Category Archives: Business

Balfour Beatty announces sale of Parsons Brinckerhoff to WSP Global

Balfour Beatty has just announced the sale of its professional services division, Parsons Brinckerhoff, to WSP Global for a cash consideration of US$1,352.5 million (£820 million). The sale price assumes cash of US$110 million (£67 million) is retained within Parsons Brinckerhoff.

The sale is conditional upon the approval of Balfour Beatty’s shareholders, and the transaction is also subject to certain antitrust and other approvals. Completion of the sale of Parsons Brinckerhoff is expected in Q4 2014.

WSP’s press announcement states: “Since the companies possess complementary skills and serve complementary segments and geographies with limited overlap in operations, the acquisition is also aligned with WSP’s growth strategy of:

· capitalizing on opportunities in countries where it has a strong and well-established presence, such as the UK;

· enhancing its position in industrialized regions where the Corporation [WSP] is established but does not have a significant presence, such as the US and Australia;

· expanding its offerings and capabilities in its core segments, such as buildings and infrastructure, to increase its expertise and offerings worldwide; and

· developing the energy segment, while further growing its project and program management services offering.”

Pierre Shoiry, President and CEO of WSP, comments: “We are pleased to be joining forces with a firm of Parsons Brinckerhoff’s long-standing reputation and know-how as we expect this transaction to create an industry leader, with the ability to deliver more expertise and services to our client base across the world.

“We expect to successfully reach the strategic objectives we had set for 2015, by creating one of the largest global pure-play professional services firms in our industry.”

George J Pierson, President and CEO of Parsons Brinckerhoff adds: “This tremendously exciting transaction significantly expands opportunities for our employees and services to our clients. The compatibility of our respective cultures is strengthened by the complementary technical skills we each offer.”

Once the acquisition is completed, Pierson will become an executive member of the board of directors of WSP, ensuring his active role in the organisation as well as continuity and integration at the highest level.

By Gail Taylor

What’s the future for London’s infrastructure?

John Dickie

On Thursday 27 March, the London Infrastructure Summit, hosted by London First, took place at Kings Place, London. Attended by over 200 delegates from the AEC industries, the full-day conference was a platform for key figures in the infrastructure profession to discuss this year’s theme: Infrastructure fit for a world city.

The first session opened with a brief history about London First. Set up to champion Crossrail 20 years ago, the not-for-profit organisation has a strong grasp on what is happening within the capital’s built environment and its infrastructure in particular.

John Dickie from London First summarised the introductory video interviews and opened the first session What does London need from a long-term infrastructure plan? with the words ’much has been done, there is much to do…’

The 5-strong panel (full details here) were in agreement that London needs a long-term infrastructure plan and that the best way to do that, overall, is to make the procurement system faster and less arduous and that all parties involved need to work together. ’Collaboration is key,’ concluded Jason Robinson of Bechtel.

With regard to the procurement system, Andrew Ridley-Barker from Vinci Construction UK Ltd. argued that ’We need a better procurement process to enable development’ and Robinson agreed, stating that the ’procurement system values low cost, which equals high risk. If investors took on more risk, this could be a game changer’. He went on to say that ’housing…density…urban consolidation around our transport hubs…these are smart cities elements we lack’. GLA Member Val Shawcross was keen to express that there are still parts of London – including her own constituency – that do not have high speed broadband and wished to add extended and improved broadband to the wish list.

The panel were then asked what would be on their shopping list for a long-term infrastructure plan for London. The resulting inventory included Old Oak Common (HS2 Station), Nuclear Power Stations and to fix airport capacity problem. An audience question from a representative at Foster + Partners raised the point ‘Are we future-proofing our Infrastructure Plan? 2050 and beyond?’ The panel were keen to embrace that scenario but concurred that there is enough to do now so that a longer-term plan could be resolved. Ridley-Barker added that we need to invest in the skills set as Vinci Construction (amongst others) are already doing and plan to do.

Panel 1Alexander Jan, Arup, Andrew Ridley-Barker, Vinci Construction UK Ltd., Basil Scarsella, UK Power Networks, Jason Robinson, Bechtel, Isabel Dedring, TfL

The Keynote address, A neo-Victorian age – planning for London’s future growth, was delivered by Boris Johnson, Mayor of London. Amidst suggestions to re-colonise northern France and that Birmingham would become a London borough, Boris gave a rousing and informative speech about what London has achieved and what it can achieve, with some inevitable self-promotion ‘Since I removed the incumbent & became Mayor, life expectancy is accelerating at its fastest rate since Stone Age!’.

Boris praised the work of Transport for London for their progress so far and reducing delays by 40% on the tube and that Crossrail will boost capacity by 10%, adding that ‘We need to integrate the overground with the underground. Transport infrastructure development in London is triggering regeneration of brownfield sites.’

Boris told the summit that we must have Crossrail 2 by 2029 along with more river crossings to greater improve the connectivity within London and announced that the GLA are offering Broadband grants to aid businesses and homes.

He went on to say that ‘London needs better energy infrastructure’ and noted that ‘The Shard consumes as much energy as Colchester.’ London only generates approximately 2% of its energy used and Boris claimed that ‘brown-outs would occur if we do not take action soon’.


The image below shows the answer to the interactive voting session which asked How does London’s infrastructure compare with its competitor world cities?

Interactive Question 1

After a short break (and networking), the summit continued with the question; Where is the money coming from to pay for future London infrastructure? Chaired by Richard Payne of Turner & Townsend there was a mixed response from the panel (full details here) with Pippa Malmgren from DRPM Group stating that the future market was encouraging; ‘Chinese investors are already buying property in Birmingham, manufacturing is returning to the Midlands.’

But we heard a slightly more cautious view from Deloitte’s Nick Prior, who said there is still a lot to do ‘Investors need to know they’ll get money back – must convince Government that London Infrastructure is a priority.’

Where does the money come fromRichard Payne, Turner & Townsend, Dr Pippa Malmgren, DRPM Group, Nick Prior, Deloitte, Sir Adrian Montague, 3i Group, Geoffrey Spence, HM Treasury

Lord Andrew Adonis, Shadow Infrastructure Minister then chaired a lively panel (full details here) discussion Crossrail 2 – how do we make it a reality? Michèle Dix from Transport for London presents the High Level Programme for Crossrail 2, confirming that Boris’ earlier prediction that Crossrail 2 will be completed by 2029.

Crossrail 2 programme

The panel (full details here) agreed that in order to help make it a reality, Crossrail 2 needs what Crossrail had, a champion, a dedicated team as Nicholas Pollard, Balfour Beatty states; ‘We need a strong leadership for Crossrail 2.’

Michèle Dix concluded by saying; ‘There are plans in place for improved links to South East London-extensions to tube, Docklands Light Railway (DLR) & overground.’

During this session Crossrail announced an extension to its route to Reading. Read the full press release here.

Crossrail 2

Lord Andrew Adonis, Shadow Infrastructure Minister, Farshid Kamali, Atkins, Nicholas Pollard, Balfour Beatty, Mark Carne, Network Rail, Michèle Dix, Transport for London

Bechtel’s Lawrie Quinn chaired the next panel discussion (full details here) which looked at the statement Energy and Transport projects as an urban catalyst to sustain economic success and regeneration. Beth West, Commercial Director of HS2, said that they were already in the process of identifying the benefits that the HS2 would bring; ‘We have a team looking at regeneration development around HS2, trying to quantify the benefits’

Reflecting on the previous discussion, Richard Abel from Macquarie Group implied that the confidence in funding is not quite there yet; ‘New infrastructure projects depend on social consent and predictable investment framework’ with Beth West agreeing; ‘Having patient money is one of the biggest challenges’ and added that ‘HS2 will be a ‘release valve’ for businesses to set up in different cities rather than ‘flooding into London’.


Lawrie Quinn, Bechtel, Richard Abel, Macquarie Group, Beth West, HS2, Jason Robinson, Bechtel


Nakheel awards 3 contracts worth AED41 million


Dubai developer Nakheel has awarded three new contracts – together worth more than AED41 million – for its Al Furjan and Warsan Village master communities.

Two of the newly-awarded contracts cover infrastructure design and supervision for hundreds of third party villa and mixed-use plots at a new phase of Al Furjan, with consultants Arif & Bintoak and Dar Al Handasah handed contracts worth AED13.6 million and AED2.9 million respectively.  

Al Furjan’s new phase more than 1.2 million square metres, and includes over 500 third party villa plots and more than 30 mixed-use plots already sold by Nakheel.  The first phase of the project, containing 800 homes, is already complete.

Nakheel has also awarded a contract for AED24.6 million to Dubai-based international architects AE7 for design and supervision work at Warsan Village. 

Warsan Village, launched in September last year, is a gated community spanning 47.5 hectares, with 942 townhomes, 250 apartments, a retail plaza, mosque and recreation centre.  

Construction of the project is currently out to tender, with proposals due this month.

Written By admin 
February 11, 2014 11:13 am
Posted In Business

Design Council Cabe Design & Infrastructure Seminar


Last week the Design Council Cabe Design & Infrastructure debate focused on the latest infrastructure proposals and how these impact local communities.

Hosting the event was the Design Review’s Thomas Bender. Speakers included Heatherwick Studios’ Mat Cash, the Landscape Institute and Farrer Huxley Associates Director Noel Farrer, and Martin Knight of Knight Architects.

To get the ball rolling, Thomas Bender highlighted infrastructure’s role in society as a lasting, pride-inducing coming together of design and engineering. As well as helping society through basic functions and usability, Bender noted that great infrastructure should incorporate beauty, sophistication, wonderful engineering and innovation in order to “touch the hearts” of those that use it. Recent trends have seen functional infrastructure and the energy industry taken for granted or frowned upon as dirty, dangerous and uninspiring. How can we reverse this erosion of civic pride? Vision and beauty, Bender suggested, are what’s needed to bring joy in infrastructure back to these communities. Through innovative use of materials, the regional impact of linking areas of landscape, a shift towards sustainable behavioural change and adaptive re-use, this healthier, more holistic view of infrastructure can be achieved.

heatherwick bridge

Speaking next, Heatherwick Studios’ Mat Cash focussed on the misconception of infrastructure as a substructure, rather than an intimate human network that we see, feel and interact with on a daily basis. Pointing to Heatherwick’s Paddington Footbridge – the singular uncurling mechanism of which often delights onlooking crowds – Cash noted that the spectacle of infrastructure is something to be enjoyed and celebrated as public art or theatre. Moving on to discuss Heatherwick’s new bus for London, Cash highlighted the importance of care and detail in infrastructure, in order to enhance the human experience. The bus interiors were re-examined, the palette softened and calmed, and points of interaction – i.e., stopper buttons and handrails – tweaked to offer maximum ergonomics, stylish durability and ease of use.

new bus for london stairs

Finally, Cash discussed Heatherwick Studios’ innovative Teesside Power Station. Looking back to benchmarks such as Battersea Power Station, Cash noted a clear decline in public pride for large-scale infrastructure projects. Eschewing the standard “scattering” of boxes approach, Heatherwick have proposed to stack or bunch the components of the power station together, forming a “power park”. By incorporating viewing platforms, greenery, venue hire and office space, Heatherwick Studios hope to foster an appetite for community care surrounding infrastructure, and move away from modern conceptions of power stations as dangerous, high-security, opaque complexes. Continue reading

Written By admin 
February 05, 2014 10:04 am
Posted In Business, COMMENT

CERT and Thales sign MoU to set up UAE Rail Academy

The Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training (CERT) and Thales have signed a Memorandum of Understanding, which aims at establishing a Rail Academy in the United Arab Emirates.

This cooperation between CERT and Thales is in line with the UAE Government strategy to develop and sustain national assets and human capital in the UAE’s high-tech industry fields.

The Rail Academy will be dedicated to the creation and deployment of high-level professional and academic training programmes to support the UAE’s main line rail and urban transport developments.

This MoU adds to an already long-term partnership initiated in 1999 between Thales and HCT/CERT when both companies set up the Joint Venture CERT Thales Institute, providing technical training solutions in the UAE in the domain of defence. Now that the UAE is significantly expanding its railway networks, the need for providing talented Emirati experts, with both professional and academic training in various railways fields, has arisen.

Dr. Tayeb Kamali, Group Chief Executive of CERT Group of companies, said: “Whilst contributing to the UAE Railway initiative, this cooperation will greatly help to develop a new generation of highly skilled UAE nationals ready to serve the long-term development and strategic goals of the UAE and the Gulf region. Our significant partnership with Thales enables CERT to extend its provision of world-class professional and academic programmes to future managers, technicians and engineers, while benefiting from Thales’s unique experience in delivering turnkey solutions.”

Thibaut Trancart, Thales country director for UAE, added: “Our partnership with CERT is a key milestone for genuine local empowerment in the railway field. We offer recognised turnkey training solutions from design, development, implementation, up to leadership coaching and support to operations for large-scale technical academies and institutes. This new partnership with CERT will definitely support the development of the railway industry in the UAE and add value in the Emirati training & education market”.

Thales has a wealth of experience in knowledge transfer across all its areas of expertise, with a strong presence in the Middle East. Over the past 35 years, in the UAE Thales has provided training for over 5,000 professionals. With this latest MoU, Thales, through its in-house university training organisation, is further extending its involvement in human capital development.

Written By admin 
January 24, 2014 13:24 pm
Posted In Business, Rail

New infrastructure boss for Laing O’Rourke

laing logo

270x180_1383287035_gary-wells-lorWell-established British infrastructure group Laing O’Rourke has appointed Gary Wells as their new UK Infrastructure managing director.

Next month Wells will be joining Laing O’Rourke from Al Naboodah Construction Group, where he was the chief executive officer. His experience with Al Naboodah, the largest privately-owned UAE-based construction group, boasting a turnover of £500m, has provided Wells with a comprehensive understanding of UK and international commercial drivers.

Laing O’Rourke Chief Executive, Anna Stewart, states: “Gary is a dynamic, internationally-focussed infrastructure specialist with an extensive professional network developed within the industry.

“He is an outstanding addition to the Europe Hub senior team, and I know his contributions will accelerate our strategic ambitions to develop our unique business offering through excellence in delivery, reinforcing our brand as a tier one provider in the UK.”

Before his work with Al Naboodah Construction, Wells undertook five years at Murray and Roberts, three of which were spent in South Africa, where the delivery of large-scale mechanical infrastructure projects was his focus.

Earlier in his career Wells spent 15 years with the Costain Group, dealing with operational, strategic and project delivery roles.

Richard Greenan

Written By admin 
November 04, 2013 12:10 pm
Posted In Business

Water, water everywhere in Kenya’s baking north!

turkana villagers kenya

News has just broken that large underground water reserves containing a minimum of 250 billion cubic meters of water have been found in Turkana, one of Kenya’s driest and poorest regions.

Both shallow and deep aquifers were surveyed across northern and central Turkana County by natural resources exploration firm, Radar Technologies International (RTI). The work was conducted for the Kenyan Government on behalf of the UN in an effort to identify supplies to combat drought and water scarcity for the 2 million people living in the region. Most are herders who inevitably suffer when drought hits.

Judi Wakhungu, Kenya’s environment minister said at a UN meeting on 11 September, “This newly found wealth of water opens a door to a more prosperous future for the people of Turkana and the nation as a whole. We must now work to further explore these resources responsibly and safeguard them for future generations.”

The aquifers were detected using the WATEX System, RTI’s space-based exploration technology. According to the company, two major aquifers have now been recorded and proven by drilling.

The large Lotikipi Basin Aquifer is estimated to store 207 billion cubic meters of water, the same volume of the nearby Lake Turkana and estimated to be enough to keep Kenya in water for 70 years. About the size of the US state of Rhode Island, the aquifer replenishes at a rate of 1.2 billion cubic meters a year. This paleo lake could be part of the “Land of Marvels”, the ancient sources of the Nile that were explored by Queen Hatshepsut some 3,500 years ago.

The Lodwar Basin Aquifer, is situated within a short distance of Lodwar town and Turkana’s oil reserves. It is fed by the perennial Turkwel River and has an estimated reserve of 10 billion cubic meters.

RTI recorded three other large structures – Gatome, Kachoda and Nakalale – which could prove to store a combined 30 billion cubic meters once confirmed by drilling.

In addition to deep reserves, RTI also mapped 2 billion cubic meters of water passing only a few meters under the ground and easy to reach, significantly raising the prospect for local agriculture activities.

Written By admin 
September 16, 2013 10:46 am
Posted In Business

UK Planning Inspectorate starts its examination of Thames Tideway Tunnel plans

thames tunnel

Last Thursday, 12 September, the UK Planning Inspectorate – the government body responsible for national infrastructure planning – began looking into the feasibility of London’s proposed new ‘super sewer’, the Thames Tideway Tunnel.

The owner and operator of London’s existing sewers, Thames Water, has claimed that, although sound, the Victorian system is now simply too small to transfer the Capital’s waste to its treatment works for processing. It reports that, as a result, around 39 million tonnes of untreated sewage flushes into the Thames in a typical year.

The scheme has its share of vociferous opponents, with concerns that the scale of the disruption involved in creating what would arguably be Europe’s largest sewer system would devastate local commerce and ruin residents’ quality of life. Suggestions include the creation of ‘living walls’ and roofs that send rainwater straight back into the ground rather than down into the sewerage system.

However, Thames Water is adamant that having looked into all the possible solutions over the past 13 years, the Thames Tideway Tunnel is the only viable way forward.


Should it be given the go-ahead, Thames Water’s website states that the tunnel would be “between 6.5 and 7.2 metres in diameter, 66 metres underground at its deepest point and 25.1 kilometres (15.6 miles) long – making it one of the largest and deepest tunnels under London”.

It explains that, in general, the tunnel needs to follow the route of the River Thames so that it can be connected to the combined sewer overflows (CSOs) that are located along the riverbanks, adding, “Following the route of the river also means that we can make use of the River Thames itself to transport materials and minimise the number of existing buildings and structures that the tunnel will pass beneath.”

Written By admin 
September 16, 2013 10:25 am
Posted In Business

Construction bosses take up George Osborne’s challenge on HS2


After a mounting tide of negative press and dire warnings of spiralling costs, UK Chancellor George Osborne has robustly defended the HS2 high speed rail project on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show. The Chancellor told Marr that “we have set the budget for £42bn for the construction costs. That includes, by the way, a big contingency [£14bn]. As we demonstrated with the Olympic Games, we can deliver these big projects actually sometimes under budget”.

And it seems the UK construction industry agrees with him according to a recent letter to the Telegraph from the heads of the Association for Consulting and Engineering, Arup Group, Atkins UK, Balfour Beatty, Kier Group, Laing O’Rourke, Mott MacDonald Group, and Skanska UK.

In it they state, “We gladly accept the challenge of completing Phase One of HS2 on schedule – and for less than the Government’s target of £17.16 billion. We applaud the Government’s support for investment in infrastructure and in particular HS2, which addresses a looming capacity crunch on rail and road networks.”

The letter went on to suggest that HS2 will inspire a new generation of scientists and engineers and will create jobs and support economic growth. In response to claims that the whole project is set to go massively over budget, the industry heads said, “Funding secured for HS2 rightly includes a contingency – a responsible way to plan a project on this scale. Yet artificially inflated figures circulated by opponents recently in no way represent the outcome we expect.”

Centrica puts plans for new UK gas storage facility on hold


Centrica’s £1.4bn plans to develop a major new UK gas storage facility at Bacton in Norfolk have been dealt a serious blow by the UK government. Ministers have decided against providing subsidies for gas storage projects such as this, saying it would be a waste of bill-payers’ money because Britain has plentiful gas supplies.

Centrica has previously stated that “the project is unlikely to proceed without some form of government support”. Now all the signs are that the creation of the new storage plant will not be going ahead as things currently stand.

The company has also warned that the decision could lead to a sharp rise in gas prices should supplies run short. Britain has enough gas stored to last just 15 days, whereas many other European countries have far larger reserves.

The shelved project, a joint venture between Centrica Storage Limited (a wholly-owned subsidiary of Centrica plc) and Parenco UK, proposed the conversion of the Baird gas field into an offshore storage plant 86 km off the north coast of Norfolk. A scoping report for offshore environmental impact assessment was carried out by RPS Energy in 2009, and a planning application was submitted in February 2010.

Onshore planning permission for the project was granted by local authorities in July 2010, with front-end engineering design (FEED) of the onshore facilities supplied by Genesis Oil & Gas Consultants and Jacobs.

At 108 bcf Baird would have been the second largest gas storage facility in the UK after Rough, owned by Centrica Storage Limited.

Written By admin 
September 11, 2013 12:31 pm
Posted In Business, ENERGY