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Full speed ahead

If there is one market that has survived the global recession and is growing rapidly, it is rail. Politicians and leaders worldwide are realising the importance of rail as a sustainable means of meeting transport demands, making the sector an extremely attractive one for civil engineers.

2Rail transport is an attractive solution to environmental issues such as carbon dioxide emissions and global warming. What’s more, the rapid growth of fuel prices around the world will further promote the intermodal shift towards rail transport. This will trigger additional investments in infrastructure, rolling stock, rail control and services.

That was the view of European rail industry association Unife’s authoritative World Rail Market Study back in the heady pre-global recession days of 2008. Then, it estimated the total annual world market for the rail supply industry at €122bn (£100bn), with an expected annual growth of between 2% and 2.5 % over the next nine years.

Growth despite recession

What is remarkable is that Unife’s latest study, published in the midst of the global crash in late 2010, shows that growth during the two years of deep recession actually outperformed that estimate. It put the three year average of the 2007 to 2009 total rail supply market at €136bn (£111bn), an increase of 12% or a compound annual growth rate of 5.8%. Infrastructure spend has increased £4.1bn to £22bn per year in that time.

It again conservatively predicts steady annual growth of 2.4% until 2015/16 - with likely curtailment or delay to projects in Greece, Portugal and Spain due to the debt crisis more than offset by “healthy mega-trends” driving the demand. Industry experts interviewed for the study believed that this will continue until 2020.

Hyder Consulting director of transport for Germany, Stefan Wallmann is certainly one of those believers. “We have seen the wave coming for a long, long time,” he says. “If you see what’s happening in the world - in China, in India, in the Middle East - the rate of urbanisation is quite amazing.”

The figures tell the story - according to the United Nations, world population is projected to grow 47% from 6.9bn in 2010 to 8.9bn in 2050. Much of this growth will be in the less developed world and Wallmann is certain that public transport - and particularly metro and light rail - will be vital.


Rail people: Luke Palmer on Australia’s Ulan+ Alliance


The Ulan+ Alliance was established in 2009 to increase the capacity of the 170km Ulan Railway Line in preparation for increases in coal demand and exports from Newcastle Port.

The Hunter Valley Coal Chain is the largest coal export operation in the world and is expanding. An alliance was established between Australian Rail Track Corporation, MVM Rail and Macmahon, with Hyder is a sub-alliance partner to the MVM/Macmahon JV.
Hyder is responsible for track, civil and structures design, environmental assessments, planning approvals and environmental management for proposed passing loops and loop extensions on the single track line.
Five rail loops have been built to date.
I am a permanent way engineer with 10 years of rail industry experience in Australia. Here, I drive the design process on the project while managing Hyder’s commercial position. The Ulan+ Alliance is a true alliance with all team members working together; the alliance has many projects running at the same time under tight timeframes, and my time management and attention to detail has been tested.
In Australia, Hyder’s rail team and Hyder’s reputation as a rail consultancy is growing. It’s great to be part of the ride, creating a positive legacy in all our work.

  • Luke Palmer is design manager on the Ulan+ Alliance


“If you go back to the late 19th century, railways were the means of mass transportation. Then cars took over, but this led to congestion. Rail will be experiencing a real renaissance,” says Wallmann.

That is certainly the case in the Middle East, which has been identified as a key market for Hyder. “There have been some large population increases in recent years and there is considerable congestion on the roads,” explains Hyder Consulting’s Middle East major bids and contracts director Alan Lord.

“Some very ambitious solutions are being rolled out.” These include pan-Gulf high speed and freight networks and metro schemes in Kuwait and Qatar.

Qatar metro

Qatar is particularly exciting, with the country racing to get a 126km long metro up and running in time for it to host the 2022 Fifa World Cup. It’s an incredible ask, with 58km of bored tunnel and 46km of elevated track required. And the intensity hardly lets up then, with the final network supporting the country’s 2030 vision running to 216km. “It is a very simple message,” says Wallmann. “Just look at the numbers. Qatar Metro is $30bn-plus (£19bn plus) on civils work alone. The size speaks for itself.”

Hyder is working with an international consortium bidding for design and build construction packages on this mega-scheme.

And it is not just in the developing world. Much closer to home, the demand on Britain’s rail network has never been higher and Network Rail’s initial plan for the next five year regulatory Control Period starting in 2014 seeks £10.1bn for enhancement work. This includes £4.9bn to complete existing schemes including Thameslink, Crossrail and the Great Western Line electrification and £5.6bn for new projects such as the Northern Hub and electrification of the Midland Main Line and North Trans-Pennine routes. It doesn’t even cover the High Speed 2 mega-project, which appears to have real political momentum behind it, even if no decision on construction will be made in this Parliament.

“The last three years have been an exciting time - a time of real growth,” says rail sector managing director for the UK Mac Alghita. “And it is looking positive for the next two or three years.” Hyder is busy working on the £14.5bn Crossrail project, £5.5bn Thameslink programme - including acting as Costain’s designer on the £500M remodelling of London Bridge station.


Rail people: James Dessain on London Crossrail



Crossrail’s £250M Whitechapel station is one of the most complex on the £14.5bn project’s route.

As well as London Underground’s (LU’s) existing District and Hammersmith & City Lines, interchange at Whitechapel will include a direct connection to new East London Line services and, of course, Crossrail.
The Crossrail platforms will be built below ground to the north of the existing LU station while the new ticket hall will be built above the District and Hammersmith & City Line platforms.

I have spent the last two years managing the design of the station for Crossrail. This was the most exciting project I have ever worked on; not only was it part of the largest infrastructure project in Europe but I was managing a team of up to 180 dedicated professional engineers and technicians. The team excelled in engineering design, communicating and thinking laterally to optimise the station layout.

The team took the bold step of moving the ticket hall, redesigning it entirely to make the passenger routes more direct. This meant a smaller station footprint with more of the passenger flow being above ground, resulting in a smoother flowing station and reduced costs. It has to be said that this option had been considered in the past, however, it had been discounted as being too difficult to achieve. The development of this option and the production of the final design were completed within the original programme. This change not only produced a better station layout but it saved the client in excess of £60M.

I have now moved on to an even more demanding project - the development of London Bridge station. Here, the most demanding aspect will be producing a design to keep the station fully operational during construction.

  • James Dessain is project director for the Hyder/WSP JV - designing GRiP 5-8 for the London Bridge Station Development


Australia is also witnessing a surge in demand for its railways, largely to supply its massive mining operations.

East Asia too continues to require rail expertise. These regions are also fertile ground for Hyder’s rail engineers.
Across the world the installed base of rail track has now reached - that’s 40 times the circumference of the earth - with 5.2M units of rolling stock deployed on this network. The work is there; the real challenge is ensuring there are the right people to do it.

“With all this growth globally, first and foremost you need experienced rail people,” says Wallmann.

“If you really want to be riding the wave of this growth you have to be able to support the full project lifecycle with people who can develop the business case, people who understand how the railway will operate, and then people who can work through all the stages of design, construction and maintenance.” This means employing a full range of skills from economists and architects at the top end to signalling, power and rail systems engineers at the delivery end.

North London Line



The £328M upgrade of the North London line, which reopened on time in June 2010 as brand new commuter service, sums up the need for this multi-disciplinary capacity. The project demanded the renewal of 7km of track and 69 sets of points, 30 platform extensions and upgrading more than 200 signals for the creation of the best performing railway in the UK. At its peak, Hyder’s team of multi-disciplinary engineers delivered 100 designs in 100 days, working collaboratively with Network Rail and Carillion.

Today, modern technology is used by firms like Hyder to minimise the carbon footprint of travel; for example Hyder’s BIM models can be shared on multiple schemes around the globe in real time during conference calls. But this use of technology is blended with highly skilled teams on the ground, so the willingness to travel is key.

“It is an exciting way of working,” says Alghita. “We are providing our people with great opportunities to work on global projects.”

Rail people: Geoff Leffek on Qatar Rail


Doha Metro will be the first project on the massive Qatar Integrated Railways Projects programme, a £21.6bn network of metro, light rail and heavy rail projects. Hyder is in a pivotal position to be heavily involved in the rail opportunities in Qatar.

The next few years will be very exciting as the country will experience an unprecedented transformation, with Doha becoming a true world-class city. There is determination and the resources to achieve the ambitious targets that Qatar has set itself.

Hyder is well placed to benefit from upcoming work packages as we have built relationships and solidified our professional reputation with the client and a number of strategic partners. So we will be very busy later this year and this is an excellent opportunity for enthusiastic and career-minded engineers to get involved at the start, taking leading roles in world-class projects that are on a scale of being some of the largest projects globally. The client, Qatar Rail, is looking for the best consultants to bring their A-teams, (their top engineering talent), to Doha to create these truly transformational assets.

We anticipate being very busy with rail projects in the Middle East for the next 10 years. There are significant opportunities in the region with all GCC countries planning major rail projects for design and construction in the next few years.

  • Geoff Leffek is Hyder’s Middle East rail director responsible for building and managing the rail business in the region.



Currently Hyder is building up its rail team in the Middle East to support its aspirations there as well as drawing on international skills and transferring people to the region.

“It’s about helping people to understand that the opportunities for career progression in the Middle East are excellent,” says Lord.

Getting good people is key for clients across the world, whether for Crossrail in the UK, Qatar Rail in the Middle East, Hong Kong’s MTR or work related to the resources sector in Australia.

“What we try and do is impress on clients our culture of innovation,” says Alghita. He cites work Hyder undertook on Whitechapel station for Crossrail where a redesign saved many millions (see box).

Sharing innovation passion

“We want engineers and project managers who share our passion for innovation and fostering long-term client relationships. Hyder is a great place to work - we are very down to earth while providing opportunities for our people to grow and develop their careers in a stimulating and collaborative environment. We are constantly looking for quality people who share our values and are determined to focus on the client’s needs.”

In the UK the demand for innovation is coming through from clients like Network Rail with tough efficiency targets.

“Clients need to save billions and so are encouraging the supply chain to come up with solutions that can be built more quickly and more efficiently,” says Alghita. “It is liberating.”

Alghita is particularly encouraged by moves towards thin clients, alliancing and co-locating of project teams. Hyder has much experience here.

With Network Rail, where the organisation is reforming into a new company focused on partnering, Hyder has developed a best practice guide to alliance working. And on Crossrail Hyder has been co-located with the client for two years now. Similarly on London Bridge it is also co-located with client Network Rail, contractor Costain and fellow designer WSP.

Wallmann says those moves are being repeated across the world. “That is a general trend through most of the geographies where we work,” he says. “New organisations - for example Qatar Rail - are very lean, highly efficient and so have to rely on external expertise.

“It is a very good sign,” he adds. “We are in the age of collaboration” he says.


Rail people: Lewis Lau on Hong Kong’s Wampoa Station




The Hong Kong office is responsible for the detailed design of a new MTR underground station and overrun tunnel to be constructed as part of the Kwun Tong Line Extension.

Whampoa station will be built in rock and mixed ground conditions beneath the busy streets of Hong Kong’s second largest private housing estate.

The station design has adopted a single platform layout served by two independent concourse areas to service peak train operations every four minutes.

The project required Hyder to place a team of over 40 engineers, architects and designers including sub-consultants in a dedicated project office to work alongside the client team. This allowed the partnering approach adopted by the client to flourish such that design decisions could be quickly reached during the intensive design programme. Construction started in 2011 with a completion date set for 2015.

I started my career with Hyder in the London office back in 1992, and have since worked in the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Vietnam, China and of course, Hong Kong. Hyder has provided me with opportunities to experience different types of projects with different clients, different team members and different cultures. That has been vital here, where I am managing a multi-disciplinary design team and need to have rounded interpersonal skills to be able to coordinate between the different disciplines.

  • Lewis Lau is project manager of Hyder’s design team for the MTR KTE Detailed Design of Whampoa Station project.


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