Every year, Network Rail brings its top suppliers and collaborators together to celebrate the very best of the previous year’s achievements. This year, the Partnership Awards moved out of London back to Birmingham – to the Hilton Metropole Hotel at the NEC. The great and the good of the railway industry gathered, resplendent in black ties (and red ties, and spotty ties, and even the occasional evening dress) to discover which projects and programmes Network Rail felt had stood out from the myriad of others over the past year.

Having gathered at a drinks reception, nearly 500 of the industry’s top movers and shakers took their seats for the evening.

Mark Carne welcomed his guests. “Our Partnership Awards are a really important part of our calendar,” he told them. “They are a celebration of collaboration giving us a chance to step back and take stock of what we in the industry together are achieving.

“We’ve had a huge number of entries again this year, and I really want to personally congratulate everyone who has been shortlisted because it was a really tough job for the judges to decide who the winners were going to be. I know we always say that but absolutely this year it certainly was the case.

“Today, the railways are extraordinarily successful in this country. More people than ever before are travelling by rail today and more people wish to travel by rail. Wherever I go in the country, no matter where it is – in Scotland or Wales or anywhere – there is an insatiable desire for people to have more trains, faster trains, more platforms. Nobody says to me ‘Oh shut that railway – we don’t need this’. People want more railways and that’s why today we are investing in Britain’s railways more than we ever have done in the past.
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“We are opening new railways, like the Borders railway we’ll be opening later this year – a new domestic railway for the first time in a hundred years. We’re electrifying some of the main arteries in our country, for example the Great Western electrification project – a huge project that will bring new trains, faster trains, higher standards of comfort for the passengers who want to travel. And that will bring more passengers – the demand will continue to grow.

“We will reduce congestion – the new Reading Flyover is just one example of how we can separate different lines and different routes and create less congestion for passengers.

“And of course we are building some extraordinary new stations. Here in Birmingham in a couple of months’ time we’re going to have the opening of John Lewis in a station. 270,000 people are expected in the first weekend of John Lewis. I know where I am not going to be that weekend! But it’s going to be a fantastic station and there are many others of these iconic stations that we’re opening from London to Edinburgh transforming the passengers’ experience. And that’s before you even start to talk about these megaprojects like Crossrail and, of course, Thameslink.

“But the projects we are celebrating today are not just the megaprojects, these huge projects which attract so much attention. We have two thousand small projects going on across the network – improving safety by building better level crossings, increasing capacity with platform extensions and improving the accessibility for people at our stations with Access for All.

“You all know that this is difficult stuff. It’s really hard to do what you all do every single day and every single night. The way I describe the industry to people who don’t understand is it’s like rebuilding your house while you are still living in it undisturbed because that’s what we do together. And it’s an extraordinary testament to you that I think we do it so well together. It takes huge dedication and tonight is our opportunity to thank you and your colleagues for the huge efforts that you put in to building a better railway for Britain.”

Mark then left everyone to enjoy their dinner.

Safety and sustainability

Once everyone had dined, broadcast personality Marcus Brigstocke took the stage. Having apologised that he didn’t know many jokes about trains, he nevertheless entertained the audience for a while with tales of his experiences with other forms of transport.

Following that, it was time for the important part of the evening, the awards themselves. The first award of the night was for Safety, and to present the award Marcus introduced Richard Hardy, managing director of built environment consultancy BRE Global.

“Safety is paramount to everything we do, Richard stated. “It 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.”

The shortlisted entries were Amey Rail for tackling Driver safety and fatigue, Atkins for its work on level crossings, Balfour Beatty for the Crossrail West Outer programme, Mission Room Limited for SWL 360 ‘See More, Save Time, Stay Safe’ and the Football League Trust for its Rail Safety programme.

After opening the obligatory envelope, Richard announced that the winner was the Football League Trust. The Rail Safety programme is a partnership with Network Rail which sees the charities attached to 10 Football League clubs use the power of football to deliver rail safety messages to young people in areas identified as ‘hotspots’. A mixture of football, fun games and educational workshops are used to engage with thousands of young people and improve their understanding of rail safety. Young people at each of the clubs also plan and run their own rail safety event and create new learning materials. Boys and girls also have the chance to compete in a national 5-a-side tournament.

In addition, the judges highly commended Atkins and Balfour Beatty for their significant contribution to safety.

Richard Harding stayed on the stage for the second award, for sustainable excellence. “With record growth and investment in the rail network comes ever greater pressure to deliver outstanding value for money and service and to achieve the highest levels of both safety and sustainable development,” Richard stated by way of introduction. “This award recognises exactly that – organisations that clearly demonstrate sustainable and responsible ways of working.”

There were only four companies on the shortlist this time – Balfour Beatty for its Crossrail West Outer track infrastructure project, Carillion Rail for work on the Thameslink programme – outer areas, HS1 Limited for a high speed approach to sustainable excellence and Skanska for the Bermondsey Dive Under.

The award went to Carillion Rail for achieving several initiatives which, in turn, created volunteering positions for socially disadvantaged members of the community. In the judges’ opinion, by embedding a culture for delivering sustainable outcomes, the Thameslink team has helped raise the bar on sustainability and enhanced the reputation of the railway.

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HS1 and Skanska were both highly commended in this category.

Community engagement and heritage

Lisa Cunningham, programme director for business in the community, was invited to the stage by Marcus Brigstocke to present the award for community engagement.

Explaining the background to this award, Lisa told the audience: “The rail industry’s work impacts on more than 20 million people in communities around Great Britain. The need to be mindful of the impact of work on lineside neighbours is paramount. This award recognises those partnerships that have made a conscious effort to work with these communities and in doing so help build relationships with Britain’s rail industry.”

On the judges’ shortlist were the Construction Youth Trust for the Budding Brunel’s rail programme (a three day industry-led careers guidance workshop); East Yorkshire Villagers at War Community Group – a community project to commemorate soldiers who lost their lives in World War One, especially soldiers that used to be employed by the Railway; J Murphy & Sons for the demolition and reconstruction of the School Hill Road bridge which, being situated between two parts of the Earl Danby’s Primary School, presented the project team with some significant community engagement challenges; Kier which is constructing a new £11.4 million station complex at Port Talbot and the Football League Trust’s Rail Safety programme.

To the surprise of many in the room, who perhaps weren’t aware of the project, the Football League Trust won again. This excellent initiative, by working at the very heart of their local communities, provides a service that can help young people at risk turn their lives
around through providing initial engagement activities.

The judges also chose to highly commend Construction Youth Trust for Budding Brunel’s Rail and also J Murphy & Sons for the School Hill Road bridge reconstruction.

Marcus then thanked Lisa for presenting the Community Engagement award and invited Andy Savage, executive director of the Railway Heritage Trust, to join him at the lectern.

“We’re lucky in Britain to have one of the most historic railways in the world,” Andy enthused on his favourite topic. “Sensitivity to this rich railway heritage is an important factor for those undertaking projects. 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.”

The shortlist contained several projects well known to Rail Engineer readers. AMCO Rail for the repair and refurbishment of Hawarden swing bridge, Amey Rail for its work on Chorley Flying Arches, Carillion Rail (Scotland) for the Ballochmyle Viaduct strengthening project, Groundwork Wakefield and the work at Wakefield Kirkgate station and Siemens Rail Automation’ work to improve capacity at Whitby station.

All five were excellent choices, but one project had to win and the award went to Amey Rail and the Chorley Flying Arches.

Those who recall Graeme Bickerdike’s report in issue 120 (October 2014), or who have seen his excellent video (look for it on YouTube), will know that Amey worked collaboratively with English Heritage and other key stakeholders to ensure the Grade II listed ‘Flying Arches’ were preserved. Research into historical construction methods, design work to maintain the aesthetics of the arches and strong project management, along with bespoke development of modelling software, ensured that not only was a key part of rail heritage protected, but the works were completed and handed back ahead of schedule.

AMCO Rail was highly commended for Hawarden swing bridge (issue 124, February 2015) as was Groundwork Wakefield for Wakefield Kirkgate station (issue 105, July 2013).

Technology, innovation and people

Network Rail chairman Richard Parry-Jones is well known for his enthusiasm about introducing innovation onto the railways. He spoke on the topic recently at Railtex in the Rail Engineer seminar theatre. Tonight, he was in his element presenting the award for the Best Use of Technology & Innovation.

He was quickly in the groove. “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. It will enable us to increase the number of faster, better trains we can run on our network.”

The nominations for this award were AmeyColas for safety innovations in track renewals, Balfour Beatty’s new Stove Pipe Lifter attachment. EY/CSC for the ORBIS programme, Fugro RailData and its implementation of a new measurement technology mounted on regular service trains: The Rail Infrastructure ALignment Acquisition (RILA) system, and the University of Birmingham which had undertaken state-of-the-art computer modelling to facilitate track bed stabilisation.

To several in the room, the choice was obvious. Offering Rail Better Information Services, known as ORBIS, was launched to modernise the way Network Rail works through the delivery of intelligent apps and decision support tools. To deliver this, Network Rail has partnered with EY as business change integrator, to manage the end-to-end delivery of the solution to customers, and CSC as systems integrator to manage the integration and implementation of the technology.

Rail Engineer reported on the RINM Asset Viewer, a sub-system of ORBIS, in March 2015 (issue 125) while sister magazine RailStaff reported on My Work, one of the first and most successful apps developed and delivered to frontline teams, in April 2015.

Two other projects were highly commended – Balfour Beatty for its new Stove Pipe Lifter attachment and the University of Birmingham for its computer modelling to facilitate track bed stabilisation.

Innovation is nothing without people, and Francis Paonessa – managing director of Infrastructure Projects – was next up to present the award for Investing in People.

Francis recognised the role that the railway’s people play. “This industry is responsible for 20,000 miles of track, enabling 1.3 billion journeys and transporting 100 million tonnes of freight every year but it will only ever be as good as its people. This award recognises projects and partnerships that promote accountability, opportunity and diversity.”

Shortlisted were Amey Plc for its Duke of Edinburgh Gold Award/Amey Apprenticeship scheme, Amey Rail for the Great Western Electrification programme, Carillion Rail’s Young Peoples’ Training Schemes, Skanska for Bermondsey Dive Under and TSP Learn for the Learn:IT programme which supports individuals within Network Rail to develop capability and skills in IT and communication.

The award went to Amey Rail for the Great Western Electrification programme. The judges felt that Amey Rail is creating a sustainable legacy in electrification by investing in people strategies that develop a highly skilled and technically efficient workforce from a variety of backgrounds and training the future generation of engineers in OLE at their new facility in Swindon. Throughout the contract, Amey has invested in an international graduate programme, recruited ex-military personnel, encouraged more women into engineering and used international collaboration to increase capacity and enhance skills in the UK, all of which justified the company winning this award.

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Carillion Rail and Skanska were both highly commended for their work in investing in people.

Efficiencies and collaboration

Investing in people helps to drive efficiency, so it was logical that the next award was for just that. After a short break – the awards ceremony was now half-way through – Richard Threlfall, partner at KPMG, joined Marcus as he read out the nominations.

This category was closely-contested and six projects had been short listed, although there were only four companies involved: Amey Rail for Craigentinny, Amey Co 0las for high output track renewals – production process improvements, Amey Rail again for production process improvements on the Great Western electrification programme, Atkins for Midland main line electrification New Overhead Line Structures, Carillion Rail – Red Light Safety Equipment and HS1 Limited – Control Period 2 – Agreed Settlement – A New Approach.

Before announcing the winner, Richard commented: “With record passenger numbers, the drive for efficiency across the industry has never been more important. This award recognises organisations that have made real strides in their work to help create a more efficient railway for all those who work on it, and all who use it.”

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He then presented the award to Amey Rail for production process improvement on the Great Western electrification programme. The judges felt that Amey had continuously optimised the piling value stream whilst building LEAN capability through training, coaching, and mentoring. The project has resulted in a dramatic reduction in piling cycle times, made large cost savings, as well as training 48 personnel in both Sigma yellow and green belts.


Amey Rail project, at Craigentinny, and the Atkins work on the Midland main line, were highly commended.

Collaboration is everywhere these days. Some collaborations are forced marriages to undertake a particular project, other companies choose to collaborate on a semi-permanent basis. Introducing the Best Collaboration award, Peter Loosley – policy director of the Rail Industry Association – stated: “Proper collaboration is critical to the successful delivery of projects, which makes this award so important. This was an extremely strong field with some excellent examples of what collaboration can achieve. But one project did stand out because of its complexity, the benefits of its outputs, the large number of stakeholders involved, and measures taken to establish an obvious one team ethic.”

The strength of the field which Peter mentioned was borne out by the short list – seven projects were named, more than for any other category so far. Some of them we already knew. The list was: Abellio Greater Anglia for Great Eastern overhead line renewals, Carillion Construction Services for Reading Station Area Redevelopment (RSAR), Costain’s Kent multi-Functional framework, Groundwork Wakefield and Wakefield Kirkgate station, Tata Steel and its HPrail / HP335 rail grade introduction, the Football League Trust’s Rail Safety programme and Transport for Greater Manchester with its Irlam station redevelopment project. Would the Football League win a third award?

The answer was no. Instead, Carillion won its second for helping to transform Reading station which now provides more reliable services, increased capacity and has reduced journey times. Thousands of passengers and freight users are benefiting from one of the biggest new infrastructure investment programmes carried out on the Western route. Safety is at the centre of everything from planning, value management, design and delivery, achieved by close collaboration of all parties involved around a set of shared goals.

Abellio Greater Anglia and Costain were highly commended for their work in this field.

Small, medium and large

Now it was time for the project awards. Alistair Godbold, honorary fellow and deputy chairman of the Association for Project Management had the task of presenting all three project awards.

He started with the award for small projects, valued at under £3 million. The nominations were Construction Marine for coping with the major landslip at Unstone on the Midland main line, Costain which is delivering the Samphire Hoe rockfall mitigation as part of its Kent multi-functional framework, Dyer & Butler for emergency repairs at Teignmouth Station and Smugglers Cove near Dawlish, J Murphy & Sons for Harrowden Road overbridge and Story Contracting for Pleasington Golf Course level crossing bridge construction.

It was a good entry of interesting projects – all essential to the running of the railway despite their small price tags.

The winner was Story Contracting, last year’s Supplier of the Year, making a welcome return to the podium. Network Rail is investing significantly in the improvement or closure of hundreds of crossings during CP5. Pleasington Golf Course in Lancashire was identified by Network Rail as being in the top ten high-risk crossings in the North. Story Contracting developed an innovative solution for the construction of a new overbridge to remove the exposure and risk of public interface. The solution was formed from pre-cast concrete FlexiArch which was installed during a standard rules of the route possession. This project was a first for the rail environment. This method has gone on to be considered for use by other regions.

Costain’s Samphire Hoe rockfall mitigation project was highly commended this time.

Medium projects are defined as being valued between £3 million and £20 million. There were five projects shortlisted: AMCO Rail for the construction of Dawlish Lower Sea Wall, Atkins’ work for EGIP (Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme) at Cumbernauld, Buckingham Group Contracting – Redditch Branch enhancements, Carillion for dealing with a landslip at Chipping Campden and Kier’s Chelsea Bridge refurbishment.

In the opinion of the judges, the best medium-sized project this year was the way in which Carillion is delivering a sustainable, safe and cost-effective solution to remediate the landslip in Gloucestershire to prevent materials from falling on the railway and stabilise the slope.

On Good Friday, Easter 2013, a large land-slip occurred on a railway cutting near the village of Mickleton, Gloucestershire. The slip created a huge amount of unstable earth which threatened the operational railway. The railway remained open but Network Rail instructed Carillion to commence 24/7 slip watch to ensure the safety of the operational railway.

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Carillion was engaged by Network Rail, as a local BCDP (Building and Civils Delivery Partnership) framework contractor, to deliver a sustainable, safe and cost effective solution to remediate the landslip to prevent materials from going on the railway and to stabilise the slope. The works, designed by Arup, were successfully completed allowing the railway to remain open. Additional works to the tunnel portal and drainage works were identified and Network Rail instructed Carillion to carry out these works as they were on site, to provide efficiency to Network Rail. These additional works are due to be completed in summer 2016.

Atkins, for EGIP at Cumbernauld, and Buckingham Group Contracting for Reddich Branch enhancements were highly commended.

Now came the big-hitters – the best large project valued over £20 million. Five major projects were on the list: Buckingham Group Contracting for the Huyton & Roby capacity improvement scheme, Carillion Rail – Doncaster to Water Orton gauge enhancements, J Murphy & Sons – National Electrification Programme Bridges Framework, London Overground, Transport for London – London Overground Capacity Improvement Programme – East London Line, and Siemens Rail Automation for London Bridge Station Redevelopment Phase 1.

As Alistair Godbold said: “Each of these projects represents a huge boost to Britain’s rail network and all are rightful winners.” However, there could be only one on the night and that was – Buckingham Group Contracting for the Huyton & Roby capacity improvement scheme.

The Huyton & Roby Capacity Project, part of the Northern Hub Programme, provided value for money train service improvements to facilitate economic growth across the North of England. The integrated BIM project enables non-stopping trains to pass stopping passenger services between Liverpool and Manchester and has provided lasting benefits for the rail network.

The team from Buckingham Group Contracting was naturally delighted with this result, while J Murphy & Sons had to be satisfied with being highly commended.

The BIG one

So that just left one award to go – the big one – Network Rail’s supplier of the year. For the last two years, a ‘smaller’ contractor had won this award – Story Contracting in 2014 and NG Bailey in 2013. Before that it had been the major contractors – Babcock (2012), Invensys Rail (now Siemens Rail Automation – 2011), BAM Nuttall (2010) and Balfour Beatty (2009). Which way would Network Rail swing this year?

Mark Carne came back to the stage for this one. He thanked Marcus Brigstocke for hosting the evening, he thanked all the suppliers which had made entries into the awards competition, and he thanked everyone for their hard work which has helped to build a better railway for a better Britain.

Then he turned to the business at hand.

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

“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 2015 to this company that has set high standards, a company that plays to its strengths.

The Supplier of the Year 2015 is Buckingham Group Contracting.

The room erupted. Once again Network Rail had chosen one of its smaller contractors as Supplier of the Year, recognising the important work that they all do to keep the railway running and to drive the efficiencies that the industry so badly needs.

Buckingham Group managing director Mike Kempley and rail director Simon Walkley spoke with Rail Engineer outside the main room shortly afterwards.

“It’s a fantastic achievement for us as a business,” said a delighted Mike Kempley, “and more importantly for the guys who are working for us. The team on Huyton & Roby – a fantastic team. But it works together because it is a joint team with us and Network Rail – great supplier, great client and a great interface with the rest of the stakeholders. We’re part of that and we’re glad to be recognised that it really is a full team effort, which is what tonight’s all about anyway.”

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Simon Walkley agreed. “It’s fantastic for our people. We’re only the sum of our parts and its about their attitude, their commitment and we’re absolutely delighted for them. It’s a prize for those guys who come to work every day, focus on what the customer wants and deliver.”

Network rail chief executive Mark Carne joined Rail Engineer for the final word.

“I think it’s been a marvellous event. It’s our opportunity to really say thank you to the thousands of people who make this industry the huge success that it is. We can only have a few people represented in the room but they really are representing those thousands of people and it’s wonderful for us to have that chance to say thank you.”

The audience had been a good mix of large companies and smaller concerns. “I think it’s important to reflect the range of different companies that we have in our industry. Of course we rely very heavily on the major players and its lovely to see them being rewarded by success at events like this. But also it’s important to recognise that smaller companies sometimes bring something special. They bring new ideas and innovation to the industry and we want to encourage that and show our appreciation for their efforts as well.”

Mark was asked about the emphasis placed on topics such as heritage and sustainable excellence in the awards, not just engineering. “We try to mix it up as there are so many dimensions to what is a successful partnership. This year we have community engagement which I think is hugely important, really showing how we think about the impact we have on the lives of people who live near our railways and I was particularly pleased to see the Football League Trust win that award as they work on improving safety awareness of the railway amongst young people.

“We must remember that we are an industry team. We thrive and succeed together and the closer that we collaborate together the more successful we’ll be. Of course there’s a time for competition but actually there’s also a time for really close collaboration driving the passenger experience up, and that’s what we all have to try and do.”