Q and A | Andy Milner, managing director, Amey Consulting

Andy Milner, Amey Consulting

Amey, working in joint venture with Swiss rail maintenance specialist Sersa, was this month named preferred bidder for Network Rail’s Northern Alliance contract to renew switch and crossings across two thirds of the UK rail network worth up to £400m over 10 years.

It believes that the contract will lead to further enhancements worth £150M and provide a step-change in the industry by bringing the most efficient, sustainable and innovative track renewal methods.

Andy Milner, managing director of Amey Consulting explains how he sees asset management evolving.

Q: You have a major and growing rail maintenance portfolio. What is the biggest contribution that can you make to reducing the cost of the UK railway?

A: Collaboration – need to all work together to get the whole industry working better together, sharing best practice, reducing risks and inefficiencies through innovation and technology. Collaboration is also the key to improving safety, as an industry we need to share best practice to continually improve safety.

Q: Asset management requires a balance between capital spend and operational spend. Do clients appreciate this balance?

A: Yes, to a certain extent and we see our role as a provider to support this dynamic. There is pressure on budgets, so we try and ensure we propose solutions that support the clients within their budget constraints, as well as introducing efficiencies through the use of asset management.

Q: We hear a lot about the economic value of infrastructure investment. In your experience of managing national infrastructure assets, do your clients are now investing properly or still living off the legacy of our forebears?

A: The UK has some of the oldest infrastructure in the world and is a very different dynamic to other countries who are either building or have just built brand new infrastructure. It is partly why UK engineering is considered some of the best in the world because we have some of the most complex challenges to tackle within our own backyard. I think public sector clients do understand the need to invest in infrastructure but it is our job in the private sector to help them invest their money as smartly as possible. Whole life asset management can make sure that we adapt investment to address their current restraints but also so that we don’t create problem for future generations by just focusing on the short term. Amey is exporting asset management expertise to support other countries that have a different challenges to the UK, but could benefit from a whole life asset management approach.  

Q: What impact has the economic downturn had on public and private sector clients’ approaches to asset management?

A: I think the economic downturn has split clients – some quickly looked to reduce budgets with very short term view points, whereas others have taken their time to consider how they can reduce costs with minimal impact. I think more and more clients are therefore now appreciating the value of an asset management approach and we are seeing whole industries starting to adopt it.

Q: What evidence is there that clients now understand that managing infrastructure assets requires a long term investment perspective?

A: The UK investment profile has improved significantly, we are looking at more innovation in terms of contracts and greater understanding of managing projects on a whole life cost basis. Our Sheffield and Birmingham projects showcase this, as do the ASC contracts.

Q: Your contract to maintain Birmingham’s roads has pushed many asset management boundaries. What lessons does this provide for the future?

A: The Birmingham and Sheffield projects really demonstrate the private sectors ability and willingness to manage asset risk. What we see on these projects is true collaboration between us and the public sector, we expect to see more contracts of this type coming to market as the public sector budgets come under increasing pressure and the need to find new ways of working is increased. 

Q: The Highways Agency is being moved out of direct public control. What difference do you expect this to make to the management of the UK highway network?

A: It is not for us to comment on this, but as a rule, I would say that as with any industry what we need is long term commitment so that companies can respond by investing skills and technology.

Q: What do you consider to be the future model for funding and delivery of Local Authority highway maintenance

A: There won’t be one model – there needs to be lots of options. Every local authority is different and has different funding dynamics and service requirements. The role of the private sector is to help them devise a funding and financing solution that best suits their needs, their financial position and the state of their assets.

Q: Clients want lowest cost maintenance with least disruption to service. How is this possible?

A: The refurbishment of the A38 tunnels through Birmingham is a great example of how we aim to drive down cost while delivering the best solution for the client as well as minimal disruption for the public. The project presented a number of challenges. Careful management of the works inside the tunnels and mitigation of the impact on travel around the city was paramount. The route carries up to 85,000 vehicles a day and previous emergency closures had resulted in significant disruption to traffic around the city. The success of advanced planning for a revised six-week programme and a behaviour change campaign that resulted in 200,000 additional journeys being made on public transport during the closures ensured phase one of the project was completed on time with a multi-million pound saving for the client. 

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