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Top 5 interviews from 2018: Bam, HS2 and McAlpine

This year we’ve featured Mark Thurston’s first full interview as HS2 boss, touched upon mental health with Trad chief Des Moore, and gone behind the scenes at the notoriously secretive McAlpine with its CEO Paul Hamer – here’s our top 5 interviews.

Bam CEO James Wimpenny 6073

Bam CEO James Wimpenny 6073

5) James Wimpenny, CEO, Bam Construct

Having had the role for six months, Bam Construct CEO James Wimpenny sat down with Construction News to talk margins, Carillion and the shining example of his beloved Huddersfield Town.

Mr Wimpenny stressed to CN the importance of profitability and cash during his sit-down, questioning why firms felt the need to grow and expand: “Why do we need to keep growing? Are we not just better being the best at what we do, running a strong, stable business where we’re getting cash in and paying our people on time?”

The conversation touched up on the gender pay gap, too. Bam Construct was the worst performer among the CN100 contractors in terms of its median gender pay gap, which stood at 59.6 per cent at the contractor.

Pressed by CN on what he intends to do about the gap, Mr Wimpenny said the firm had a lot of work to do, such as “modernising” its return-to-work policies. He intends to make changes, but insisted the challenges in construction are unique.

hs2 ceo mark thurston

hs2 ceo mark thurston

4) Mark Thurston, CEO, HS2

HS2’s chief executive endured a tough first 12 months in the job following a series of events including conflicts of interest, audit scandals and Carillion. He sat down with CN for what was his first full interview since taking the reins on one of the country’s most high-profile projects.

On the topic of Carillion – one part of the CEK JV (Carillion-Eiffage-Kier) working on phase one civils works – Mr Thurston admitted contingenices had been put in place when Carillion posted its first profit warning.

On the day that Carillion collapsed, the chief executive immediately called the CEOs of Kier and Eiffage to trigger contingency plans. Within 10 days, all Carillion staff had been transferred over.

More recently, Mr Thurston told CN during this year’s CN Summit that HS2 was in talks with contractors over the cost pressures currently faced by the high-speed rail project.

Mr Thurston also revealed that the government will give ‘no more money’ for the scheme.

Mark Richardson director of delivery U+I

Mark Richardson director of delivery U+I

3) Mark Richardson, delivery director, U+I

U+I delivery director Mark Richardson sat down with CN in May to discuss why the client is trying a different model on its £300m development in Brighton.

The adoption of a project bank account allowed the firm to select a smaller contractor than might otherwise have been viable. Mr Richardson said he believed the model has the benefit of the attention to detail SMEs can offer, but without saddling them with a huge budget the likes of which they have no previous experience managing.

In a year which has seen a number of questions around the tier one model, this interview displayed the emerging opportunity for local contractors and the tier twos.

Though Mr Richardson sees a future for tier ones: “There is a place for tier ones – let’s be honest: the HS2s, the major infrastructure projects, some of the big government projects could not be done [without them].”

des moore trad ceo 3

des moore trad ceo 3

2) Des Moore, CEO, Trad Group

As part of CN’s award-winning Mind Matters campaign on mental health in the industry, we featured an interview with Trad boss Des Moore, who spoke to features editor Binyamin Ali about the mental breakdown he suffered as a 26-year-old and the lessons construction can learn from experiences like his.

In a powerful, wide-ranging interview, Mr Moore commented on the lack of available support at the time:  “We had some sort of informal training, but it was a very pressurised position. I wasn’t given any real support with it. I had to no mentor, so to speak.”

While better support is now in place across the industry, much more still needs to be done.

Businesses across the industry should establish support structures, Mr Moore told CN. “It needs to be something taken on board by the CEO and the senior people, getting all the staff involved, and it needs to be something for their individual company.”

Paul Hamer chief executive Sir Robert McAlpine 9609 1

Paul Hamer chief executive Sir Robert McAlpine 9609 1

1) Paul Hamer, CEO, Sir Robert McAlpine

Our top-read interview this year featured Sir Robert McAlpine chief executive Paul Hamer, who spoke exclusively to CN on working with the notoriously secretive family firm and its plans for the next 150 years.

The media-averse firm has, for a long time, employed people to say little more than “no comment” to the outside world, yet CN was taken behind-the-scenes by Mr Hamer and McAlpine, coming up to its 150th anniversary, felt the time was right to talk about legacy and contributions made to this country and industry.

On working with the board, Mr Hamer said: “Everything is on the table to be discussed. If it’s in the context of what we want to achieve with Sir Robert McAlpine, everything can be debated. That’s a great environment. I can ask the challenging questions, I can probe and prod and the family listen.”

On the future, Mr Hamer was clear on the direction of the firm: “We have to retain the DNA of Sir Robert McAlpine but I was asked to sum it up in a sentence recently and this is what I said: my job is to transform and modernise the business completely, without changing it at all.”

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