Me and my project: Doing the Highland gig

25 June 2019

Building the new station at Forres was just one of the tasks

Martin McFadyen of Network Rail talks through what he has learned on a Scottish rail build.

Martin McFadyen

Network Rail is currently investing billions of pounds in its infrastructure throughout the UK. Scotland is benefiting from this especially. The objective?  To build “the best railway Scotland has ever had”.

One of the major projects I’m blessed to be part of is the Aberdeen to Inverness project. The long-term aspiration of the project is to deliver enhanced commuter services, increased capacity and much, much more. To achieve this requires quick, significant civil engineering works.

I first came to Network Rail two years ago, moving from the utility industry where I was still managing civil engineering projects but with a heavy electrical engineering focus. I joined Network Rail as scheme project manager (SPM) and was instantly fascinated by the sheer scale of the civil engineering works ongoing and in the pipeline.

As an SPM my role is to project manage the civil engineering works on behalf of the client Network Rail. One of my first projects was the relocation of Forres station, which didn’t mean simply picking up and moving it – if only!

This project (phase one of the Aberdeen to Inverness project) required close working and collaboration with principal contractor BAM Nuttall and designer Aecom, which  demonstrated the meaning of effective collaboration – along with other key stakeholders such as Transport Scotland and ScotRail.

The project scope was to build a new station, two platforms and a link road, along with a footbridge, car park and a new road bridge over the railway which links the station to the town, improving connectivity. The station car park was a significant increase in size, including electric vehicle (EV) charging bays and disabled spaces.

The new station works benefited from being built outwith the (operational) railway line, however, there was going to come a time when the operational rail line would be closed to allow final alignment works to finish – which was always at the back of my mind.

Closure challenges

I had many challenges in phase one but none more so than the closure of a section of the Aberdeen to Inverness line, during which the railway was moved on to a straighter, double-tracked alignment to the north of the old station. It involved  the removal of a level crossing and installation of two new bridge decks, requiring a 1,000t crane which took two days to put together. BAM Nuttall worked around the clock to deliver this safely and on time.

I enjoy being part of a project that is making a difference to communities and reconnecting Scotland and the UK. Which is why I’m delighted to be in the thick of the remainder of this phase, which will realise benefits such as increased services, longer trains due to platform extensions, and shorter journey times.

On a personal note, from this project I’ve learned the importance of communicating and not to panic when the potential of missing a deadline means no trains will run on a Monday morning.

Lastly, negotiation. From the outside it’s easy to think that Network Rail selects a piece of land and starts building, in reality, this takes a lot of hard work and negotiation with stakeholders to find the right balance between cost and value for public money.

Martin McFadyen MCIOB is scheme project manager with Network Rail

Leave a comment