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The year in review – top stories from 2015

It's been a very busy year for the infrastructure industry. Here's a selection of our most popular stories from 2015.

January – Crossrail 2 appoints consultants to build business case

Prospects for a second new main line railway under London have grown all year. Back in January, Transport for London appointed four consulting groups to help the project take shape.  “There is now real momentum behind Crossrail 2 and a growing sense that we can get it off the drawing board,” said Boris Johnson, Mayor of London.

February – Bentley acquires Acute 3D

Chief executive Greg Bentley described his firm's acquisition of digital photography specialist Acute 3D as being “more exciting” than any other in the company’s 30 year history. 3D models no longer have to be built from laser scanning techniques. The breakthrough puts “reality modelling front and centre so that it can be part of every project and every asset”, he said.

March – Thames Tideway names preferred bidders

Three consortia of contractors will build London's 25km super sewer, which is expected to generate more than 9000 jobs over the course of the construction project. "We will be running an alliance arrangement with pain and gain triggers for the whole alliance which includes us, Thames Water, the three main contractors and the SCADA systems integrator," Thames Tideway CEO Andy Mitchell told Infrastructure Intelligence in March.

The three tunnel builders are BMB JV (joint venture of BAM Nuttall, Morgan Sindall and Balfour Beatty), FLO JV (Ferrovial Agroman, Laing O’Rourke Construction) and CVB JV (Costain, Vinci Construction Grands Projects, Bachy Soletanche).

April – Kier buys Mouchel

Kier's £265m purchase of Mouchel was arguably the year's stand out acquisition, confirming the lastest phase of Kier's growth strategy with a big move into the infrastructure services market. For Mouchel, the new ownership completed a remarkable turnaround from the point of being in administration to reporting a £28m profit.

“Over the last three years, Mouchel has been transformed into a strong business with market leading positions. The combination of Kier and Mouchel, particularly in the provision of UK highways maintenance services, creates a leader in a growing marketplace," said Kier CEO Haydn Mursell.

May – Aecom suspended by Qatari client

There was bad news for Aecom in May as the infrastructure giant confirmed its suspension from bidding for further work from Qatar's Public Works Authority Ashghal while issues on two landmark schemes were resolved. “AECOM has  met with senior representatives from Ashghal to confirm the suspension follows delivery challenges on two landmark projects currently under construction in Qatar for which AECOM provided design services," the company said.

Meanwhile, Aecom is continuing to support Ashghal in the delivery of its existing programmes, while also working for other major clients in Qatar including the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy of the 2022 World Cup. Together with Zaha Hadid Architects it is the designer for the Al Wakrah stadium and project manager for the Al Rayyan stadium for which new designs were revealed in April. Aecom is also the programme manager for the new £4.5bn Hamad Port.

June – Geoff French and Andy Mitchell lead industry honours

Former ACE chairman Geoff French and Thames Tideway chief executive Andy Mitchell were awarded CBE's for services to civil engineering in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in June. Other industry awards included a CBE to Sustrans chief executive Malcolm Shepherd and OBEs to CITB vice chair Judith Lowe and WRAP chief executive Dr Liz Goodwin.

July – Technologies to watch

A panel of experts at the World Economic Forum highlighted the top 10 new technologies that could turn the infrastructure on its head over coming decades. The list: Hydrogen fuel cell vehicles; next generation robotics; recyclable PHT plastics to cut landfill waste; precise genetic engineering; additive manufacturing; emergent artificial intelligence; distributed manufacturing; 'sense and avoid' drones; neuromorphic technology; digital genomes.

August – Highways England has two years to prove it can deliver

Evidence that industry can deliver the £15bn Roads Investment Strategy (RIS) has to be visible by year three of the programme, said Highways England chief executive Jim O'Sullivan in his first interview. “Year 3 is the critical year (2017/18). That is when the workload really ramps up and when we start to negotiate RIS 2 with government,” O’Sullivan said. “We have to be on programme and able to show that we are surrounded by an industry that is up for years four and five. Everything hinges on the people, equipment and organisational capability.”

September – New Street masterpiece opens

Birmingham's rebuilt New Street station opened for business in September – hailed as a masterpiece of design excellence. The city's previously much maligned main railway station has been transformed through a £750m project, for which detailed design work started in 2008. “This station will draw more people to Birmingham and lead to regeneration of the southern part of the city. It will have a big impact on those who live and breathe Birmingham,” said Atkins' engineering director Stephen Ashton.

October – Osborne names Infrastructure Commission

Sir Michael Heseltine and Sir John Armitt were the stand out names as Chancellor George Osborne announced the seven strong National Infrastructure Commission. Lord Andrew Adonis will lead the NIC, which also includes Professor Tim Besley, Demis Hassabis, Sadie Morgan, Bridget Rosewell and Sir Paul Ruddock. Ultimately the NIC will determine Britain's long term infrastructure priorities and hold governments to account on their delivery, but initially the NIC is focusing on energy supply, northern connectivity and London's transport system.

November – Shaw report implies big shake up for Network Rail

A scoping report was published on the review of Network Rail, being carried out for government by HS1 chief executive Nicola Shaw. This revealed the question of NR's structure is being considered from three distinct perspectives: that of customers; the devolution agenda; and growth. A complete overhaul of the organisation's structure and financing, with more private sector DBFO projects and even full privatisation are among options being considered.

December – Government ducks runway decision

Industry was disappointed again as the year's most eagerly awaited decision on airport expansion was kicked down the road again. Despite the Davies Commission coming down firmly behind Heathrow, government said it wanted more work done on air and noise pollution before making a decision in summer 2016. This was seen as electioneering by some. A decision has been elayed until after the 2016 London Mayoral election. Both Tory and Labour candidates strongly oppose a third runway at Heathrow.

If you would like to contact Jon Masters about this, or any other story, please email jmasters@infrastructure-intelligence.com.