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High Speed | Momentum Infrastructure: Expertise for high speed rail

Momentum Infrastructure is hoping to use its expertise on more major UK projects including High Speed 2 (HS2).

Momentum Infrastructure is a collaboration which earned its spurs working on construction of Scotland’s new Queensferry Crossing across the Firth of Forth.

Joint ventures always take a bit of time to bed in. Different cultures, project management approaches, business processes and even different languages mean there can be quite a few months before the teams are working at full efficiency.

Momentum Infrastructure, however, has been through all the ups and downs of creating a slick, single team. The three firms involved are currently working together to build the new Forth Road Bridge or Queensferry Crossing as part of Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors. And six years on from winning the contract they are on programme to complete and at the top of their game. 

High speed rail in Britain is in their sights. Momentum Infrastructure is currently shortlisted for one of the enabling works packages for Phase One of the new railway between London and Birmingham, and is confident of being selected to bid for the design and construction work packages on the route.

Queensferry crossing

Queensferry Crossing

Queensferry Crossing: Establishing a multinational working relationship

The three firms in the consortium are Hochtief, Dragados and Galliford Try. The fourth partner in FCBC – American Bridge – is not in the Momentum Infrastructure venture. “American Bridge builds big bridges and there are none of that scale on the HS2 route,” explains Galliford Try Infrastructure managing director and Momentum executive board director Tom de la Motte. “But we are on very good terms with them.”

De la Motte makes a good case for the benefits of using a tried and tested joint venture which is versed in employing its different skills and experiences to produce something rather more than the sum of the parts.

“We were a league of nations when we started Queensferry,” he explains. “But we’ve all adapted to each other’s way of communicating and resolved all commercial differences so we are safely through the trials and tribulations of establishing how to work together. We are a tried and tested joint venture now. We’ve learned a lot about each other and I’d say we were shovel ready.”

Madrid Atocha station

Madrid Atocha station

Dragados brings extensive Spanish high speed rail construction expertise to Momentum, including construction of Madrid’s Atocha station

Eighteen months ago when the firms were looking at HS2 opportunities and considering potential partners it made sense to discuss whether they wanted to do another UK project together. “The answer was a definite yes,” says De la Motte. 

“We have a good understanding of the UK market, its supply chain and workforce through Galliford Try. With Hochtief we have a firm with a reputation for being able to tackle complex engineering and with high speed rail experience in places like Taiwan as well as on the UK’s High Speed1 (HS1); and with Dragados, which has built almost 400km of high speed rail in Spain over the last few years, we have a firm that is at the leading edge of high speed rail, tunnel infrastructure and whose knowledge we can all share.”

As high speed rail has been built around the world, the region which knows the most about it has changed every few years. Japan, France, Germany, the UK, briefly with HS1, then China have all been the repository of knowledge. And latterly Spain has had the baton in its hands.

HS Guadarrama   tunnel

Guadarrama tunnel

Guadarrama Tunnel: Another Dragados high speed project

Spanish expertise is likely to play a big part in construction of the first phase of HS2 while the British build up their knowledge and workforce as it is constructed ready for phase two north to Leeds and Manchester.

Their experience is something the Spanish are happy to share.  Back in 2002 only five cities in Spain were connected by high speed rail, now there are 31 and Spain’s 3,100km network is the second largest in the world after China. 

The 400km of the network that Dragados has built since it started its involvement in developing Spain’s high speed railway in 1998 includes a 93km section of the 300km/h link between Madrid, Barcelona and the French border. 

Dragados has been able to introduce innovations, not only in technology but in relationships with our supply chain. We identified quickly that early engagement would bring early innovation that can be incorporated into design as well as construction

Javier Teulon, Dragados

The company also created the 50km, £1bn Figueras high speed link connecting the French and Spanish networks, which included the Perthus Tunnel,  an 8.3km, 9.98m diameter twin bore tunnel through the Pyrenées. And on the Antequera to Granada line, Dragados built the network’s world record-breaking viaduct at Archidona which is 3,150m long and something of a curved beauty.

Outside home territory, the California High-Speed Rail Authority has awarded an £860M contract to a joint venture team of Hochtief  subsidiary Flatiron and Dragados USA for a 97km stretch of the planned 832km high-speed rail line between Los Angeles and San Francisco.

“Dragados has been a major player in the development of high speed rail in Spain,” says Dragados UK managing director and Momentum Infrastructure executive board director Javier Teulon. “We have also built major stations at Atocha in Madrid which includes 15 high speed tracks under the city, eight platforms and the new high speed terminal.

Perthus tunnel

Perthus tunnel

Perthus tunnel on the French/Spanish border

“Throughout, we have been able to introduce innovations, not only in technology but in relationships with our supply chain. We identified quickly that early engagement would bring early innovation that can be incorporated into design as well as construction. 

“New ideas often help minimise impacts on stakeholders and that is really important. We have done it in Madrid and we have done it in the countryside where relationships are often more personal.”

Spanish expertise in high speed rail design is also being brought to the Momentum Infrastructure joint venture by consultant Ineco, which has been heavily involved with the development of the country’s network and which is working with the UK’s Capita as part of the JV.

New ideas often help minimise impacts on stakeholders and that is really important

Javier Teulon, Dragados

Dragados has other experience of building under capital cities, notably in London where the firm has been a major player on Crossrail. 

Working with John Sisk it drove the eastern running tunnels from the Limmo Peninsula to Farringdon and then linked Limmo to Pudding Mill Lane near Stratford under Victoria Dock. The 24km job – the longest on Crossrail – is forecast to be delivered under budget and ahead of programme. It gained good experience of London ground conditions such as London Clays, Lambeth Group and Thanet Sands. It also involved creating the largest sprayed concrete lined cavern in Europe at the Stepney Green junction crossover.

This confidence in working under the capital is also to be seen at the £564M Bank Underground station project for London Underground right in the heart of the City. This is a job which Dragados won in the face of fierce competition thanks to some innovative thinking that seriously impressed the client including replacing banks of lifts with two 94m long travelators to improve passenger flow.  

CTRL 5  c  Daniel Clements

High Speed 1

High Speed 1 was a key project for Hochtief in the UK

The project will increase capacity and relieve congestion by amalgamating Monument and Bank stations – creating a new ticket office and entrance, constructing a new 570m running tunnel and platform for the southbound Northern Line, converting the existing tunnel into additional circulation space. 

Momentum Infrastructure partner Hochtief can likewise point to successful work on Crossrail, when demonstrating its experience in the UK. It drove the £250M Thames Tunnel for the project, plumb on line. The German firm has been operating in Britain for 25 years. 

“We are known for taking on the technically challenging projects,” says Hochtief UK managing director and Momentum Infrastructure executive board member Sally Cox. 

M74 extension

M74 extension

Momentum partner Galliford Try was part of the consortium which built the M74 completion project

This includes launching bridge structures and box-jacking of underpasses. On its Paddington Bridge slide project , the contractor launched a major new bridge by elevating the old steel structure above it and launching the new bridge beneath. The new bridge spans 14 Network Rail lines, two London Underground lines, and the Grand Union Canal at the entrance to Paddington Station. 

And on the East Kent Access project Hochtief constructed the 126m long, 25m wide underpass via a box-jacking method, 6m below the operational railway. This was also the longest of its kind in the world.

Hochtief also constructed the Poole Harbour twin sails, double bascule bridge and works with London Underground and Highways England. For Network Rail it was part of the team delivering the Reading Station redevelopment and the complex Hitchin Grade Separation, a project undertaken as an alliance under BS11000. It was a first for Network Rail and set the standard for future collaborations.


Taiwan High Speed Rail

Taiwan High Speed Rail

Hochief built a 40km section of the Taiwan High Speed line

And Hochtief was unique in being the only contractor to be involved in building three sections of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link through Kent – Britain’s first high speed railway now known as HS1. Work there included sliding in a three span bridge weighing 9,100t, one of the heaviest ever slid in the UK.

In other high speed work, the firm built the 40km section between Taipei and Kaoshiung for Taiwan High Speed along with high speed rail projects in Germany.

Hochtief is a big business, and like Dragados is part of the world’s largest contracting group ACS. “We have real depth of expertise in the company,” says Cox. “If we don’t have the expertise we need in a country we pull it in from around the world from among our 50,000 employees.” 

Cox is a civil engineer and has built railways in Australia so is very comfortable with the demands of the rail industry, high speed or otherwise.

Crossrail Stepney Green

Crossrail Stepney Green

Crossrail: Another key Hochtief rail project in the UK

The third joint venture member is Galliford Try. It has been contracting in Britain for 125 years, is one of the country’s top 10 contractors and has a strong UK supply chain to call on. Relationship with the workforce is always key on major projects and on the Queensferry Crossing, Galliford Try has 400 directly employed operatives with which it has helped the whole joint venture develop healthy relations. Its understanding of how construction is done in the UK, the focus on stretching health and safety targets, knowledge of British Standards and rules around public sector construction are all pivotal to the Momentum Infrastructure jv. 

The firm also has a strong record in rail and road building – it was part of the Interlink team on the £445M M74 Completion Project which links the M74 and M8 in Glasgow. This was built on heavily contaminated land through the city, close to housing and beside the main line rail network. Relations with all those stakeholders were central to the success of the job and the company says it has developed strong skills in listening to concerns and taking care of local communities.

Most relevant to the credentials of Momentum Infrastructure, De la Motte believes is that the joint venture has a proven ability to collaborate successfully, from the top down.

“We have all learned a lot on Queensferry, and if we win HS2 work there will be a people who move with us to create the right culture. Also, as a board we have that nailed too. In most firms, the workforce mirrors the actions of the executive board. If the board is in conflict the workforce copies. So it is really important to have a leadership team in place that knows what to expect from each other. It leads to clarity of management and behaviour. That wasn’t where we were five years ago. But it is where we are now. Along with our expertise we think we are in a position second to none to deliver the best final product for any client.

“We are all passionate about Momentum Infrastructure. We really think it allows us to start day one with a team that works.”

 Produced in association with

Momentum Infrastructure


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