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We employ over 1200 people based across nine offices in the Northern Powerhouse.
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Our Partnership with the Government's Northern Powerhouse programme.


Nick Roberts, Atkins’ chief executive officer, UK & Europe recently joined Insider's roundtable on 'Building for the Wider Powerhouse'. 
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We have experts across transport, energy and infrastructure markets on hand to find solutions to your challenges.
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Latest Angles

Jon Guest
30 Nov 2016

The investment in infrastructure in the North of England is at risk if current skills capacity cannot deliver this.

This challenge is exacerbated by the education and training system currently not meeting the demands of key sectors. Just under 50% of businesses involved in Engineering in the UK have difficulties in recruiting to skilled positions. Furthermore, in the North of England there are several fragmented approaches to strategic skills planning, there is a pull to the south for young, highly qualified people, young people are not being attracted into key industries, and workers in other sectors face significant barriers to retraining and moving into different specialisms or sectors.

In essence there is a multitude of skills challenges which appear to be substantial. The good news is that there are some examples of ways in which the skills challenges can and are being addressed successfully. Some of the best approaches I’ve come across which could address the skills challenge in the North:

Using procurement tools - The new National Colleges for High Speed Rail in Doncaster and Birmingham benefit from being built and established several years before skills challenges for HS2 will be acute. This allows them time to build a pipeline of skilled workers for Europe's largest infrastructure project. The High Speed Rail Colleges also benefit from skills investment that is tied to procurement, allowing the colleges to establish a business model and align learners with job opportunities. It also supports employer engagement in the curriculum and delivery. There is potential for education and training requirements in procurement to be demanded and implemented at large scale in other areas of infrastructure investment in the North of England, such as roads, energy and water.

Using data and local information - One criticism is that students are studying the ‘wrong subjects’ for what our economy needs. One way to address this is to plan the numbers of students outputted in different skills levels using labour market information, infrastructure spend and business planning information. Education and training providers are already drawing upon detailed local employment information and forecasting tools to understand the likely workplace demand for the skills they are producing. This allows education and training providers to place learners on courses which are more likely to have an employment outcome.

Targeting Careers Advice, Information and Guidance – Careers advice, information and guidance is inconsistent across the North of England. There is a recognition that to increase the supply of skills in key industries then the promotion of industry employment opportunities needs to occur. Promotion of future careers in areas with looming skills challenges to children, teachers and parents is being undertaken by employer and industry bodies.

There are further positives with the ongoing promotion of apprenticeships, creation of technical pathways (through UTCs and new Institutes of Technology) and strong performance of universities in the north of England. The North has the potential to build on its education assets, economic strengths and infrastructure investment to benefit the whole of the country. Addressing the skills challenge should be at the heart of this effort.


UK & Europe ,

Paul Yates
29 Nov 2016

It generally comes from large generating stations of various types and is delivered to us through the National Grid. But the landscape is changing, devolving, localising, which presents the regions, and the North of England in particular, with a golden opportunity to shape it for the future.

The population and demographic in the North’s towns and cities will continue to evolve, as will the demand for skills and the modes of transport people will use to get to their place of work. Major infrastructure, including inter-city projects such as HS2 and HS3 (linking the cities of the North), new road links and new nuclear power stations, will drive some of this change and the need for people and skills. Ways of working are also changing as more people use technology to enable their daily lives. And mobility will change and become more intelligent within cities. On top of this we have devolution.

With its long history of manufacturing and innovation in industry, the North already has a great foundation from which to build. It has been home to several nuclear power stations for decades, with new facilities in the pipeline, and has seen rapidly–developing, large-scale offshore wind in the North Sea and Irish Sea. Its deep water ports allow the region to service the offshore oil and gas and renewable industries, and are ideally located on the East coast to service future carbon capture and storage. There’s also a potential tidal lagoon off the Cumbrian coast, and the region has the people and skills to build, operate and maintain these facilities.

Through the grid, the power generated in the North can be used anywhere. But how could the North capture the benefits? Perhaps this can come from consideration of energy use and ownership of supply. Local low carbon generation linked to local distribution networks could provide additional resilience, and this will also add economic opportunity in construction and operation. If we align this with the long term change in demand for people and skills, upcoming major infrastructure and changes through technology in how and where we work, it starts to look like we have a strategy for energy that can be lower carbon, can give greater local control and is more shaped to meet future changes in demand, particularly when storage to buffer large scale generation is added to the mix.

Atkins is working with IPPR North and other partners to help develop this strategy for the North. This will inform policy makers on future investment and devolution in energy policy. It will also help to shape policy around the wider infrastructure the North will need in the future. This is a great time for the North to grab this opportunity to shape its own low carbon, resilient energy future.

UK & Europe ,

Philip Dyer
28 Nov 2016

Effective planning and delivery should be a key focus if we want to maximise the chances of investments realising their goals. Infrastructure is a means to an end, therefore a clear understanding of the economic demand and outcomes is needed.  Understanding the current infrastructure supply is also important to gain clarity about what needs to be built or refurbished, whether demand can be managed better, or whether the choice of location could reduce the size of investment.  Finally, a consensus needs to be built by analysing the trade-offs and agreeing the most viable funding, financing and delivery model.

These decisions cannot be taken without reference to the wider economic and social context. This is where the challenges arise. For investments at a Northern Powerhouse scale; like the Northern Rail route, 11 separate regional entities (city-regions and combined authorities) must work together. Transport for the North, Network Rail and Highways England already operate at a regional scale and are making progress. But it is slow and resource intensive work that could easily and inadvertently overlook important inter-dependencies and result in solutions that address only part of the broader challenge.

For investments at a city-region scale, to capture the value of a new HS2 station for example, the same complexities apply. Typically 10 councils must work together. Some issues, such as jobs and transport, will be dealt with through the combined authority, but other responsibilities, including housing and planning, are addressed by individual councils. At this scale resource constraints may limit the breadth of discussion and depth of analysis necessary to reach a consensus.

For investments within a city, for example in a development zone, the local spatial strategy will have made progress in defining the opportunity, but will not necessarily have considered the underpinning infrastructure investment in detail. The risk then is that utility companies, highway authorities and transport providers work in silos and the right investment is not provided in the right place or at the right time.

Thinking in a more joined-up way about these issues is one of the benefits that devolution is starting to bring. Transport for the North has issued its pan-northern transport strategy, IPPR North has established a Northern Powerhouse Energy Taskforce and Sheffield City Council has prepared the first Integrated Infrastructure Plan outside London. All demonstrate a desire for joined-up thinking to support city growth, but there remains an opportunity to do more.

Whatever the scale - local, regional or pan-region - organisations need to match their economic and social aspirations with the right level of investment in infrastructure. This includes stress-testing the underlying social, economic, environmental and technical assumptions, understanding the interdependencies, and modelling the complex range of possible investment and delivery options. This will help to build consensus and give assurance to city leaders that they have considered the options and come to a decision that offers value and resilience.

The Northern Powerhouse offers the opportunity to start to address these challenges in new ways.

UK & Europe ,

Nick Roberts
18 Mar 2016

Competition is healthy. It keeps us sharp, agile and at the top of our game. But not everything in life is competitive and it is possible to have winners without having to have a loser. London versus the Northern Powerhouse increasingly seems to be debated, and more specifically over the last week this has extended to Crossrail 2 versus High Speed 3 with concerns raised that London gets a new railway whereas the North ‘only’ gets an upgrade to existing infrastructure.

For me, it’s never been a choice between London or the Northern Powerhouse. It has to be both. It has to be about the growth of the UK. I’m not pretending that choices are easy but it’s an example of why the government created the National Infrastructure Commission, so they could take a long term, balanced and objective view of the country’s infrastructure needs in order to help make some of these decisions.

I was pleased to see that in its first outputs the Commission proposed major schemes in both the North and London, and the Chancellor subsequently announced in the Budget that money will be made available to take forward key recommendations in both. Would I have liked the Budget to include more pump priming for the Northern Powerhouse, on a scale which would give it a real kick start rather than simply bringing forward investments that were planned already? Yes, but I wouldn’t go as far as saying that the North has got a raw deal.

Let’s not forget that the government is proposing to provide less than half the cost of Crossrail 2 with the remainder being made up from fares, Business Rate Supplements and an infrastructure levy. This is a model that has been used successfully in London on Crossrail 1. London has the demand, it has the high density population, it is established as a world city and can attract significant investment and it has had many years operating under a single governance structure.

These options aren’t open to the Northern Powerhouse. It’s in its infancy and it is much more difficult to attract these alternative funding sources for major infrastructure. However, when the amount of money to spend is restricted – as was clear in the Budget - we will have to make the most of the incremental approach. But this has to deliver benefits more quickly to be of real value. It is a case that money needs to be spent to draw in the additional investment we require, and this is the government’s gift to give.

Linked to this we should also consider the practicalities of delivering these sorts of major infrastructure schemes. Transport for the North (TfN) is a relatively new entity and to a large extent is still establishing itself. Significant progress has been made on the creation of a northern transport strategy and to provide TfN with the statutory powers it needs. But they will continue to need help from central and local government in order to deliver their ambitious plans.

Transport for London has taken many years to build up its experience and expertise, plus it has the added benefit of clear governance, reporting to a single point – the Mayor of London. Cities in the North don’t even elect their mayors for at least another year and there will certainly be more work to do after the elections to establish pan-regional way of working.

I live in the north and I believe in the region’s ability to be better than it is today. Comparisons with London would be a distraction and the focus needs to be on what outcomes we can achieve with the investments that are coming to the North rather than worrying about whether the money funds something new or an upgrade of existing infrastructure. Let’s be realistic, things don’t change overnight, but the direction of travel is right and with continued focus and determination, and by working together to continue making the North an attractive environment in which to live, work and invest, everyone can be a winner.

UK & Europe ,

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Atkins produced the detailed design for E.ON’s Humber Gateway offshore wind farm’s offshore substation support structure. Harland and Wolff Heavy Industries Limited delivered E.ON with a full design and build package with Atkins subcontracted for the module support structure design. This project was awarded to Atkins because of our geotechnical expertise and capability to develop feasible foundation designs for the chalk ground conditions.

The offshore substation platform substructure consists of two components; a piled jacket and a module support frame (MSF) that was lifted onto the jacket substructure on site. All work was performed with due consideration to the difficult ground conditions and a key project requirement to enable installation using the project’s jack-up vessel – the MPI Adventure – which imposed restrictive load curve limits on geometry and weight. This enabled the developer to make optimal use of long term charter arrangements and mitigate installation risks.

The MSF provides support and allows access to two topside modules. The modules are connected to the foundation through eight support points, four per module. The modules connect to the wind farm by eight array cables each and are connected to land by one export cable each.

Atkins conducted:
• Full in-place, load-out, transportation analyses
• Lift structural analyses for both structures
• Fatigue, ship impact and on bottom stability analysis for the jacket substructure
• Detailed design drawings based on calculations for fabrication at Harland and Wolff’s shipyards in Belfast.

The work took place during 2013, and was completed in 2014.

Humber Gateway is located in the northern part of the Greater Wash area. The site is around 8km east of the Yorkshire coast near the Humber Estuary in the North-East of England. The wind farm has an installed capacity of 219MW, consisting of 73 3MW Vestas V112 turbines and a single twin circuit 33KV to 132KV substation. The wind farm provides 170,000 homes with green power.

UK & Europe ,

Atkins Traffic Modelling and Economic Assessment teams have investigated the Economic case and appraising potential highway based options for the A5036 Corridor from the M57 ‘Switch Island’ interchange to the Port of Liverpool.

As part of an initial feasibility study for Highways England, Atkins Transport Modelling team took the lead on the development of a strategic traffic model that enabled the understanding of future year transport conditions along this key corridor.

This involved close working relationships with the client (Highways England), Sefton Council, the Port of Liverpool and other key stakeholders (such as the Liverpool City Region Local Enterprise Partnership). Outputs from the traffic model were supplied to colleagues from Atkins Air and Noise Quality, Environmental and Planning disciplines as well as providing essential information for an Economic Assessment exercise. 

The results of the feasibility study suggested that improving the A5036 would result in ‘high value for money’ and helped to secure a place on the Highways England’s National Infrastructure Road Programme. The transport planning team are now leading the ‘Stage 2’ phase of the traffic appraisal / model development.

UK ,

The Midland Main Line (MML) is to be electrified as part of Control Period 5 (CP5)/High Level Output Statement 2 (HLOS2) between Bedford and Corby, Nottingham and Sheffield. Electrification will result in electric rolling stock which improves efficiency, capacity and has environmental benefits.

In 2014 Atkins was commissioned on a £135k contract to update the business case for MML electrification, providing route enhancements, cost evaluation and rolling stock assessment. Atkins would therefore produce a tool capable of producing demand and revenue forecasts, operating cost estimates and economic appraisal of infrastructure upgrades. In addition, baseline train service patterns and rolling stock scenarios had to be tested.

One of the key findings in Atkins’ work was that it was possible to have a joint stopping service to both Corby and Leicester which would retain hourly direct services from south of Kettering to Leicester whilst also reducing London to Nottingham journey times by removing intermediate stops, allowing Atkins to meet the principles specified by the client.

UK ,

The cleanup of the First Generation Magnox Storage Pond at Sellafield is widely acknowledged as one of the most challenging projects in the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority’s complex estate, and Atkins has been essential to its progression for over a decade. As part of the ACKtiv Nuclear joint venture with Jacobs and Carillion, we are providing engineering, project management, safety and implementation services to safely export hazardous waste fuel, debris and sludge from wet storage.

Our portfolio of projects at the site includes:

  • Support of waste retrieval from wet bays as part of a fast-tracked programme of work to decommission priority high-hazard facilities. The Legacy Pond is situated in a particularly congested part of the Sellafield site, making it a uniquely tough engineering challenge that required the full breadth of Atkins’ engineering experience
  • Design of new plant items to support retrieval of contaminated waste metal from the storage ponds. Our multidisciplinary team completed the work to an extremely tight timescale (just six months), while maintaining compliance with all client design processes
  • Refurbishment of the fuel route through the facility, which was originally designed to receive fuel from power stations. The Legacy Pond was constructed in the 1960s, to the design standards of the time. Using our deep knowledge of UK nuclear regulations and processes, we have designed modifications to support installation of new equipment for retrieving and processing material safely
  • Civil structural surveys to ensure the integrity of the 60-year-old buildings during decommissioning. Our surveyors identified several significant defects in the structure and produced an interpretive report highlighting like causes, predicting future developments, and presenting options for managing the defects during the lifetime of the project to ensure its safety.

Together, we and our partners offer a compelling mix of skills and hundreds of man-years of experience, which allows us to respond rapidly and effectively to our customers’ needs. The longevity of our relationship is testament also to the alignment of values and behaviours which has enabled us to continue to work together to secure the safety of the site.

UK ,

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Philip Dyer

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Janet Miller

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