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An urge to merge

The fact that Kennedy & Donkin's Surrey head office is based on the site of an old watermill comes as little surprise: the company is known more in civil engineering circles for its expertise in the power industry than its prowess in railway design.

But director and business manager for transportation projects Tony Mustard wants to change all that. Mustard was brought in three years ago after 25 years' experience of design in both railways and highways around the world. And with all the changes that have happened both within K&D and the construction industry as a whole in the last few years, it's a mixture of skills that makes him ideally suited to the task.

Last month the company completed a management buy-back from Rust International Holdings Inc, the American firm that took it over five years ago. The move has allowed it to once again determine its own future, and has also added a number of new strings to its bow.

Among them is a large roads design capability inherited from consultant MRM Partnership - also bought by Rust in the early 1990s. But, as with many other consultants, the virtual culling of the roads programme has meant it has had to convert its highways engineers into railways designers.

'I was probably chosen for the job because I started out in roads and then made the switch to rail,' explains Mustard.

Many highways engineers are cutting their teeth on light rail design, he says. And with design contracts on the Midlands Metro line 1, Manchester Metro Salford extension and Croydon Tramlink currently on the books, they have plenty of opportunities to convert their skills.

In terms of UK rail turnover, K&D is already second only to WS Atkins, according to NCE's last rail infrastructure survey (NCE 23 April). Its main strength is its long history of M&E work in the rail sector, which has helped it to secure some significant contracts with Railtrack.

On the £2.2bn West Coast Main Line upgrade, it will be carrying out overhead catenary renewal for the whole line, and has also seconded staff to Railtrack to assist with tender appraisal for a new cutting-edge transmission- based signalling system.

'We seem to be quite successful in resignalling projects, and have a reputation within Railtrack for being innovative,' says Mustard.

The company has also formed an equal joint venture with Gibb and WS Atkins for the multi-functional design of the £600M Thameslink 2000 project. If a positive decision to proceed with the scheme is made by the Secretary of State in September, it will be the first main line railway in the UK to operate on a headway of two-minutes.

Mustard attributes the selection of the consortium as preferred bidder for the contract partly to K&D's success on Hong Kong's Kowloon-Kanton Railway, where it has already designed an automatic train protection system.

'Kowloon-Kanton will run at similar intensity to Thameslink 2000, so we are one step ahead of our competitors,' he says.

But he will only really be content once K&D is recognised as a 'one- stop shop for railway engineering', combining both M&E skills and civils expertise. And having won the design for one of the first major civils packages to be let on WCML - the re-modelling of track between Euston and Primrose Hill - he may not have too long to wait.

'Our marketing strength now is that we carry out all railway disciplines in-house. Clients seem to like that,' he says.

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