Amey is already seen as a diverse business, employing more than 20,000 people around the country across a mix of sectors. Its name is as synonymous with roads and utilities, even the military, as it is with railway maintenance.
The business only recently celebrated its 20th year in the rail industry. The milestone has been marked with a string of strategic wins, showing a clear direction of travel for the organisation as it enters its third decade in rail.
‘Our people are our business so having a great team is everything,’ said Lee Jones, Amey’s rail sector director, explaining how people are at the heart of the company’s strategy. ‘We know the industry is facing a shortage of skills so we’re investing heavily to build the workforce we need for the future.
Amey only recently expanded its apprenticeship scheme to meet this challenge. Three new starters have now completed the company’s first-ever rail on-track machine (OTM) maintenance apprenticeship, all three employees started with no previous railway or maintenance related experience and have now completed level 2 and 3 engineering operations and a BTEC Diploma level 3 in operations and maintenance. They have also completed Duke of Edinburgh Gold Awards.
Lee continued, ‘All of our apprentices and graduates have the opportunity to take part in Duke of Edinburgh (DofE) Gold award – completing the DofE gives young people the opportunity to develop life skills like problem solving and team working which are vital in the workplace.’
Encouraging more diversity in the sector is also a key objective for Amey, and the company is working to improve and promote opportunities for women in the rail industry.
Says Lee, ‘We are working on a number of initiatives to ensure we close the gender gap in the rail industry, including the support of International Women in Engineering Day and the recent launch of our engineering badge for Girl Guides to help inspire a new generation of female engineers.
‘One of the reasons I’ve stayed with Amey has been its people and something you get back from clients is that they value the people that are within Amey.’
COMBINING SKILLS AND INNOVATION
‘Our people are so important,’ says Lee. ‘But it’s what happens when you combine our skills with the latest innovation, technology and data approaches that is really exciting.’
Lee began his career working for British Rail in 1971 in the civil engineers drawing offce in Newport, South Wales. ‘That was in the days when you used linen tracing paper and real ink, and if you dropped your cup of tea on it, it turned into a handkerchief.’
He joined Amey in 1996 at the creation of the rail business and describes privatisation as a ‘step change’ in his career. ‘Things have changed a lot since I first started out, and I believe a lot of the innovation we’ve seen has been down to private-sector investment.’
Lee sees Amey as one of the rail industry’s innovators. He talks enthusiastically about the way much of the asset monitoring work is now done by drone to access hard to reach areas. Amey isn’t just utilising drones to support its projects, it is also investing in new technology. Amey has created a joint venture with a company called VTOL Technologies to develop an autonomous drone, called The Flying Wing, designed specically to carry out asset monitoring.
‘The drone is transforming the way we inspect infrastructure and is capable of deploying ground penetrating radar, high definition video, thermal imaging and infrared, and has already been trialled in a railway environment.’
Collaboration is also key for Amey and reflects the changing market – as a leader in infrastructure asset management, Amey’s rail team work with its engineering designers, strategic consultants and operational specialists to help clients and asset owners to better understand and manage their assets.
‘It’s the way we combine our analytic capabilities and consulting expertise with our experience of operational delivery that creates a unique o ering,’ says Lee ‘We have the expertise to harvest data that matters and then have some of the brightest talent interpret what the data is telling us and translate this into outcomes for our customers.’
There are plenty more examples. The company is also working with the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in Coventry to develop innovative safety solutions to protect its workforce. For example, they are working on personal warning systems in helmets and PPE that alert sta who are moving out of a safe working zone.
A GROWING PRESENCE
This change in ways of working has had a significant influence on Amey’s rail business. In 1996, Amey acquired Western Infrastructure Maintenance Company during the privatisation of British Rail. Since then, it has gone from being a business largely concerned with maintenance to a multi-disciplined contractor delivering projects like the electrification of the Great Western main line and Crossrail.
‘Our footprint now is right across the network. And it’s growing. We’re always looking at opportunities to expand our capabilities and expertise.’ Says Lee.
In the flurry of announcements that followed the election was the confirmation that Amey was one of two new organisations to be issued with a pre-qualification questionnaire (PQQ) passport from the Department of Transport, allowing it to bid for upcoming rail franchise competitions between now and 2019.
In the announcement itself Lee said, ‘This is a significant milestone for our rail business and it’s a testament to the exceptional work we’ve delivered in the sector over the past few decades. We’re really excited about taking on more passenger rail services and providing even better journeys for the travelling public.’
July also sees the start of the company’s contract to manage and maintain Greater Manchester’s Metrolink tram service. It will do so alongside Keolis – the same partnership that has been successfully running London’s Docklands Light Railway.
In 2003, Amey became part of the Tube Lines consortium which maintained the Jubilee, Northern and Piccadilly lines on behalf of Transport for London (TfL) through a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) arrangement. As the operations director for Tube Lines, Lee oversaw some sizeable improvements in performance on the Northern line. When maintenance activities were brought in-house by TfL in 2010, Amey was awarded a contract to continue maintaining the three lines. Lee says one of his proudest achievements was helping to deliver high levels of reliability on the Tube network during London 2012.
Amey’s core rail business, however, remains its infrastructure monitoring, maintenance and renewals. Through the Civil Examination Framework Agreements (CEFA) framework it holds with Network Rail, Amey is responsible for monitoring the condition of more than 100,000 assets around the network.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
Amey’s inroads into train operations reflects a wider transport sector that is becoming more closely integrated, Lee believes. ‘We’ve got to look at what’s happening generally in the rail market; it’s a changing market.’
In 2015, Lee was nominated by his colleagues for a lifetime achievement award. The nomination described Lee as a team leader who is ‘respected for his management style and commitment to the job’.
Says Lee, ‘Being nominated for the lifetime achievement award was a huge honour, and I hope I’m not being disrespectful when I say that I’m not ready to hang up my oranges just yet. The rail industry is such an exciting place to be and I can’t wait to see what’s in store next.’
This article was written by Marc Johnson