With Network Rail’s Control Period 7 (CP7) starting in April, the rail sector is looking ahead, with businesses working across the industry gearing up to meet new challenges, delivering more for less, and in areas such as sustainability, infrastructure resilience, network and operational efficiency; all while reflecting on lessons learned from CP6.

Railway engineering is a complex, multidisciplinary sector, with civil engineering and systems inextricably linked.  All disciplines must be in harmony to deliver a solution to a railway engineering challenge. Thanks to their discipline specialisation, specialist Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) provide innovation, helping to drive railway engineering forward, improve safety, reduce journey times and deliver for less. By developing strategic partnerships with like-minded organisations, SMEs can provide the multidisciplinary services required. Our sum is indeed greater than our parts. 

Throughout CP6, at Whitfield Consulting Services (WCS) we worked in close collaboration with key partners to provide multidisciplinary services. In particular, we have an ongoing and long-standing partnership with Andromeda Engineering, a fellow SME specialising in multidisciplinary design and engineering for rail systems. For rail electrification schemes, with our experience with system civils design, complemented by Andromeda’s expertise in overhead line equipment (OLE), signalling, HV and LV systems, our partnership has proven to be highly effective.

Working together, we offer a comprehensive suite of services that cover all aspects of rail consultancy; we are well placed to provide multidisciplinary rail services across the sector during CP7.

The road and rail ahead: meeting CP7 goals

The government and the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) have set ambitious targets for this period,  including significant reductions in journey delays and increases in capacity, and a 21% reduction in carbon emissions. Projects to grow the electrified network, and strengthen infrastructure resilience to climate change will be key to achieving these targets.

These aims are to be delivered in a period of tight budgets, so the pressure is on for designers to deliver innovative and efficient solutions to meet these goals in a cost-effective manner.

SME collaboration offers specialist skills at scale

In the face of tight budgets, working with SMEs like WCS and Andromeda offers advantages, such as streamlined decision-making processes and minimal managerial overheads.

“I would say WCS is known for three key traits,” says Jeremy Barnes, Technical Director at WCS. “Firstly, a can-do attitude that is open to innovation – this agility means we have successfully supported clients on reactive frameworks delivering solutions very quickly. The second is experience; while we are well known as a rail civil engineering consultancy, we also bring expertise from the Power & Energy sector – this breadth of ideas and solutions is beneficial for rail projects that often bring together different approaches in other safety critical environments, alongside those of Network Rail.”

WCS provides expert design services for both civil structures, and system civils. Civil structures include over and under bridges, ground retention structures and slope stability analyses, platforms and stations, and tunnels. System civils include lineside services and troughing routes, over and under-track crossings and OLE support structures.

As well as the mentioned OLE, signalling, HV and LV design, key skills at Andromeda Engineering include safety assurance, and work on aspects of the permanent way such as track alignment. We are both highly experienced in reactive as well as preventative maintenance projects.

“Finally, we’re well known for our collaborative approach – we believe this allows us to offer the best value and quality of solution. As demonstrated in our partnership with Andromeda, which is built on a shared commitment to high standards and recognising from our experience on CP6, that together we can offer a full multidisciplinary engineering design service often required on projects, while also combined with depth of expertise you only get from working with specialists.  We utilise the combined office locations of both organisations so that we can provide a local office to most projects in the UK,” comments Jeremy.

“Between the two of us, there’s very little in rail we can’t cover, as both companies have come to realise,” continues Jeremy. “With a team of just two SMEs, we can be a one-stop-shop for rail consultancy projects, which is a fantastic thing to be able to offer clients over the course of CP7.”

Why accessibility is key to project success

Our clients know us as a company where named engineers they have worked with throughout a project, and members of the leadership team, are always available, and decisions can be made quickly. We have an unwavering commitment to get the job done.

Andromeda shares this ethos of accessibility. “If clients face a challenge, or simply want some informal guidance on an upcoming tender, they know they can pick up the phone,” says Jeremy. “We’re carrying this forward into our partnership, understanding that a barrier to working with multiple SMEs can sometimes be the number of people involved or complexity of billing. We’re committed to offering a client the simplicity of one single point of contact for all aspects of a project.”

“We’re currently strengthening aspects of the partnership with Andromeda,” continues Jeremy. “Key to it is that we have come to know one another as individuals as well as companies. We work as well together as we do with WCS colleagues internally, and we trust each other. On a naturally civils-led project, Andromeda is comfortable providing design support to WCS, leaving WCS to manage the client interface and reporting. Conversely, WCS is comfortable providing design support to Andromeda for systems led projects. Between us, we cover so much ground that we are able to offer clients the managerial ease that comes with engaging a single consultant, but also all of the strengths of an SME.”

Complementary skills but shared values

The trust that exists between WCS and Andromeda is born of a similar worldview, as well as mutual professional respect. Both organisations have a focus on formal process and accreditation as a basis for engineering. WCS is Railway Industry Supplier Qualification Scheme accredited by audit, among other standards, while Andromeda’s work in asset management, for example, is founded on ISO 5500. Both companies see safety as a defining focus, with the health and safety by design principles and safety assurance being a core service for both organisations.

With sustainability a key focus for CP7, WCS and Andromeda are committed to continuing to support the decarbonisation of the rail network, and look forward to continuing to build on our work on rail electrification. For WCS, no value is more central to our work than sustainability, as our recent NCE Award for Environmental, Social and Governance Leader demonstrates.

“Collaboration is vital to delivering more sustainable projects,” says Jeremy. “As we can work together to maximise efficiencies looking closely at the scope of works to advise on reuse of structures and materials where possible, as well as ensuring we’re offering designs that minimise carbon emissions.”

Working together, WCS and Andromeda have the breadth of expertise to deliver the complete, multidisciplinary rail consultancy projects the industry will need to meet CP7 goals. Together, and separately, we have records of consistent excellence in rail.

To find out what that expertise can deliver on your next project, please get in touch on (0)20 3581 7847, info@wcs-consult.co.uk, or via our contact page.

Read more: reflecting on CP6 and what to expect from CP7