Philip Hoare

UK & Europe

Philip is managing director of Atkins’ Transportation division across the UK & Europe.  This brings together a team of over 3,300 professional people in the rail, road and aviation sectors with the aim of shaping the future of Transportation.

Since joining the company in 1997, Philip has held a number of senior positions in Atkins' Highways and Rail businesses focused on delivering value and innovation to clients across a wide range of projects covering the full spectrum from strategic advice to operational delivery.

Philip is a chartered civil engineer with over 20 years of experience and is a member of the Institution of Civil Engineers and the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation.

He is the chairman of the Operations and Maintenance JV on the M25; former chairman of the Highways Term Maintenance Association from 2010 to 2012; a Director of the Railway Industry Association; a Director of High Speed Rail Industry Leaders Ltd and a non-Exec Director on the Rail Safety and Standards Board.

Find out more about where I work and any related career opportunities.

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The UK population is projected to reach 70 million by mid-2027, and the consequences of this on our transport infrastructure will be profound. It would be fairly difficult to overstate how important our ability to respond to these demands is. Reinforcing this sentiment are current and future projections of journey capacity and congestion. The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) calculated that there were 1.7 billion passenger journeys on the UK’s rail network in the last financial year. Meanwhile on road, highway congestion already costs £2 billion each year and this is set to rise to around £10 billion, by 2040.

But challenging circumstances; such as population growth, the need to create better transportation links and the importance of maintaining economic stability and growth, are not unique to the modern day. For example, responding to increasing world trade through river freight, and with no alternative regional routes across the river, the Thames Tunnel opened in 1843. Described locally as the eighth wonder of the world, the Thames Tunnel was a leading innovative solution responding to the rise of a global economy and its new challenges.

Fast forward to the present day, and the benefits of tunnelling aren’t so dissimilar. Space, particularly within an urban setting is a commodity, and current competition for its use has long exceeded that of the past. Yet the timeless engineering feat of tunnelling still provides a more efficient use of space that can better accommodate the forecast growth in travel demand. Strategically placed transport links are fundamental to unlocking housing and supporting regeneration. Tunnelling capabilities are one of the options that can support this, providing new links to rural growth areas and expanding connectivity. In turn, increased connectivity benefits users by cutting journey time, enhancing passenger experience and supporting integration of multiple modes of transport.

The challenge to deliver these benefits requires strategic planning and design, combined with the required skills and level of investment. Projects such as A303 Stonehenge, Crossrail 2, the Bakerloo Line extension, HS2 and various options for TransPennine tunnels to improve connectivity in the North provide some opportunity to respond accordingly.

Yet the task doesn’t come without other challenges. Uncertainty in the political landscape leading up to the EU referendum and surrounding the negotiating terms of the UK’s departure will undoubtedly affect the economy, as reflected in the autumn statement. Although the UK economy performed well preceding the referendum and has continued to show resilience since, shortage in construction skills has fast climbed up the political agenda in the wake of Brexit. The root cause, however, has been longer in the making.

The construction industry has suffered from a historical lack of investment that has impacted our pool of talent. Essentially, skills are lost when investment is low. With an upcoming pipeline of projects to deliver, and a welcome increase in investment towards it, we need to accelerate development to broaden our pool of skills. Ensuring we have the right partnerships and resources in place to meet these demands is key. Therefore delivering major projects relies on our ability to harness, develop and retain highly skilled tunnelling engineers. By providing long term opportunities we must create an environment that workers can thrive in. Seeking out a workforce equipped with the experience to build world class infrastructure.

Tapping into unconventional skill sets from individuals with non-engineering backgrounds could open up new possibilities to encourage innovation, creativity, and pursue ideas that facilitate adaptive and progressive infrastructure. Looking to other sectors such as those with a manufacturing background could enable a shift to a more productised approach, with off-site manufacture the dominant feature in construction of physical infrastructure. As technology plays a more significant role in transport, with a shift to robotics for routine construction and maintenance activities, as well as connected autonomous vehicles operating within a 'system', systems design and programing skills will become more critical.

Building on this cross cutting approach to skills is the importance of attracting future engineers. Academies such as the Crossrail’s Tunnelling Academy or Atkins’ Ground Engineering Academy provide much needed opportunities to nourish the younger generation. The activities of the British Tunnelling Society and its Young Members committee provide a platform for young people to network, understand more about the tunnelling industry and gain insight into what a future career could entail. Removing the mystery and fear of the unknown through these positive and engaging initiatives could unlock vital future resource.

UK & Europe,

You can find the second article in the series, which looks at encouraging and fostering the right environment for innovation, here.

How do we fast-track change and what will future funding models look like?

It is clear that funding models need to be evaluated within their individual political, legal and regulatory contexts.  What works in one culture may well jar elsewhere.  Governments around the world are looking for new ways of funding infrastructure projects. The flip side of the coin of innovation is risk.  Third party funding is emerging as a viable route, but for it to be successful, there needs to be a top down government-led approach which aligns funding mechanisms and procurement models with this new source of revenue.

Private investors bring a fresh perspective.  As with any commercial organisation, they tend to be very streamlined in their thinking, responsive to the demands of their shareholders and keen to reap the maximum benefit of their funding of a project.

Collaboration, not just between lender and recipient, but also across the industry to promote an environment in which lending into the sector is an attractive and viable option, is essential.  For new models of funding to be successful, there needs to be a whole-industry approach.

There also needs to be an understanding that the rail industry is a complex space.  Lenders need to be clear about the gestation period and lifecycle of a project, and frankly, when and how they can expect to see a return.  They also need to be able to manage the risk they assume.  Imbuing lenders with a degree of technical knowledge, as part of a collaborative approach, could be part of the answer.

Industry also needs to interrogate the role it wants a lender to play.

Are we looking for silent partners, or willing collaborators?  Sharing ownership at the top table makes sense, as those who feel loyalty to a project are more likely to expend blood, sweat and tears to see it succeed.  A language of shared outputs may prove useful in creating a team spirit, and reassuring shareholders.

And, what does success look like?  Achieving specified objectives, in a safe environment and with a sustainable model, which can be adapted for future projects.  This is no mean feat; given the complexity of the sector, no one size fits all.

Whilst there is a lot of conversation about these different approaches to funding, there is little evidence out there of successful models that are used repeatedly.  We have to work across the industry and with our partners to share expertise and create these sustainable investment models.

Do get in touch with us if you have enjoyed this article series and would like to discuss the challenges and opportunities posed by future mobility: changing consumer habits, working agilely, innovating in a safety-critical environment or exploring alternative sources of funding in a changing world.

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You can find the first article in the series, which looks at changing consumer expectations and how the rail industry responds to this challenge, here

This second article will focus on encouraging and fostering the right environment for innovation.

Challenge is often the precursor to innovation

Innovation can enable an enhanced passenger experience. In times of change, both at micro and macro level, we must be able to show the government and industry that we are able to deliver value for money. Innovating, both in terms of the emergence of new technology and the more effective use of existing assets, is critical to endeavours to realise a passenger-centred rail network.

So what does innovation in rail look like and how do we make it happen? Is there a blueprint for success? Investing in new digital technologies which can help to alleviate the capacity challenges faced by the network, reduce the amount of lineside infrastructure required and facilitate the move towards pre-emptive maintenance all have a role to play.

It would certainly appear that those countries which are able to best harvest the spirit of innovation are those with certain defining characteristics:

  • a simple(r) stakeholder environment
  • encouragement of diversity and inclusion in STEM engagement, from primary school age onwards
  • continued high quality on-the-job skills development
  • long term proactive government investment
  • ring-fenced funds for research into future technologies
  • use of data to identify behavioural trends and facilitate change



Introducing new technology safely

Safety is of paramount importance and there are many hurdles to overcome before a new technology can be integrated onto a railway network. Yet, if rail is to remain competitive and take its place in this changing world, we need to facilitate the faster introduction of new technology. In protecting our safety heritage, have we become too risk averse and driven to build barriers around new technology that are hard to overcome? We must change this paradigm, not by cutting corners or missing steps, but by using new and modern tools to enable parts of the process.

To what extent can digital and automated tools allow for elements of new systems and processes to be tried and tested away from the railway? Digital tools are currently employed in various aspects of the lifecycle of our railways, from design and electrification to maintenance and product assurance, so there must be a way of increasing the role that automation plays. This would also greatly enhance the safety of rail workers, as they would be required to spend far less time on site in a safety critical environment.

The Hyperloop is an example of a new technology which is cost-effective and has strong green credentials. It is significantly less expensive than traditional infrastructure programmes and generates more power than it consumes. It will be interesting to see how Hyperloop faces up to challenges that the rail industry is already familiar with, such as dwell times in stations and how it will integrate with existing infrastructure. The potential is huge; after all, we already know that High Speed Rail lures passengers away from air travel; with the Hyperloop, it would seem the potential is endless.

Hyperloop has caught the imagination of governments across the world and has the potential to show us another way. Certainly, its progress would likely be accelerated if the rail industry shared its expertise in matters such as securing safety cases and ensuring passenger safety. Interestingly, the ambition for Hyperloop is strong in the US, in the Middle East and India, but here in Europe we are more reluctant to consider the possibilities.

The third article in this series will focus on future funding models.

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Our world is changing. As an industry, if we are going to fulfil the expectations of passengers in the digital age, then we need to harness industry collaboration to unlock the barriers to future mobility and drive continuous improvement for passengers.

To shape the future of transportation, we need to dream big and be willing to test new ideas, harnessing new technology, listening to the needs of passengers, encouraging innovation and developing new funding models.

We see future mobility as characterised by seamless end-to-end journeys, the establishment of a new norm where technology-enabled customers rely on digital platforms powered by mobile apps to facilitate their journey choices, multi-modal trips with a single payment mechanism and access over ownership.

Lessons to learn?

New start-ups are materialising across the rail sector, readily attracting investment.  They are lean, smart and agile. They share the ability to continually innovate, go through multiple iterations and try and test new concepts quickly. With limited overheads, they are able to rapidly establish a presence, particularly in the growth markets of emerging economies.

Meanwhile, the rail industry faces increasing pressure to provide a high-quality travelling experience for passengers and embrace technology to deliver ever higher levels of safety, reliability, comfort and cost-effectiveness.

Is there a way of embracing the potential of start-ups to incubate new ideas and drive innovation to create the digital railway of the 22nd century today?  Strategic partnerships with start-ups and technology firms offer one route; another possibility is developing bespoke incubator teams within more established businesses.

The future of rail, and in fact all forms of transportation, will see us come together to share digital data platforms, which will allow us to have a closer relationship with the passenger than ever before and to offer them the kind of services they will increasingly demand.

Our customers are changing

Mobility as a Service is just one exciting example of how the rules are changing for how we’ll move people, goods and services in the future.  Imagine, for example, waking up, using your phone to check the news over your cereal and relying on one platform to cater for all your transport options for the day ahead.

MaaS doesn’t just talk about personalisation and putting the passenger first, it also aims to provide a clear set of new instructions and approaches for achieving it.

The Finland-based start-up MAAS Global plans to launch one of the first solutions of this kind in the autumn, in Helsinki. The aspiration is that users will ‘pay as you go’ or have a longer term contract, just as they would with a mobile phone. Users will receive automatic alerts advising them of the best way to travel, together with real-time information about any network challenges, allowing them to make dynamic decisions about routes and modal options. Ultimately these may be personalised to an individual’s preferences, featuring route and mode recommendations which consider proximity to a user’s favourite shops, for example, or tailored advertising and marketing as they pass their favourite restaurant.

At its heart, MaaS reflects a new set of assumptions about we interact with transportation and mobility. It redefines our expectations about how services will be provided. In Cambridge, Atkins has been working with its innovation partner, Fluxx, on an experiment revolving around a multi-modal commuter transport service.

This has involved testing modal shift and behavioural change among participants who have been asked to give up their car and instead commute by a combination of bus and lift-sharing. The success of the experiment demonstrated that people are willing to alter their behaviour, something which will be vital for any development of MaaS.

Consumer habits are being turned on their heads by the spending and consumption habits of millennials, a trend-igniting generation who are persistently tearing up the rule book. It is vital for the continued success of the rail industry that it keeps up with the pace of change.

As governments and operators are increasingly trying to deliver more for less, working collaboratively in the digital space opens up previously untapped possibilities for a sustainable, integrated and passenger-focused transport service

The second article in this series will focus on encouraging innovation.

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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.

UK & Europe,

Delivering rail infrastructure projects places many demands on our industry. Pressures to deliver value for money in short timeframes with limited resources can result in our people working long hours over several consecutive nightshifts. When you factor in the many safety critical tasks staff must undertake to protect the travelling public and themselves, it’s clear that fatigue management is a crucial issue.

Following the Clapham disaster in 1988, Anthony Hidden QC handed down recommendations to limit excessive overtime. These so-called ‘Hidden rules’were introduced by British Rail and became more widely adopted. These limited the shift length to 12 hours and the maximum hours per week to 72. Given these were introduced over 25 years ago and are no longer part of a Railway Group Standard, it might be reasonable to assume that things have moved on considerably. But have they? Twelve hour night shifts are still common, and much of fatigue management is still based on these ‘Hidden’ values. So six consecutive nights of 12 hour shifts are not that unusual.

But let’s step back a bit. What do we actually mean by fatigue? Is it just about hours? What does UK legislation require of us – and what might good look like?

The Office for Rail Regulation guidance (Managing Rail Staff Fatigue, 2012) suggests fatigue is “a state of perceived weariness that can result from prolonged working, heavy workload, insufficient rest and inadequate sleep”. The implication is a reduced ability to perform work effectively. A fatigued person will be less alert, less able to process information, will take longer to react and make decisions, and will have less interest in working compared to a person who is not fatigued.

Causes of fatigue may be work-related (e.g. timing of working and resting periods, length and number of consecutive work duties, intensity of work demands), individual factors (e.g. lifestyle, age, diet, medical conditions, and any drug and alcohol use which can affect the duration and quality of sleep), and environmental factors (e.g. family circumstances and domestic responsibilities). It’s well-known that night time working poses particular fatigue-related challenges because it conflicts with the ‘body clock’.

Whilst the way we manage work is very important, people’s choices, such as staying in a hotel after a night shift rather than driving home, also have a very important impact on safety. Sometimes workers take the risk and drive home while fatigued despite the potentially fatal consequences. These are summed up very powerfully in a film called RED Day Sleeper on Network Rail’s Safety Central website. Inspired by real events, the film follows the story of an employee who is trying to balance working night shifts with the pressures of raising a young family. The consequences of the choices he makes prove fatal and life changing – watch it for yourself and I am sure that many of you will be able to relate to the issues and challenges it presents.

What this film and other experiences highlight is that we as an industry have a dual responsibility to both manage work patterns better but also to help our people make the right personal choices to encourage them to take responsibility for their own safety. At Atkins we run a behavioural safety programme called Safe by Choice where staff are empowered to take responsibility for their own safety. As part of this programme, we gave staff who drive company vehicles a card that says “Don’t risk it, don’t drive tired” and that also states “You already have approval to book a hotel”. Informal feedback suggests that this overt empowerment has been important in good decision making.

What does UK law require of us? The Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 states that employers should ensure “so far as is reasonably practicable, the health, safety and welfare at work of all his employees”. The Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require a “suitable and sufficient” written risk assessment with controls along with an effective system to manage risks. The Working Time Regulations 1998 (as amended) may also be relevant, though there are certain opt-out provisions. In terms of rail-specific requirements, the Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations 2006 (ROGS) says workers should not carry out safety critical work when they are fatigued or are likely to become fatigued to the point that “health or safety…could be significantly affected.”

What this all means is that an approach that focuses only on hours and not explicitly on risks is unlikely to make a real difference or fully meet UK law. To address this, in 2011, Network Rail published standard NR/L2/ERG/003. This standard requires fatigue risk assessment and management for those involved in safety critical work with a focus on the planning of rosters and shifts. However, in my experience its implementation is partial at best amongst those delivering infrastructure projects. I believe that everyone working in the sector should implement a risk-based approach to fatigue that leads to better shift management, the reduction of associated risks and better management visibility of what is happening in practice.

Despite these concerns, I know that many people and organisations are looking hard at fatigue management but are we doing enough and should we be acting more consistently and with more pace? Are we as an industry really taking fatigue management seriously enough?

I believe it is time to apply risk assessment tools, like the HSE Fatigue and Risk Index, consistently and effectively across our sector. This will enable us to assess how we are really doing and then take the appropriate steps together as an industry to help minimise the impact of fatigue on our people and our projects.

An industry wide plan could be as simple as 1, 2, 3

  1. Develop a suitable benchmark for the fatigue index
  2. Produce a “ready reckoner” to make the application of a fatigue model easy to understand and implement
  3. Support this with guidance, training and advice to our people

Of course, the answers do not just lie in modelling so it’s vitally important that a communications and behavioural change programme underpins this work.

I know that many of you are also considering how best to improve in this area and it would be great to hear your thoughts – please contact me at or join in the discussion below.

I think that it is essential that we pull together as an industry and take a new and consistent approach to managing fatigue to enable and empower our people to make the right choices.

This article was originally published in the March edition of Rail Professional.

UK & Europe,

With CP5 well and truly upon us, the challenge the rail industry is facing is how we ‘step up’ and show what we can do in terms of delivering the programme on time, with greater efficiency but above all safely. It’s a pretty tough challenge. Network Rail’s plans for this control period will see an exciting programme of works delivered to make our railway network more modern, efficient and able to cope with rising demand. Having been awarded a number of contracts for CP5, Atkins is looking forward to the new opportunities ahead. Sat alongside projects such as HS2, Crossrail 2 and the introduction of new technology to make the railway smarter, I thinks it’s easy to get excited about what the future has to offer! The big question on my mind at the moment is are we doing enough to share this excitement with the rest of the UK so that we attract the skills and new thinking needed to successfully meet our aspirations? How will we as an industry deliver these major infrastructure programmes over the coming years while combating other challenges such as skill shortages and the continuing need to be more efficient?

I believe the answer lies in being more open to innovative and flexible ways of meeting the people demands of these programmes. We can do this in a number of ways but it is clear that we need to build skilled capacity in our sector. This means exciting the nation and then providing real opportunities for the next generation of railway engineers through graduate positions and apprenticeships and by re-training people from different walks of life to work with us.

Atkins, like other companies in the industry runs its own apprenticeship programmes which are giving young people the opportunity to learn about our sector and carve out an exciting career. Our rail business has employed more than 30 apprentices over the last couple of years and Atkins has pledged its support to the achievement of 5 per cent of our overall UK headcount being on a formalised apprentice, sponsored student and/or graduate programme. We have already met this target with 12.5 per cent of our workforce now made up of people from this background – but is this enough?

Another way to plug the skills gap is to employ skilled workers from different industries and overseas. Atkins has a lot of experience in this area, taking on ex-armed forces personnel to work in its Rail business. During 2013 we developed and ran an in-house training programme that sees ex-armed forces personnel become qualified signalling testers. Looking further afield, we teamed up with the University of Bucharest who run a specialist signalling degree (for which there is no equivalent in the UK) and have now employed a number of graduates from this programme.

As we all know, meeting the demands of the future is not just about bringing new people into our sector, it’s also about how well we work together across our industry. Working smarter, sharing objectives, challenges and successes and delivering projects in a truly collaborative manner must be the right way forward. That’s why I am committed to the principles of BS 11000, the standard for collaborative business relationships that provides organisations with a framework to set up formal alliances and partnerships. Early adopters of these principles such as the Stafford Area Improvements Programme are already on track to deliver one year ahead of their 2017 deadline.

So what’s the real opportunity here?

There is no doubt that many of us out there are making significant investments to attract and then develop new people into our sector. There is the Trailblazer group which developed the Railway Engineering Design Technician Apprenticeship Standard and the Technician Apprenticeship Consortium is doing some great work.

But are we doing enough? What I consistently hear is that there is no one size fits all solution – every business has different training needs. And guess what? This means we do our own thing and develop our own programmes. Probably not the most cost effective way of doing this and certainly not something that will excite our nation and push people towards a bright new career in the rail sector.

I believe we need to be smarter by combining our collective thinking and ideas, collaborating effectively for the greater good and developing nationally supported programmes that encourage new people into our industry either at the start of their careers or mid-career for those looking to re-train. Let’s build on what we have started and get it right this time – it’s vital for the future of Rail in the UK.

This article was originally published in the December 2014 edition of Rail Professional

UK & Europe,