Leaders from Laing O’Rourke, HS2 and Network Rail have been among CN’s most popular interviewees in 2017.
In a rare interview, Laing O’Rourke founder and CEO Ray O’Rourke sat down with CN editor Tom Fitzpatrick in the wake of the contractor’s first ever loss.
He set out his long-term vision for the industry and how it has to change, including a move to offsite and embracing new technologies.
“I see a change in our industry,” he said. “When I look at organisations like us that have had a bad financial performance in the last few years, they’re saying, ‘We’re not doing it to ourselves anymore’. It’s time we got rewarded appropriately for what we do. People will stop this race to the bottom.”
Mr O’Rourke also gave a hint about his plans for the future, stating that it was his preference to stand down from Laing O’Rourke when the trading year closes in 2020.
Infrastructure reporter Jack Simpson spoke to HS2 phase one central programme Mike Hickson about the next steps now that the £6.6bn civils contracts have been awarded.
He said it would still be well over a year before work began – or before HS2 even knows exactly what the final design of the line will be.
Only the design contracts have actually been signed so far, he pointed out, with the construction part of the deal coming into play once design is complete and a target price and works programme is agreed with HS2, which may not happen until early 2019.
He also hit back at concerns about Carillion, saying there was nothing about the troubled contractor’s involvement in the civils works “that concerns me at this stage”.
Infrastructure Projects managing director Francis Paonessa is the man tasked with overseeing two-thirds of Network Rail’s spending.
His tenure has seen high-level scrutiny of both the organisation and him personally, with cost over-runs in CP5, a company-wide restructure and no less than three government reviews of its operations.
Given this backdrop, Jack Simpson asked him whether he ever felt like the fall guy. “I don’t,” he replied. “The business could cope with the way it was measured in the past but was frankly no longer fit for purpose for the finite structure and increase in traffic on the railway. We needed to come up with a plan to change.”
Mr Paonessa used his interview with CN to set out that plan and explain what contractors can do to help Network Rail.
The balance of power has shifted in recent years, with specialist subcontractors becoming more picky over the jobs they can do and many seeing decent financial rewards as a result.
So it was interesting to hear the then chief executive of engineering specialist Spie explain how his business had evolved from a specialist into a main contractor in just five years. Speaking to CN in February, James Thoden van Velzen said he had made the business “responsible for its own destiny”.
The interview makes especially interesting reading now, as three months later Mr Thoden van Velzen left the company and was replaced by Rob Goodhew.
In October the firm posted a pre-tax loss of £19.8m for the year to 31 December 2016, blaming “an impairment charge taken against one of the company’s investment” as the primary cause.
Paul Menacer, a 23 year-old Morgan Sindall employee working on the Crossrail Pudding Mill Lane portal project, woke up to the sound of screaming one morning in June.
Mr Menacer lived in Grenfell Tower, and CN spoke to him the week after the fire to hear his harrowing story.
In this interview, he tells us about what happened when he woke up, how he escaped the tower, and the support he had received from the industry.