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Last week, the TransPennine Alliance West team, delivering major upgrades to the upgrade work to the railway between Manchester, Leeds and York were visited by the Prime Minister Boris Johnson MP and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP.

Their visit followed a 16 day possession in August that saw major upgrades to structures, signalling and track at the western end of the route. TRU is a multi-billion-pound programme of work which will enable more frequent, faster, greener services to run in future.

Here, Alliance Director, Brian Walton shares his reflections on an intensive period for the project and the two years of preparation that helped smooth the way…

Between 31 July and 16 August, the TRU West Alliance, in which BAM is a participant alongside Network Rail, Arup, Amey (Amey OWR) and Siemens, completed work on its first major blockade. The blockade delivered two railway bridges at Dantzic Street and Queens Road that were completely reconstructed and two bridges at Bromley Street and Oldham Road were strengthened and waterproofed. Alongside this over 3000m of track was upgraded, the track was remodelled between Manchester Victoria and Stalybridge and 17 new signals were also installed. All of this was completed to schedule, to budget and without accident.

The accomplishment of the August blockade in delivering these complex works was a brilliant achievement for the TRU West Alliance and a real validation of all the work that has gone into the project to date. That success was, without question, only made possible through the effective collaboration of all those involved from the early development stages, the planning phases over the last 24 months and through to the fantastic execution of the works itself.

One of the key aspects that guided our success on the August blockade was making sure the TRU West Alliance was truly collaborative. Alliancing on any project is never simple as, by its very nature, it involves the coming together of numerous organisations, all of whom have different ways of operating. The challenge is even greater on a project as large as TRU West. To be successful, the Alliance can’t be a group of siloed companies, it must operate as one team working together for one common goal.

To do this on TRU West there has been significant emphasis on effective collaboration. All employees complete a collaborative training course when joining the Alliance, there is a regular drumbeat of communications that highlight the collaborative nature of the project and regular surveys are produced to monitor the feeling across the Alliance and allow everyone to share their views on what can be improved. All of this is carried out with the mindset of creating a one-team culture in which team members are comfortable challenging one another and sharing their thoughts and opinions.

While the blockade has gone through years of rigorous development and planning from the team, this was still the first large scale piece of work that was to be delivered by TRU West and the first time the whole delivery team had been together on site. Therefore, having an open collaborative environment in which the whole team was able to speak their mind and challenge when they had concerns was essential, not only for the work to be completed on time but also for the work to be completed safely.

I was out on site most days during the blockade and after 42 years in the business and working on countless blockades I felt this was the most joined up, calm and supportive blockade I have ever been involved in. All the various functions and disciplines across all NOPs worked together, helped each other out, and had one common objective to deliver quality work, safely and on-time. It truly was a textbook example of the benefits of Alliancing and how to make collaboration work efficiently on major infrastructure programmes.

Following our success in August, we have set the tone for what will be expected from our next blockade, which will be taking place over the Christmas period. I have no doubt we will continue to work, develop, and collaborate effectively as one TRU West team so that the Christmas blockade will be another major success for BAM, our partners on TRU West (Network Rail, ARUP, Amey and Siemens) and rail infrastructure in the North of England.

Brian Walton

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