Decarbonisation will be a significant focus for the rail industry over the next 30 years as the UK Government aims to remove all diesel-only trains by 2040, with a legally binding commitment to net-zero carbon by 2050. The railway has recognised that, collectively, we must do more to be part of the solution to climate change.
Network Rail estimates that to decarbonise our rail network completely, 13,000 single track kilometres will need to be electrified by 2050 – approximately 450 kilometres every year – to achieve net-zero; however, it has been identified that only 251 kilometres was electrified from 2019-2020.
To help Network Rail deliver these targets, a new collaborative partnership – comprising three leading rail companies within the Renew Holdings Group – has been launched.
AmcoGiffen, REL (Rail Electrification Limited) and QTS together form ARQ – a truly integrated self-delivery model for the UK rail network as it moves closer to achieving these electrification and decarbonisation targets. ARQ will play its part in meeting the challenges set to industry by Network Rail in response to the decarbonisation agenda.
Individually, each of the businesses has been providing expert services in their respective disciplines to enable electrification programmes across the country throughout Control Periods 5 and 6. By coming together as a unique family, the ARQ partnership will offer an unprecedented in-house delivery model covering the full range of railway engineering services required for future electrification schemes.
Andries Liebenberg is the Executive Director responsible for Renew Holdings’ rail activities. He said: “The Department for Transport, Transport Scotland and Transport for Wales – through Network Rail – have set very demanding targets for the industry. One of the key challenges is that of affordability. It is clear that the rate of cost increase on typical electrification projects is no longer sustainable. In addition, development lifecycles are getting longer while not always delivering the desired outcomes.
“ARQ has the ambition to be an integral part of the solution and the future of decarbonisation of the UK rail network.
“This is a partnership that is ideally structured to meet the targets which have been set to the industry by Network Rail. ARQ’s significant differentiator is that it will work in partnership as a unified family of companies, each bringing their unique skills and self-delivering the broad scope of what makes up any rail system.”
All bases covered
ARQ offers a complete delivery model with a flat structure and reporting lines, with directly employed specialist teams, supported by an extensive plant fleet. Through this, it has the ability to reduce or remove the often-complex contracting models which can add unnecessary layers of cost and risk to any programme.
It will create a more collaborative working environment, with all parties aspiring to achieving the same common goal which, when complemented with early involvement from project inception, will optimise disciplines integration, remove unnecessary job role duplications and promote innovation. Workforce safety maturity will also be reinforced through continuity of safety behaviours, whether individuals are working through the ARQ partnership or their respective subsidiary.
ARQ is already embracing Project SPEED, applying it to schemes currently in development and delivery. This distinct, agile structure and direct delivery model has been well received, with early signs proving to be very positive.
Commitment to invest
This exciting new partnership is led by Vinny O’Holloran who joins from Costain Group where he was project director within its rail division for six years. Working on projects including Queen Street Station and Stirling-Dunblane-Alloa, he brings considerable experience to this newly created role as director, responsible for implementing strategy at ARQ.
Vinny commented: “Joining ARQ is a real highlight for me and I was immediately struck by the investment that has already been made. It demonstrates the commitment that all three businesses – and Renew Holdings – have to making this venture stand out from the crowd. It is obvious that they have listened to what the customer has said and carefully crafted a strategy which I very much look forward to executing.
“The role will allow me to have independent control over the activity of ARQ, ensuring consistency throughout. It also gives the customer the confidence that they have an accountable individual who is instantly able to influence a programme, with direct access to those who are delivering the works.
“At ARQ we understand that electrification is a significant contributor in meeting Network Rail’s decarbonisation commitments and that things have to change to drive efficiency. We want to be part of this change; to help drive it forward. We already have the skills within each business to do this and the ability to supplement the skills and knowledge gap in the industry. I am excited by our existing large in-house training facility and plans to expand which will enable us to further invest in training and develop sustainable skills for the future.
“By working together, we bring every element required for what is a rail system under one accountable, collaborative partnership.”
ARQ is also committed to continuing innovation both on and off track. Vinny added: “We are very conscious of the fact that possession time on the railway is at a premium, so we will ensure that we maximise access by continued investment into bespoke rail plant, but also to explore further innovation in the design and build process. We must be able to accurately design in a virtual world, build (where we can) off the railway and then use the access time efficiently, ensuring minimal disruption for the travelling public and maximise productivity.”
ARQ is currently in talks with key stakeholders to look at ways in which it can help to support upcoming electrification projects across the network.