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Transportation - an engine for growth

Philip Hoare | 01 Apr 2015 | Comments

Whilst we don’t usually talk about our internal structure with the outside world, I wanted to mark the fact that today we are bringing together our UK Highways and Rail businesses into a single Transportation division. This is a significant change not only because it will enable Atkins to be more flexible in the way we work with our clients but it will also enhance our ability to offer a much wider range of expertise.

This is a new era for the transport industry. Customer expectations and travel solutions are rapidly changing therefore our sector must be agile and forward thinking to better meet market demand. Companies throughout the industry are refocusing their business models favouring a more customer-centric approach. Although this might not sound like the profound ‘light bulb’ moment, it is important to bear in mind that this is a model many companies have lost sight of in previous years.

A prime example of this shift is the recent move by Highways England (formerly the Highways Agency). Today it also launches its new structure with an enhanced customer focused strategy at the core of its operations in order to deliver its long-term modernisation programme. And it is expected that their supply chain will be fully engaged to support this five-year £11 billion investment scheme. The same is also true of Network Rail and the numerous local authorities we work with.

Every day we are faced with new technological advancements which impact on the way we work and deliver our services. To ensure transportation remains an engine for growth, we need to look at how we can marry traditional engineering approaches with new technologies, behavioural-led design, big data and the growth of digital engineering. As consultants, we are required to be on the ‘front foot’ at all times. We must be responsive and collaborative but most importantly, we need to ensure we have the widest perspective.

Indeed, tomorrow we are launching a new white paper on intelligent mobility which challenges traditional transport solutions and considers mobility ‘as a service’. It explores the impact of technology on commuter behaviour patterns and the way transport systems operate. Ultimately, it also considers a new way of commuters purchasing transportation services which will be very different to the way they buy them today.

This all sounds really exciting and full of opportunity doesn’t it? But I think it also presents a very real challenge in a sector that already has an acute skills shortage. For me, the key is going to be attracting the most diverse range of skills, an active approach to innovation and an open door policy when it comes to sharing best practice.

Today is a marker in the future of our business, as we challenge our own assumptions and business models – and the future may be a bit tricky to navigate at times – but as a sector we must be prepared for rapid change whilst ensuring that we do it all safely. I believe the steps we have taken to reposition our business will allow us to better respond to the needs of our clients and the challenges of the wider industry. Through improved productivity and efficiency– the new Atkins’ Transportation division is well positioned to help shape a transport network fit for the 21st Century.