Rail Industry Focus

26.09.17

Alliancing: a step change in performance

Alan Cox, director of pre-construction at BAM Nuttall, talks to RTM about a joined-up industry approach to create the right platform for efficiency and innovation.

Britain’s railways continue to flourish. Rail passenger journeys have more than doubled in the past 20 years and continue to grow around 4% each year. With no sign of demand slowing, the challenge remains both to renew the ageing Victorian infrastructure and enhance capacity and journey times on the congested network.

Investment in the railway is vital to support Britain’s economy. Improving connectivity and providing sustainable means of transport are intrinsically linked to economic growth and prosperity. Whilst the benefits are evident, we must be conscious of the cost of these major infrastructure projects and the impact they bring during development and construction.

A fine balance and some creativity is needed to deliver much-needed infrastructure improvements to enable the railway to meet the growing demand, whilst continuing to transport passengers and freight with as little disruption as possible. We need to think and work as one railway industry; building the present, whilst creating the future.

Collaboration is a great start, but to achieve a real step change in performance we must be prepared to alter our attitudes and behaviours. Alliancing creates this environment. Through aligned goals and objectives, and a commitment to win or lose together, the emphasis for participants becomes finding solutions together, eliminating waste and inefficiency and encouraging innovation.

Keep focused on our purpose

At the heart of what we do is people and their experience. Infrastructure investment has the potential to positively impact and influence the people involved in its build, passengers and local communities. Alliancing ensures we do not lose sight of the project purpose by defining and measuring ourselves against one consistent set of objectives.

This relatively simple ethos helps overcome distractions and conflicting objectives that arise when industry partners remain siloed. Bringing stakeholders along through the journey in a smarter and more informed way can transform the outputs to better meet the needs of the final users.

Enablers to unlock efficiency

The need to improve efficiency and cost certainty in major infrastructure projects is widely recognised. The challenge is how the industry can tackle this without detriment to safety, investment in people, skill development and the next generation.

Harnessing digital technology to ‘build before build’ is one solution. This brings particular benefits to complex schemes where design and construction specialists from multiple disciplines are brought together from the option development phase. Recognising and overcoming challenges as one team at this stage can provide significant improvements to programme and cost certainty.

Transparent management of risk

A shared alliance culture drives all parties’ efforts towards identifying and resolving arising issues instead of attribution of blame. Being transparent in our approach to risk mitigation and management helps eliminate constraints and blockers to innovation.

Time, effort and cost channelled into managing the consequences of adversarial contracts provides no value for rail passengers. If we are to succeed in transforming passenger experience, we must focus our energy and expertise as one industry working together to develop and deliver the infrastructure projects that bring real value to the people who use and are affected by the railway.

(Top image: the Ordsall Chord project in Manchester, which is being taken forward by an alliance including BAM Nuttall, Siemens, Amey, Skanska and other partners)

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