Walking into the Donington Park Exhibition Centre for Safe Start 2016, It was strange to think that just a few months ago progress on the Midland Main Line (MML) electrification was on hold, indefinitely paused while Sir Peter Hendy examined the costs.
Thankfully the electrification programme was restarted in September, although the project, which will include 639 single-track kilometres of new OLE, has been pushed back by three years.
Orchestrated by Carillion’s James Steele, the Safe Start event series was set up as an opportunity to bring together the Network Rail Infrastructure Projects East Midlands (IPEM) partners together with the wider supply chain to discuss the year ahead.
The electrification programme is being delivered by the IPEM team, which comprises Network Rail, AMCO, Arup, Atkins, Carillion, Carillion Powerlines, Galliford Try and Murphy. The MML programme is a £2 billion plus investment spread across CP5 and CP6.
Despite the drama of the previous six months, it was business as usual in January, in fact the event was bigger than ever – with more than 70 exhibitors and 600 delegates – but beneath the surface the entire team has been busy remobilising.
‘It’s been very frustrating because we knew we’d got a great team,’ said Richard Walker, Network Rail’s route delivery director for the Midlands.
As soon as Patrick McLoughlin announced the reviews into the MML and TransPennine electrification schemes, everything stopped and the project was shut down. It was a surprise decision. Just a month before, a Network Rail press release announced that piling works had begun between Bedford and Kettering.
‘We had to close the project down very quickly and stop the spend,’ said Richard. ‘When we’ve demobilised a project team to remobilise it takes a year-and-a-half…’
The event was sponsored by A-Plant, CR Civil Engineering, Bodyguard, Selectequip and Bridgeway. Giving the opening address and welcome, Richard praised the ‘diligence’ of the MML’s contractors and suppliers.
Writing in the programme notes, Richard shone a positive light on the hiatus. ‘The pause actually gave us much-needed time to reflect and recast plans – and to capture feedback with regards to lessons learned and best practices. This has informed our thinking and planning, and we are confident that the remobilisation plan we have created is fit for purpose: to ensure that we deliver our work safely and efficiently. But of course the best laid plans can only succeed if we all get behind them.’
The reviews have put an additional layer of scrutiny on the project, both within Network Rail and with the travelling public. Richard described the extra three years as an opportunity that shouldn’t be taken for granted. Adding, ‘If we sit back and relax, we won’t hit that date.’
Safe Start is designed to send out a coherent safety message across the network of IPEM partner companies. Over the past year, this has been furthered with the introduction of the Planning and Delivering Safe Work (PDSW) and Safe Work Leaders (SWL), improved site welfare facilities, nutrition and wellbeing services and the creation of a new induction programme – the IPEM Passport.
The leadership team has set a series of new goals for 2016. This year there will more of a focus on mental and emotional health. There will also be a push to improve logistics, to better understand how the 350 compounds in the IPEM area can support each other.
Last year, the IPEM Passport was trialled. The three-day training programme has been tailored to the East Midlands region and includes the Industry Common Induction, a PPE fitting and outlines personal roles and responsibilities. In 2016, this focus on training will continue. In particular, it will look at supervisor training.
Richard spoke about leaving a legacy. Not just to deliver the project on time and within the budget but to pioneer things that will be ‘stolen with pride’ for other major schemes in the future. With the play button pressed, there’s now a chance to do that. To reset and start again.