Rob Enright, Area Manager (Safety Critical) at CDI AndersElite Rail Business discusses plans to help progress sustained investment in railway infrastructure during CP5.
The planned £37.5 billion investment in Control Period 5 (CP5), which runs from April 2014 to 2019, will signal the largest investment in the UK’s rail infrastructure in a generation. What projects can we expect to be delivered? Do you think High Speed 2 is likely to go ahead?
Although the HS2 project has been much talked about in recent months, even if it receives the green-light it is unlikely that it will start until towards the end of CP5. However, yes, I think it will go ahead and be a great success. I am convinced the UK needs it. In the meantime, there are a number of significant projects that have either commenced or are expected to do so imminently.
These include further works on Crossrail, worth some £1.4bn; Reading station which will continue to be developed over the next two years; Birmingham New Street’s gateway project and the Northern Hub project which is being seen as a major catalyst for local economic growth in the Liverpool to Manchester region.
The Great Western electrification project is one of the most significant that will be undertaken both in terms of the demand for labour to complete the actual project itself and the impact it will have on the economy thereafter. GWML electrification will reduce travel times between Bristol and London from 1hr 45 mins to 1hr 15 mins.
What impact do you think these projects will have?
Every project that has been earmarked will have a direct impact across the whole country. For instance, the Trans-Pennine and East-West projects will boost employment and economic prospects in these regions which will have a knock-on effect not only on the rail industry and its suppliers but in terms of local businesses, property values and career opportunities for local people.
What impact do you believe CP5 will have on the rail industry? What impact did its predecessor have?
Across the board, Network Rail will be investing around 5% more than it did during CP4 which on the face of it may not seem like a huge improvement. But when you factor in precisely where the focus in investment will lie, it then becomes clear the benefits this will have. As an example, whilst spending in renewals will see a fall when compared to the last few years, investment in major areas such as electrification and civil infrastructure will see a 30%+ increase in funding.
What benefit do you think will CP5 have on the UK’s long term economic prospects?
Investment levels are going to be high and the return on the investment will be significantly higher. Each project will have a positive impact on the local and national economy, improve the overall infrastructure of the rail network and improve job prospects over the long term – both directly and indirectly.
Network Rail has ambitious plans over the next five years. How will these projects be realised in terms of the implications they will have on employment opportunities within the rail sector? How many new jobs do you believe will be created to support those projects which have been earmarked?
There are currently around 100,000 contractors employed in the UK rail industry and we anticipate this number will rise even further over the course of the next five years. Network Rail has a number of ambitious projects planned and is investing heavily in ensuring that the skill set available meets the needs of these key projects.
The number of signalling jobs, for instance, is expected to grow by 3,000 or more and the number of electrification and telecoms positions could see a further 2,000 new jobs being created.
What roles do you anticipate will be in most demand?
Certainly one of the greatest areas of demand will be within the electrification field and signalling, with investment in these disciplines expected to increase by 41% and 15% respectively over the next five years.
However there are also challenges to be faced. Indeed, there remains a shortfall in the availability of suitably experienced and qualified electrification contractors. Network Rail is addressing this through investing in helping workers gain the right level of qualifications such as the IRSE, to ensure that projects within this field are completed within the five-year CP5 timeframe.
When do you foresee employers planning their recruitment for these new projects?
Some of the projects previously mentioned are already underway, but many more are expected to start quite soon. It is imperative that the rail industry attracts more people to deliver the railway of the future.
What are the key challenges for employers?
The main challenge for employers is finding contractors with the key skills that they need. Signalling and electrification roles will see the highest demand over the next few years but they will be the hardest to fill, given the shortage of suitably qualified specialist contractors.
What advice would you give jobseekers in the current market?
The rail industry is a highly competitive field and one where employers are looking for the best available talent to fill their roles. Many employers have already started their recruitment initiatives in a move to ensure they have the right people in place for when these projects start.
It is important for contractors to ensure they have the right skills and experience and that they understand the jobs they are applying for. Ask questions. Research the market and make sure you are up to date.
How long have you been working at CDI AndersElite?
Over nine years.
What attracted you to work for the company? What makes you continue your career with the company?
CDI AndersElite has enabled me to build up a strong successful team with the backing of a large company to support me and help me realise my own career ambitions.
Having specialised in the rail industry for the best part of my career, I have had the opportunity to help establish a new team and develop it to become one of the most successful of its kind operating in this niche sector.
But more important is the fact that we now have in excess of 500 contractors working with us at any one time – many of whom I have worked with throughout my nine years with CDI AndersElite. Every day is different and this is an industry charged with expanding, growing and making a major contribution to Britain’s’ economic recovery. That is what retains my energy and enthusiasm.
Do you see railways as an engineering industry or a people industry?
The short answer is both. This is a capital intensive industry hugely dependent on engineering skills at every level from infrastructure renewal and investment to new rolling stock builds, data-analysis and IT development.
Having said that, it is a people-intensive industry with a great reliance on the skills and professionalism of a huge army of contractors and staff from track workers to designers and engineers to possession planners. It is these people who are important and central to the delivery of all projects.
That’s why we are supporting the RailStaff Awards 2014 – people in the rail industry deserve recognition and encouragement and that’s what we are all about at CDI AndersElite.