collaboration with Network Rail on the Sentinel Enhancement Programme. The new card system enables checks of individuals’ identity, competences and medical state in real-time on most smartphones and tablets.

Personal development

An industry is only ever as good as its people, and Ian Iceton, human resources director of Network Rail Infrastructure Projects, presented the award for Investing In People to ScotRail.

Having won the ScotRail franchise in 2004, the leadership team realised that major investment in training and development for staff would be required if they were to achieve the aim of improving rail services. Recognising that high standards of safety, performance and customer service would be required to reach its goals, they developed a long-term strategy that offered employees opportunities to build on their existing skills so that they could work better together to be more customer-focused.

The judges were impressed with ScotRail’s range of programmes; from apprenticeships to graduate development to accredited structured leadership programmes. Key achievements have included a 127% increase in employee engagement and 3900% increase in training days.

The judges also chose to highly commend Carillion Rail for the Crewe overhead lines training span and Emergency Planning College for the Network Rail incident management training framework.

Carillion and Powerlines recognized that the industry skill pool was too small, under-skilled and required a significant investment in people in order to deliver the CP5 electrification work bank. In order to rectify this, the companies have recruited new entrants to the railway industry who are now being trained at the purpose-built overhead line training span and classrooms at Crewe, Doncaster and Coatbridge.

The Emergency Planning College, creators of the Network Rail Incident Management Training Framework which was set up to create a holistic strategy to managing major disruptive incidents, was also Highly Commended.

Being efficient

Driving Efficiencies, which has nothing to do with driving but is all about efficiency, was the next award. It was presented by Jonathan Hook, global leader of engineering and construction at PricewaterhouseCoopers.

The award recognises organisations that have made real strides in their work to help create a more efficient railway, and it was presented to Carillion Rail for the Southampton to Basingstoke W10 gauge clearance project.

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Representatives from Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Spencer Rail and Medway Council collecting the Collaboration Award.

Carillion had a major role in taking around £18m out of the cost of this project, which formed part of the Southampton to WCML gauge enhancement. Between 2009 and 2014, Carillion has saved Network Rail a significant sum on the Southampton Tunnel and on the diversionary route by a combination of more- economic construction, reduced possession costs and less time on site. A good part of the funding for the work on the diversionary route came from the earlier savings on Southampton Tunnel.Two other, highly-efficient projects were Highly Commended. Through efficiencies and other savings, AMCO Rail managed to grit-blast and paint nineteen bridges for the cost originally quoted for doing eleven, while Siemens Rail Automation developed a modular signalling solution to enable the cost-effective upgrade of secondary lines using proven technologies.More people on stage

Collaboration is now so much part of the way that railway’s work that there is nothing unusual in it. However, there is a Collaboration Award and this was presented by the director general of the Railway Industry Association, Jeremy Candfield.

Described as an industry model for a collaborative project, Atkins, Balfour Beatty, Spencer Rail and Medway Council have been working together to deliver £150 million of works on East Kent Phase 2. This includes signalling renewals, platform extensions to accommodate 12 car-trains and even in a new station – all within a limited timescale.

Working with Network Rail as one solutions- driven team, the project has implemented innovative delivery approaches and achieved engineering savings while providing a successful solution. It was this successful dedication to collaborative working which won the team this award.

The Nottingham re-signalling project was a key collaborative project between East Midlands Trains and Network Rail. To avoid a years’ worth of weekend closures, Network Rail completed the work in 37 days during the summer of 2013, meaning that Nottingham station was virtually closed for this period. This presented a major customer service challenge for East Midlands Trains, but it earned a Highly Commended from the judges.

So too did Signalling Solutions Ltd for the National ERTMS Programme Phase. The project’s aims were to examine the technical delivery of the proposed deployment sites, prepare for the demonstration of all suppliers’ equipment at ENIF (European Train Control System National Integration Facility) and propose solutions for the core challenges of implementing ETCS within the UK rail environment.

Projects large and small

The three awards for individual projects are always towards the end of the evening and highly anticipated. Many fascinating, innovative and challenging projects are completed every year, so to win one of the three awards is a real feather in the cap of the contractor involved.

First up was the award for Small Projects – those valued at under £3 million. Steven Carver, consultant in project and programme management at Cranfield University School of Management, announced that the winner was Story Contracting for Merseyrail Slab Track Renewal.

The project, to renew a life-expired slab track section of the underground Merseyloop tunnel, was logistically challenging as the plant and materials were effectively ‘locked in’ the tunnel as the works progressed to facilitate the continual running of train services into Liverpool City Centre.

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Salford Crescent Station Redevelopment

Working in such unique conditions, the team developed innovative processes, products and machinery to create favourable working conditions. Despite a myriad of difficulties posed by working underground, the end result is a modern infrastructure that promotes comfort for passengers and extends the life-span of the railway.The judges were particularly impressed by the focus on legacy, building in safety, ease of future work and innovation that went into each stage.Highly Commended was CrossCountry Trains’ project to implement a new ‘Integrale’ resource management system (provided by ATOS Origin) in its control office, aimed at improving management of disruption and driving down the number of PPM and CaSL failures in CP5.

Medium-sized projects are defined as, at least for these awards, those valued between £3 million and £20 million. One of these was the rebuild of Salford Crescent Railway Station.

With 22 trains an hour for 18 hours a day, the original plan to re-build Salford Crescent station involved closing it for three months. The team from Buckingham Group Contracting, in partnership with Northern Rail, developed a possession schedule that kept the station open and delivered a quality product, on budget and months ahead of schedule, zero accidents and professional and timely issue resolution.

The Buckingham/Northern Rail team constructed a new ticket office at road level on University Road West, freeing up a large amount of space on the platforms, and linked it with the platforms by installing a new footbridge complete with lifts to make the station much more accessible to passengers. Removal of the old waiting room created even more space – it was replaced by new seating and platform canopies.

The platforms themselves were lengthened in both directions to give a staggered effect to encourage passengers to occupy their full length rather than congregate in the middle and the passenger information systems were renewed.

The Salford Crescent Station Redevelopment project has transformed the station, providing a brighter, pleasanter environment, better access and facilities for passengers, and greater visibility of the station, encouraging use of rail. Throughout the project, the team adopted a ‘must-do’ attitude and fully embraced collaborative working.

In awarding this category to Buckingham Group Contracting, the judges described it as “exceptional work”.

Capgemini UK was Highly Commended for its LADS system which had already won the Innovation Award.

Seven large projects, those over £20 million, were shortlisted for the last of the categories. The ‘big names’ were out in force for this one, and many of the projects have already appeared in The Rail Engineer. North West Electrification (Balfour Beatty Rail), Doncaster to Water Orton (Carillion), and Reading station (Costain and Hochtief) will all be familiar to readers.

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Spencer Rail team collecting Best Large Project Award.

But the winner was – Ipswich Chord. Spencer Rail used its multi-disciplinary expertise to overcome huge challenges, including the worst winter storms in years, to complete this project successfully in the 20-month timeframe. The judges were particularly impressed by the impeccable planning of this project from start to finish and the complex interfaces with stakeholders.The Ipswich Chord  is a new 1.2km double track railway providing an essential connection between the East Suffolk line and the Great Eastern line. The chord forms part of the strategic freight network, allowing capacity to increase to 24 freight trains per day clear of London. The new chord will cut journey times by at least 30 minutes and the increased capacity on the railway will mean 750,000 fewer lorries on the roads.The Spencer Rail team was naturally delighted. To be named as Best Large Project really meant that the company had come of age and was fully recognised for its abilities to deliver even major projects. Meanwhile, Costain and Hochtief were Highly Commended for their work at Reading station.

Reactive engineering

So that was the end of the competitive, shortlisted part of the proceedings. Normally, at this stage, there is just one more award to go.

However, this year the audience was in for a surprise as Ed Byrne announced a Special Award for Outstanding Achievement.

Anne Marie Morris, Member of Parliament for Newton Abbot, took over the lectern.

“I am honoured to be able to present this award to a team that battled for over two months to overcome every obstacle thrown at it by Mother Nature. A team who worked tirelessly to rebuild the railway after the damage caused in Dawlish by the storms of February 2014.”

So she made a special award to the 300-strong project team which had reconnected Cornwall to the rest of the UK after the seawall at Dawlish had collapsed in storms, taking the railway with it.

Not all 300 were on hand, but certainly a number of them filled the stage to have their photo taken and to celebrate their full-justified award.

Number one

As things settled down after the rousing reception which the Dawlish team had received, it was time for the main event – Supplier of the Year.

Mark Carne returned to the stage for this one. Before proceeding he thanked all of the suppliers which had made an entry. “Everyone here tonight has made a real difference to Network Rail and I’d like to take this opportunity to express my thanks and gratitude for everything you have done to help deliver a better railway for a better Britain.”

So then it was time for the big announcement.

“When choosing the Supplier of the Year it is easy to be attracted by the huge scale of some of the projects that we do and the breadth of capability.

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“But what is really important for us is safety, customer focus and the ability to be responsive and collaborative. And that is why we have decided to award the Supplier of the Year 2014 to this company that has set high standards, a company that plays to its strengths.

“The Supplier of the Year 2014 is Story Contracting.”

There was uproar in the hall. Everyone was applauding and cheering as, for the second year in succession, Network Rail had proclaimed one of its comparatively-smaller contractors as Supplier of the Year. It was a popular choice.

Story’s team gathered on the stage, shiny streamers blew about, and everyone celebrated another successful year at the Network Rail Partnership Awards.