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Waterman Burrow Crocker


Waterman's civil and transportation consultancy, WBC, has a wide range of clients, split 60:40 between the private and public sectors. Although its head office is in London there are also offices in 17 other locations.

It offers design and site supervision across a wide range of civil engineering and transportation disciplines, from conventional highway and bridge engineering to rail and airport design, traffic and transportation, drainage and flood studies and geotechnics.

As part of a large consultancy group, WBC is also involved in multi-disciplinary projects, working alongside its structures, M&E and environmental specialists.

The merger of Waterman's civil and transportation division with Aspen Consulting, to create WBC, means the new company can compete for larger projects, according to managing director John Waiting. 'Now we can go for any size of project. By coming together we have re-energised each other and we are now actively competing for major projects.'

The firm's policy, he says, is to 'diversify within the areas we serve' by offering a wide range of civils and transportation solutions to clients in a variety of market sectors. 'You need a healthy mix of different types of work, different types of clients and different market sectors, ' he believes, arguing that this guards against the pitfalls of a fluctuating economy in any single sector.

'Within the company our work ranges from 'soft' engineering, such as transport studies and air, noise and flood studies; through to heavy civil engineering, roads, bridges and railway infrastructure - with everything in between, ' says Waiting. 'It means the range of experience our staff can get is very broad.'

With so many offices throughout the UK and internationally, there are also opportunities for relocation.

Work on major projects is spread around the offices, which are all linked by high-speed computer connections.

Waterman Group has what Waiting describes as an 'advanced' sustainability policy.

'We are always looking at the sustainability aspects of what we do, ' he says, adding that WBC works closely with Waterman Environmental on many schemes.

Emphasis on the needs of the client has resulted in the company winning much repeat business from private sector clients, particularly developers, and in securing term consultancy and partnering deals with local authorities and others in the public sector.

Public sector An important element of Aspen Consulting's work was always longterm contracts with public sector organisations - a policy that is being continued and expanded under Waterman ownership.

WBC has five term consultancy agreements with local authorities as well as ad hoc arrangements with dozens more. It has also been working in a 'preferred consultant' role for the Ministry of Defence on the maintenance of its barracks infrastructure in Aldershot.

'I think what local authorities expect of a term consultancy arrangement is the flexibility to handle extra work when it is needed, ' explains Keith Kennett, divisional director in charge of WBC's south east public sector work.

The contracts vary from simple civils or transportation projects to complex schemes, including civil engineering structures. Although no work is guaranteed under these arrangements - the company simply submits a bill of rates and the council decides which work to outsource - most are worth between £200,000 and £750,000 a year to the consultant.

Brian Hanson, associate director, at WA, heads up a team running a term consultancy at the London Borough of Greenwich. 'We are there to help cope with the peaks and troughs, ' he explains.

Hanson supervises WA staff who work alongside council employees on planned work such as 20mph traffic zones and parking schemes. Any larger outsourced projects are handled in collaboration with Kennett's team based at WBC's Lingfield office.

Private sector WBC's projects for private sector clients range from small car parks to infrastructure design on major housing and business developments. 'That balance of smaller schemes with large projects is what makes the company special, ' says Stuart Jackman, divisional director of the south east development infrastructure team.

He is handling a £15M project to install a high quality, FastTrack bus system in a new mixed use development in Dartford, Kent, which includes a crossing of the M25 and a new interchange with the local train station. At the same time his team carries out many smaller, self-contained schemes which, he says, provide excellent grounding for young engineers.

'One simple car park scheme could include new highway access, a water course with a small bridge over it, retaining walls and all the drainage. The engineer would have to carry out all the pavement design, lighting and landscaping and handle the approvals with the Environment Agency, client, planning authority and contractor.

'You learn much more and get the responsibility of talking to all these people. It's your project and you're involved in all aspects of setting it up. It's a very good learning background for young engineers.'

Carol Ryan, a graduate hoping to become chartered this year,agrees. She has been with the company since leaving university and has worked on a wide range of small and large projects, both in the office and on site.

'I've done a variety of things, ' she says. 'I started doing transportation and traffic impact studies, then went on to drainage works and site experience. Now I'm working on bridges and heavy civils.'

Her site experience includes the Bluewater shopping development and a demolition project in Bristol.

Design experience includes infrastructure improvements on industrial sites in south London and the Grosvenor Dock housing scheme close to the Thames at Pimlico - which includes a car park beneath the dock. She is currently working on the design of a viaduct as part of a massive development at White City in London for which Waterman is carrying out both structural and civil engineering design.

Jackman says many of the projects WBC carries out require a 'practical, common sense' approach, but adds: 'Anyone joining the company must be client focused because we believe in a high level of client care.'

He believes this is an exciting time to be with the company.

'Effectively it's a new company, ' he says, 'so there are endless opportunities. There is so much potential here and everybody is working and growing together.'

International Waterman has a strong international presence, with offices in China, Russia, Australia and Romania.

Traditionally the work undertaken by these branches has been in the building sector. But with the growth of the company's civil engineering expertise, Waterman is picking up far more civil and transportation contracts abroad.

The consultant's preference is to build up expertise in local offices, rather than fly in ex-pats from the UK to do the work, so long term placements abroad are rare.

However, most of the international offices have yet to develop skills in civils and transportation, so these projects are carried out jointly with the UK. This often involves regular trips to the international offices or even a stay of between one and six months.

One Waterman Burrow Crocker engineer is on a year's secondment to Senegal to help out with an infrastructure project in Dakar.

Others make regular trips to Moscow, Warsaw and even Chongqing in China, where the company has a road design commission.

Chris Bychawski is the WBC associate responsible for liaising with the offices abroad, and spends much of his time travelling.

'We have some fantastic jobs which allow people to travel, ' he says. 'We always try to make people aware that we have jobs in different countries, and encourage exchanges between the offices

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