"We believe by working alongside our industry partners, we can provide cost effective and innovative solutions for the rail industry, driving the right behaviours for the betterment of the industry, and ultimately, the passenger."
Electrification and signalling are as intrinsic to rail as tracks themselves, being a major part of the infrastructure that is in constant need of maintenance, care, and innovation to keep up with modern consumer demands.
To talk about these topics, we sat down with Jeff Davies, recently appointed Managing Director of Andromeda UK. An engineering company specialised in railway electrification, LV signalling design, and specialist consultancy, Andromeda and Jeff have been involved in some high profile projects across the British Isles.
First off, a bit of background: How did you start your current career path, and what does your new position as managing director entail?
I was proud to work for Network Rail for 14 years. I worked various roles both on projects and in Asset Management across the UK, learning from some of the leading experts in the rail industry, and in 2015 I was delighted to be appointed Director of Safety and Asset Management for the Wales route.
After almost four great years with the Wales route, I ended my time at Network Rail by supporting Andrew Haines in re-shaping the business to “put passengers first”. I wanted to continue to challenge myself further and take full accountability for the profit and loss of a business, however, and joining Andromeda not only provided that opportunity, but the team shared a collective passion to make a positive difference to the rail industry which was extremely important to me when making the decision to join. It’s an exciting time for the company and my role as Managing Director is to continue our success in railway infrastructure consultancy and electrification design, while developing our Low Voltage and Signalling capability to compliment our sister company Amaro, offering a design and build solution for Signalling, Electrification and Low Voltage works.
How has the rail industry changed since you started working in it?
The level of investment has increased phenomenally since I started as a graduate. Even 15 years ago, a £50m project was considered large, but now that’s a mere stagework of Billion pound schemes. This rapid and substantial growth has challenged the capability and competence of the industry.
The numbers of experienced railway men and women have also declined, so depth of competence now relies on a few senior, highly experienced individuals.
Are there any past projects you're proud of? Are there any upcoming ones you're excited about?
On a personal level, it’s not a big value, headline grabbing project, but one involving our most important asset – people. A conversion programme for electrical and mechanical engineers to join the railway and help support the delivery of and management of the changes to the infrastructure. Engineers were recruited from various industries and the armed forces, provided with specific training in electrification skills as well as formal learning through Sheffield Hallam University -- in total, the programme supported 45 engineers over several years, and it was extremely rewarding to be a part of it.
I am also extremely proud of the Cardiff Intersection Bridge project. This was an innovative, collaborative solution utilising the latest insulation coating technology to provide an electrically insulating layer to the bridge to support reduced electrical clearance, saving millions of pounds and avoiding the risk of delaying the electrification programme on the South Wales Mainline. I was Director of Route Asset Management for Wales and Borders at the time, and I was extremely impressed with the team at Andromeda who approached us with this design solution. It was a first of its kind for new electrification, and it went on to pick up an award at the Railway Industry Innovation Awards 2018.
The significant improvements planned for the Valley Lines in Wales are also tremendously exciting. As a proud Welshman, it is really great to see this generational level of investment to transform the valley’s network as well as improving the reliability and performance of the entire network. I am looking forward to being a part of this and supporting Transport for Wales in achieving their vision.
What's Andromeda's key business priorities?
Maintain our market leading electrification design expertise, whilst diversifying into a multi-discipline design business. Forming complimentary partnerships with other SME’s to challenge existing practise and drive down costs is also a key priority for us. We have recently partnered with iLECSYS Rail and Amaro to provide a comprehensive signalling power supply solution. We believe by working alongside our industry partners, we can provide cost effective and innovative solutions for the rail industry, driving the right behaviours for the betterment of the industry, and ultimately, the passenger.
What industry challenges do you identify as the most pressing ones, and how can Andromeda help the sector overcome it?
One of the biggest challenges is competence across the industry. At Andromeda, we are committed to ensuring that we invest time with our apprentices and graduates and provide the right mentorship and training. We have senior engineers with over five decades of experience and expertise -- young engineers spending quality time learning from these industry experts is key to educating the next generation of rail engineers and ensuring the highest levels of competence.
What's the biggest professional challenge you've ever faced?
Leading the Control Period 6 (CP6) funding bid for the Wales and Borders, which culminated in a record funding settlement of £2bn. I worked alongside a great team and I was very proud that together we secured a record settlement for the route. When you have a fantastic team of people who come to work committed to doing the best thing for the railway, it really feels that no challenge is insurmountable.
Finally, a question we ask all our interviewees: what's your favourite rail journey in the world, and why?
Until I get to take a trip across Canada, I would have to say riding on the Caroline inspection saloon through mid-Wales and the Cambrian lines -- extremely picturesque, with plenty of time to soak up the beautiful views!
To find out more about electrification, signalling innovations, and more, join us at SmartTransit LA, on October 28-30.