Interviews

13.07.17

‘In the rail business, we’re leading the way’

Source: RTM Jun/Jul 17

Andy Milner, the chief executive of Amey, tells RTM about the transformation programme that has been taking place in the company since his takeover, and what its future in the rail industry looks like.

Back when Andy Milner was Amey’s managing director for the Consulting and Strategic Infrastructure business, the company successfully achieved BS 11000 certification for excellent collaborative business relationships across its rail division. And, beyond transport, the business expanded into three further continents – Australia, Qatar and the United States – with a string of international contracts. 

It is only appropriate, then, that the man responsible for ensuring Amey remains both a national rail leader and a world-class services supplier was named as its chief executive last year. 

Speaking to RTM just over 12 months into his role, Milner acknowledged the strong company outlook he inherited when his predecessor, Mel Ewell, decided to retire – but this has not stopped him from going above and beyond business as usual. Since his takeover, the new boss has captained a fundamental restructure of Amey’s markets, increasing the number of business units from three to five whilst also strengthening central control. 

“Restructuring the business gave us the ability to better respond to our customer’s needs. We operate in a wide range of sectors and we need to be efficient and effective, not buried in contracts and layers of bureaucracy,” he explained. “We were able to strip back a lot of what we’re doing in the business to get back to basics, focus on the core essentials that are necessary for us to be able to deliver. We went from three large business units to five smaller ones, enabling us to be much more customer-focused, delivering what our customers want. 

“In parallel with that, to cope with some of the market pressures, we’ve taken quite a lot of cost out of the business and brought the core processes and delivery mechanics that make such a big difference to our customers much closer to the centre. Over the last 12 months, we’ve been on a big transformation journey.” 

Exceptional capability 

From a transport perspective, Milner was the obvious person for the job: he oversaw all of Amey’s rail consulting and highways business for eight years as part of his previous role. As a result of his efforts, the company’s rail business in particular “stood out as an area of exceptional performance”. 

“We’ve been focusing on success in rail for quite a long time, making sure that we deliver the core disciplines really well including electrification, track and signalling,” Milner explained. 

“We have exceptional capability across the board, being able to provide an end-to-end service by joining our rail design and technology design capability with our operational capability and offer something a little bit different into the market. We make sure we are fit for purpose when it comes to delivering the programmes of work that Network Rail and others have in front of them – so that we can be true partners to those organisations. 

“In that sense, in the rail business, we’re leading the way within Amey – and in many ways, we’ve learned some of the lessons of how we’ve built the rail business over the last few years and applied those to the rest of the business.” 

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The key to success 

So what has been the secret to Amey’s widespread success? Milner largely puts it down to collaborative working and its people. “Collaboration and good people are fundamental to the success of all large organisations,” the CEO argued. “Amey is an organisation with a turnover in excess of £2.4bn; we have a huge number of relationships with our customers, with our partners and with our suppliers. And collaboration, knowledge sharing, best practice and supporting each other is really important if we’re going to face the challenges that exist in the UK today.”

Indeed, his company’s collaboration track record is enviable: with Keolis, it delivers the capital’s award-winning DLR service and will soon begin operating Manchester’s Metrolink network; with TfL, the firm introduced a bespoke enterprise asset management system and major programme of training so that business processes could serve a new, data-driven operation; and with Network Rail, it has been a strong delivery partner for the Great Western Main Line Electrification. To put it into perspective, Amey has been a consistently major player across the country’s largest infrastructure projects, including on Crossrail and, if Milner has his way, HS2. 

It hasn’t shied away from international partners, either. Over the last few years, Amey has formed a “really significant JV” with Rhomberg Sersa, called Amey Sersa, to look at the technological advances in the way the company delivers track and S&C renewals, said Milner. The JV works within the S&C Northern Alliance to deliver major renewals across the region. 

And alongside Spanish firm Inabensa, Amey has been tackling the major skills shortage in the UK, especially with regards to electrification. “We’ve opened that door with our European JV partner, and that’s been underway for a few years and has been very successful,” he explained. “We’re also learning some of the techniques and capabilities that exist in Europe as well and applying those onto these projects.” 

Describing alliance working as a centrepiece in the company’s values, he added: “It is fundamental to what we do. And we’re always on the lookout for new opportunities to form collaborative relationships and get the benefits from those.” 

Breaking all records 

Since Amey is no stranger to the business – the company has been around for nearly 100 years now, dating back to 1921 – it is unsurprising that some of these relationships have become, at this point, historically significant. The company has been involved in the CEFA [Civils Examinations Framework Agreement] contract for over 20 years “in one way or another, in various different guises”. 

“I’m really pleased with the work that we do in the asset inspection area,” the CEO added. “And I think we’re really starting to support Network Rail in gathering effective, useful data, analysing that data and making the right decisions about the asset.” 

Naturally, with such a large rail portfolio, it’s difficult – near impossible – to pinpoint the most notable project of all, one which best represents Amey’s values and what it is capable of achieving – but we asked Milner to choose one anyway. 

“I think the 125mph handback is a really significant piece of work,” he decided, referring to the S&C Northern Alliance’s remarkable delivery of the UK’s first high-speed handback on the East Coast Main Line, about which Neil Johnson, the alliance director, wrote in the October/November 2016 issue of RTM. 

“That broke all the records. We were able to do a 90mph handback first, and then we have improved that capability, taking it up to the next level. I think that’s really notable, and there’s a lot more of that for us to be able to achieve.” 

Going forward, it’s safe to say Amey needs to focus on maintaining its momentum – because whatever its formula for success is, it’s obviously working well. “In rail, we’re in a pretty strong place right now,” agreed Milner, whilst also considering the future: “We are looking for and at opportunities in HS2, and we’re also looking at ways in which we can support further investment into the rail network in the UK over the medium and long term, and in particular working as a panel member of the Hansford Review to explore ways in which that can be made possible. But we certainly have an appetite for identifying means of investment into the UK rail network.” 

So watch this space: with so many large programmes popping up across rail as more investment is poured into the network, you’ll still be seeing a lot more of Amey for many control periods to come.

FOR MORE INFORMATION
W: www.amey.co.uk

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