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Balfour Beatty's Andrew Wolstenholme to be new Crossrail boss

Crossrail has today announced that Balfour Beatty director of innovation and strategic capability Andrew Wolstenholme has been appointed as its new chief executive replacing Rob Holden who steps down in mid-July.

‘Immensely looking forward to work’

Wolstenholme will take up the role of chief executive in September. He was previously project director for the construction of Heathrow Terminal 5 and oversaw construction of the £4bn terminal on time and on budget. He was also construction director for the Heathrow Express rail link and was airport operator BAA’s director of capital projects.

Wolstenholme said that delivering Crossrail on time and on budget is his top priority.

“Crossrail is a construction project of epic proportions and one of huge importance to Londoners,” he said.

“Crossrail is a construction project of epic proportions and one of huge importance to Londoners”

Andrew Wolstenholme

“My overarching priority is to deliver this project on time and on budget. I’m immensely looking forward to getting down to work.”

Wolstenholme should join the project with all major contracts let. Contracts to build the tunnels have been awarded and remaining contracts to build the stations are expected to be let shortly.

Wolstenholme’s current employer, Balfour Beatty, has had limited success in winning work to date, despite forming a powerful joint venture with Morgan Sindall and Vinci with the addition of Alpine-Bemo for tunnelling work. It has so far only succeeded in picking up the up to £250M early access shafts and sprayed concrete lining works at Whitechapel and Liverpool Street stations.

Contract scrutiny likely

Wolstenholme is likely to scrutinise the contract awards and the strategies of winning contractors, having previously been a vocal critic of cut-price tendering and the way main contractors abuse the supply chain.

In 2009 he led Constructing Excellence’s scathing review of the construction industry’s progress in implementing the recommendation’s of Sir John Egan’s Rethinking Construction report published in 1998.

The report slammed construction bosses for adopting a “skin deep” approach to improving efficiency, quality and profitability and for allowing “subbie-bashing” and a claims culture to return.

“The low penetration of cultural change has been exposed by the economic downturn, with evidence that clients and main contractors are now reverting to type,” Wolstenholme told NCE in 2009 (NCE 15 October 2009).

“Instead of drawing opportunity up from the supply chain, there is a determination by main contractors in particular to tender every package, every time, and select on the basis of lowest price.

“We are seeing a return to long tender lists, firms chasing work at unsustainable margins, cost and time overruns, jettisoning of quality or sustainability initiatives and more of a claims-oriented approach,” said Wolstenholme at the time.

Rethinking construction

The Rethinking Construction report was an attempt to end cost overruns and disputes which dogged the industry in the 1980s and 1990s. It introduced radical ideas such as dedicated multi-disciplinary project teams, supply chain partnering and the use of prefabrication to eliminate defects and cut wastage.

But Constructing Excellence’s 2009 report Never Waste a Good Crisis, found that the industry’s approach to implementing Egan’s recommendations to be little more than lip service.

“Even where the principles of Rethinking Construction have been adopted, too often the commitment is skin-deep. Scratch beneath the surface and you find many so-called partners still seeking to avoid or exploit risk to maximise their own profits, rather than finding ways to share risk and collaborate genuinely so that all can profit,” said Constructing Excellence review team chairman Andrew Wolstenholme at the time.

Contributing to the report, Egan himself said the response to Rethinking Construction had been disappointing. “We could have had a revolution and what we’ve achieved is a bit of improvement. I would give the industry four out of 10.”

Egan set targets for 10% to 20% year on year improvements in safety, profitability, cost certainty, time certainty, capital cost, construction time and productivity.

Only the profitability target was met by the industry overall, with safety and productivity considered to have made reasonable progress. Shockingly, Wolstenhome’s report found there was still only a 50/50 chance of a project coming in on cost or on time.

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