Maintaining growth

Parsons Brinckerhoff is a leading provider of transportation and infrastructure solutions

Parsons Brinckerhoff Limited is an integral part of the Parsons Brinkerhoff (PB) Group, an international engineering, design and programme management company offering a multidisciplinary consultancy service in transportation, power, telecommunications and buildings. Established in 1885, PB employs around 10,000 staff in over 150 global offices, and has fulfilled a significant role in major infrastructure projects worldwide.

“Parsons Brinckerhoff was originally established 121 years ago, and much of the company’s earliest work was completed in the US, including early development of the New York subway,” says Mike Jenkins MBE, director of rail at Parsons Brinckerhoff. “As a business we have a great deal of experience, and today we employ thousands of people worldwide, and have offices on every continent. We are a multidisciplined business, with rail accounting for around one-third of our operations. Our vision is to be an integrated service provider, working across a global infrastructure to benefit communities and our clients through our design solutions and innovations.

“One of our key strengths is that we are one of the few companies in the industry that is a true one-stop-shop,” Mike continues. “By this I mean that we provide high-quality services that stretch from cradle to grave, which can be a long time in the railway business. We are involved in a project from the very early stages, and work closely with our clients to put together strategies for their business, and to deliver, operate and maintain those railways. One of our key differentiators is our ability to programme manage jobs, whilst being heavily involved in the technical design aspects. There are very few programme managers that have the depth of technical experience that we do.”

Among its major projects, the company has been involved in the considerable West Coast Route modernisation programme: “We were initially chosen to be programme managers for the West Coast Route project in 1999, and during the seven year period we have been involved we have witnessed much change,” says Mike. “The project itself involves around £8 billion worth of work over a length of West Coast railway some 600 route miles long, including all of the various branch routes. The main section that we are working on is the London to Glasgow route, including the branches off to Manchester and Birmingham.

“One of the key success factors of the project is that we are effectively re-building large parts of the West Coast railway whilst maintaining and operating a regular train service,” he continues. “The re-building work itself is not as difficult as the logistical problems of keeping the railway open at the same time, and I think that this demonstrates our excellent programme management skills.

“I believe that our programme management experience was the determining reason that we were chosen for this project,” Mike comments. “The experience we bring to the project, combined with our ability to manage large infrastructure projects on railways is key. We combined many of our skills on this project, from the systems engineering scope, through to management of the programme and supply chain management and the implementation of third party logistics contracts.”

In addition to the West Coast Route project, the business is currently working on a two phase extension of the existing East London lines in preparation for the 2012 Olympics: “This project is one of the key transportation programmes being delivered prior to the Olympics,” Mike explains. “Our role is to project manage, design manage and delivery manage that route, including the phase two extension, which will be the connection between the extended East London line and the Northern line.

“The project will run up to the opening of the connection in 2011,” Mike continues. “It involves the refurbishment of the existing East London line from New Cross, and the re-instatement of an existing viaduct section on the Northern route. Throughout the project we are working as part of an integrated team with Transport for London.”

As the world’s leading expert in light rail systems, and a leading provider of complete infrastructure solutions, Parsons Brinckerhoff places considerable emphasis on close cooperation with its clients: “Working together with our customers is our primary focus, and we like to co-operate closely to help contribute to their future success,” Mike explains. “It is vital that we accurately capture their requirements and convert them into workable designs that can be delivered. People believe that designers, such as ourselves, are only involved in the initial stages of a railway. The reality is that railways have a design life of up to 100 years, and what we do will impact it for the rest of its life so we have to work closely with the operators.”

Mike elaborates on the current state of the industry: “I believe that the rail industry is far more buoyant in 2006 than it has been in recent years. With the advent of Network Rail letting out a lot more procurement in design, in preparation for its work in the future, there is the potential that the market will overheat. One of the key considerations for us will be the ability to keep a balanced organisation, and to focus on exactly what our clients need. This means working with them at the very earliest stages of a project, where technical expertise and value engineering come into play. These are the stages that offer the greatest opportunities to save money.”

Although optimistic about the company’s future, Mike believes that there are many challenges: “One of the biggest challenges for rail clients and organisations such as Parsons Brinckerhoff, will be to improve the understanding we have of each other, and how we work together to tailor our services to meet these demands. This will benefit everyone in the industry by lowering costs, whilst improving effectiveness and project quality.

“However, we have an incredible amount of experience, which is coupled with our ability to always deliver. The advantage we have is that we have offices worldwide, giving us teams on the ground wherever our customers need them. Our intention is to continue moving forward by growing by around 50 per cent in the next three to five year period,” Mike concludes.