Infrastructure Intelligence first birthday - the best read stories of the last 12 months

Infrastructure Intelligence launched 12 months ago with the remit of explaining the story behind the story.

Infrastructure Intelligence first birthday

As we celebrate the first year of weekly email newsletters from Infrastructure Intelligence, editor Antony Oliver takes a look at the key issues that grabbed to attention of readers over the last year and explains why.

The top 20 stories that dominated Infrastructure Intelligence’s first year. 

1. Merger mania

AECOM buys URS; WSP buys PB; ARCADIS buys Hyder Consulting after a bidding war with Nippon Koei. Consolidation is the name of the game as we asked “how big is big enough”? The work is far from complete as these business reorganise to maximise synergies but with WYG this week announcing its desire to buy or be bought, there is clearly more consolidation on the horizon as firm seek to bolster margins and boost work wining capability.

AECOM's Steve Morriss: "the most exciting adventure"

ARCADIS' Alan Brookes: "enjoy the journey"

WSP's MArk Naysmith: "staged integration"

2. Highways Agency

Now set to become Highways England, the Government owned strategic roads company with a five year investment strategy and £15bn to spend over the next six years. As the Infrastructure Bill moves through Parliament to become an Act, the strategy will be enshrined in law with £900M to spend on environment and community improvements and a mandate to investigate bold new schemes such as the Pennine Road tunnel. Latet here.

3. Network Rail Christmas chaos

The rail operator hit the headlines for all the wrong reaons after plant failure, bungled testing and poor contingency left thousands of passengers’ stranded and festive family visits delayed when work at Kings Cross and Paddington overran. “We simply did not do these things well enough,” said Network Rail chief executive Mark Carne as he launched a review. Latest here

4. Engineering happiness – the video

ICE attempted to go viral with its version of American singer Pharrell Williams’ catchy hit single “Happy”. And while with 87,000 hits on Youtube to date it may not have exactly achieved true “viral” status the video, featuring well known industry folk, certainly turned heads. View here

5. Balfour Beatty

The profit warnings, the take-over talks and the management changes. A drip feed of profit write downs since May 2013 have taken their toll on the contracting giant. Leo Quinn took over as CEO in January after Andrew McNaughton stood down in May and promptly announced a further £70M profit warning bringing the total to £260M. In between the firm has fought off a take over from rival Carillion and netted £830M from the sale of Parsons Brinckerhoff to WSP. An eventful year for sure.  Latest here 

6. Five mega technology trends that will transform your consultancy

A thought piece by Javier Baldor of business technology firm BST Global grabbed the imagination of Infrastructure Intelligence readers when first published in August and has been regularly browsed since. Not surprising really given the insight it gives into the issues that will shape businesses of the near future. Read it here if you haven’t already done so. 

7.Thames Tideway Tunnels

Set to be the project of 2015 as the £4.2bn super-sewer for London builds momentum towards planning approval and, finance permitting, a start date possibly soon after the election. Organising the privately funded project is ex-Crossrail man Andy Mitchell alongside former Tarmac boss Sir Neville Simms – a combination to drive efficiency into the supply chain. Read about it here.

8. High Speed 2

Cross-party support continues for this £50bn economic growth inducing mega-project, the first London to Birmingham stretch of which is now passing through the committee stage of its Hybrid Bill. With the addition of Chancellor George Osborne’s new Northern Power House ideas and a potential HS3 cross Pennine link, the project has moved over the last 12 months from controversial pipedream to a realistic public investment proposition. CEO Simon Kirby writes here.

9. Columnists

Infrastructure Intelligence has secured a number of regular head turning columnists who bring insightful, often controversial ideas to the table which both spawn new thinking and underpin existing though processes. Regular columnists include David Waboso of London Underground, Paul Jackson of EngineeringUK, Nelson Oginshakin of ACE, Alistair Lenczner of Expedition Engineering, Jo Valentine of London First and Infrastructure Intelligence editor Antony Oliver - latest here.

10. The Careers Hub

Stories about the rising salaries for engineering graduates, advice and guidance on which firms provide the best careers, profiles of the most interesting careers and features of rising – or risen – stars in the industry links together on the Hub with company profile information and real job opportunities. It’s a resource that all career seekers are using. Take a look here.

11. Commercial to residential conversion rules streamlined but not yet straightforward

An in-depth look at a specialist area of the growing buildings market grabbed Infrastructure Intelligence reads attention following a seminar hosted by accountancy firm Smith and Williamson. There is always a place for advice that saves you money. More here  

12. Building Information Modelling

As we run up towards the UK government mandated 2016 deadline for embracing BIM level 2 on all public projects, the volume and quantity of articles on the subject is likely to continue to rise. Making it interesting an relavant is the key and articles by Mark Bew of BIS plus thought leading viewpoints from both Greg and Keith Bentley have successfully brought this agenda to life.

Mark Bew interview here

Greg Bentley: "advancing BIM towards level 3"

Keth Bentley: "life beyond BIM"

13. Crossrail 2

And it now looks like this ambition and long-discussed cross London rail project is really is going to happen. With TfL’s Michele Dix now in the driving seat and the project championed by London Mayor Boris Johnson the challenge is linking development uplift to the capital cost. A solvable problem in the capital. Latest here.

14. And the award goes to….

The winners and shortlisted contenders for the ACE Engineering Excellence Awards, the CEO of the year awards and the NCE/ACE Consultants Awards have attracted great attention from Infrastructure Intelligence readers. Add to that our video coverage with ACO On-Air of the ACE annual conference and the Environmental Industries Commission’s annual conference and we saw live event really come alive to a wider audience. Video here.

15. All change at the Environment Agency

The arrival of Sir Philip Dilley from Arup as new chairman certainly grabbed attention. The challenge of the winter floods and the need to learn lessons is clearly motivating the supply chain to drive in change. 

16. Ordsall Chord public inquiry

As a critical section of the equally critical Northern Hub rail improvement, the objections raised by English Heritage and regular Infrastructure Intelligence correspondent Mark Whitby are still being mulled over by the planning inspector. See latest here.

17. Atkins - Tonkin steps down

It’s a work-life balance opportunity as, after a decade in hot seat at Atkins UK engineering business, chief executive David Tonkin is to head for pastures new to, genuinely, spend more time with his family. Interview here.

18. The Davies Commission into UK aviation capacity

Will he, won’t he? As far as Boris Island and the east of London estuary airport plan is concerned it was a certain no. But whether any post-election decision between expansion at Gatwick of Heathrow will be heeded still remains the unanswered question. Latest here

19.SuDS - an endless saga?

Perhaps not because after a decade and a half of discussion and debate over how best to implement these eminently sensible drainage management alternatives to conventional pipes in the ground, it appears that a solution is now really on the horizon. You heard it here first. 

20. Innovation

Alongside skills and resources it has been the word of the last 12 months. Hence the introduction of a dedicated section of Infrastructure Intelligence devoted to helping businesses express their ideas in a simple and straightforward way. Check it out here if you haven’t already.

And finally…..

Each month Infrastructure Intelligence supplements the on-going digital output with a digital and paper magazine – published as a moment in time comment and feature based document to browse in those more leisurely coffee table moments. It’s is all free here but if you, like so many already, would like a paper copy then for a modest sum we can so that too - click here.

If you would like to contact Antony Oliver about this, or any other story, please email