Switched on

Fast-growing A.L.A Rail is becoming one to watch in the rail sector

With a management team that has a wide experience in the rail industry, A.L.A Rail specialises in the manufacture and installation of railway switches and crossings. Lyn Jenkins, A.L.A’s ALA JJ 06 bManaging Director, tells Railway Strategies more about this small, but vibrant company: “A.L.A Rail is a family run business based in Port Talbot, South Wales. Currently in its third year if trading, A.L.A is on target to break the £1 million turnover mark for the year ending February 2007, having achieved a turnover of £675k in its first and £720k in its second year. We have 25 full-time employees, operating from our machine shop and offices in Port Talbot, with installation and maintenance teams working throughout the UK.

“A.L.A Rail offers manufacturing, installation and maintenance services to the rail sector, largely operating within the private sector,” continues Lyn. “A.L.A considers itself a small, dynamic company, offering flexibility and tailored solutions to meet its clients’ requirements. From our machine shop, we have the ability to curve rail, as well as manufacture both standard and non-standard switches, crossings and turnouts. We also manufacture bespoke products from client drawings.”

Using its own furnace, A.L.A is one of the few companies in the UK that has the ability to produce pressed steel-base plates for standard and narrow gauge track, including check rail plates. The company also manufactures for both standard and narrow gauge rail track and has consultants on call to help solve client specific problems. In addition to manufacturing, A.L.A Rail has teams who install and maintain the rail track, be it standard or narrow gauge. A.L.A Rail is also fortunate in having its own Matisa Rail-Road Tamping Machine and a single rail tamper and provides mechanical lifting and packing services as part of its installation works. The tampers are available for external hire.

“Since the company was established, its client base has grown considerably to include Bombardier, Network Rail, B.P. Chemicals, Hunslet Steam Company and Eastleigh S&C, providing manufacturing, installation and maintenance services,” says Lyn. “We pride ourselves on our rapid response, minimal lead times and flexibility, along with a friendly and personal approach. All these attributes set us apart from the competition, making us unique in providing rapid responses to client’s requests, having the ability to produce tailored, bespoke items, manufactured and installed to the client’s specifications. Indeed, in the past, we have manufactured a set of ‘B’ switches and installed them within 12 hours to meet a client’s emergency.

“A.L.A Rail is unique in that it works closely with its clients to optimise their budgets. A.L.A Rail has demonstrated its ability to foresee and offer alternative solutions to overcome potential problems, thus providing an all-round service. The competition is tough in this sector as we compete against both multi-nationals and SMEs.”

He continues: “The UK rail industry is dominated by large players who, due to their size and complexities of scale are unable to respond quickly and effectively to client needs. A.L.A prides itself in being able to provide a ‘one-stop-shop’, giving our client’s peace of mind that their project will be delivered on-time and to budget, whatever the problem. It is evident from our growth over the past three years that there is a need for one stop, high quality rail solutions alongside the main market players. Our ability to be client led and not product led, has enabled us to gain an enviable ALA JJ 06 cmarket position and a reputation for delivering complex projects within short timescales.”

A.L.A’s reputation as a quality supplier is evident from the repeat orders it continues to receive from all of its clients. This is largely down to the professionalism and education of its staff. The company’s crosscommunication management style allows all members of the A.L.A family to comment and recommend better ways of doing things, which not only develops the individual, but allows the organisation’s products and services to continually evolve and develop.

Since the company’s formation, A.L.A Rail has worked on a number of large projects. In each of these projects, the company has demonstrated how the combination of working closely with its clients and its forward thinking helps resolve issues as they arise, with minimum effect on the programme and, more importantly from the client’s perspective, on cost.

One such project, the Tremorfa project in Cardiff, undertaken for Encon Civil Engineering, involved the laying out of a major complex of temporary track. Encon worked to the design by James and Nicholas Engineering and Architects. The project is part of a major investment programme that involves the construction of a new melt shop. The track is of temporary nature, and the design brief was to incorporate all existing materials. The design also had to allow for the geographical and economic constraints of maintaining production from the existing facilities during the redevelopment programme.

To ensure success, the project programme demanded the co-operation of all parties concerned and A.L.A is delighted that a true partnering spirit won through. Everyone involved focused on solutions, not problems and the senior management team of A.L.A appreciate the contribution made by Celsa, James & Nicholas and Encon. The company’s partnering approach and cooperation embodied the best in modern project management.

“As a result of this job we have been successful in being awarded a new contract, in excess of £500,000, to reinstate the new permanent tracks at the same location,” adds Lyn. “We have also recently completed an extension of 800m of dual gauge, narrow gauge track for Hunslet Steam Company, which included the manufacture and design of a dual gauge turnout, and a unique cross-over, which was necessary to achieve a loop at the end of the track.” He continues: “A.L.A’s short to medium term goal is to carry on developing its reputation and client base. There are avenues within the marketplace that the company wishes to explore and intends to invest in new plant and machinery. New machining techniques are under development, which, coupled with new material handling techniques, will place us at the forefront of SMEs in the rail sector.

“It is the determination, commitment of the management and workforce that has contributed to producing the unique strengths held by A.L.A,” concludes Lyn. “This is also the secret to our success to date. A.L.A is excited for the future and islooking forward to the many prospects in the pipeline.”