• Northern Powerhouse

Print Bookmark




We employ over 1200 people based across nine offices in the Northern Powerhouse.
Find out more


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'. 
Find out more


We have experts across transport, energy and infrastructure markets on hand to find solutions to your challenges.
Find out more

Latest Angles

Jon Guest
21 Mar 2017

Over the next four years, the Government has committed to invest £13 billion in transport in the Northern Powerhouse with an ambition to change the trajectory of the region and in particular, its cities.

Building upon this investment is paramount and the North of England is configuring itself to seek further benefit from investment in transport and infrastructure investment proposals. There clearly needs to be a vision but how can the benefits be maximised? There are several areas which need to be considered:

  1. Regeneration and place making

    Investment in infrastructure will have different inputs and outputs in each city. Making the most of the regeneration and place making outcomes from transport investment is highly valuable, but having an identikit solution is not the answer. Consider HS2 investment. The overarching goal for each city is to create distinctive, connected, mixed-use development areas that attract occupiers and sustain development. However, the solution should be tailored to the opportunities, needs and characteristics of each individual location. For example, the main pedestrian gateway to Leeds railway station, which sees approximately 24,000 people per day is described as “very congested”, “not inviting” and “dark and cluttered”. The wider environment also has limited retail offer.

    Whilst Manchester Piccadilly has a differing set of characteristics and needs, in extending the city centre north and east, enhancing the tram interchange and providing more public space. These stations can be compared to the most high profile station redevelopment of recent times; Birmingham New Street. This station now provides an “airy, clean and efficient” hub which has significant retail offer and has revitalised that part of the city centre, responding to the area’s character and previous limitations. HS2 provides the chance to unlock significant regeneration and place making changes in cities, capitalising on city centre vibrancy, the functions of the station and the welcome that a station provides to visitors.
  2. Economic alignment

    Infrastructure investment can unlock further benefits if the outcomes are considered in line with some of the key or growth sectors. Investment in renewable energy across Teesside or the Humber has the potential to draw upon and enhance existing sector strengths including chemical and process industries, logistics and ports. Outlining a plan for key sectors following infrastructure investment (or vice versa) has the benefit of bringing together stakeholders (e.g. businesses, public sector organisations, education and training providers) around a route-map for future economic development.
  3. Wider benefits to people

    Infrastructure investment should also consider wider cultural, social and environmental benefits for people and local areas. There are several opportunities to maximise skills development from transport investment. Procurement, pooling public investment and establishing business and education sector collaborations are some of the tools which can be used to support skills developments in a local area. For instance, following investment in the nuclear industry in Cumbria, measures included using procurement to support apprenticeship take-up and improving careers advice for STEM. These are seeing wider benefits to the productivity and workforces of other local industries (notably manufacturing, engineering and other technical sectors).

    The commitment to investment in transport in the North of England is the start of the process. Further committed investments in energy, water or digital infrastructure can also similarly unlock wider economic benefits. However, it is important to consider that infrastructure itself is not the sole driver for economic growth, it is a conduit and driver. The real value comes from connecting up infrastructure investment with the conditions for sustainable economic growth; skills development, enterprising communities and attractive locations for living and working.

UK & Europe ,

Nathan Marsh
21 Mar 2017

Part of the North’s current and future attractiveness, to live, work, visit and invest, lies within is its connectivity and mobility network. However, the existing transport network is complex: an interlinked set of travel modes, routes and technologies, underpinned by a broad range of commercial contracts and structures.

This matters, as a key characteristic of an effective and attractive region is its physical and digital connectivity, both between and within cities, regions and towns.  As the North continues to grow, pressures on its network, also grow.

To increase connectivity on a constrained network, we need to think and act differently.  This is where intelligent mobility – the connection of people, places and services through reimagined infrastructure across all transport modes and enabled by data, technology and innovative ideas – can revolutionise how we approach these challenges.

One intelligent mobility approach is known as Mobility as a Service (MaaS). 

MaaS encourages people to think about their journeys in the whole context of getting from A to B, rather than as a series of constituent parts.  It is tailor-made around their individual needs and preferences. For example, users can pay for multi-modal journeys with a single account, pay per trip or via a monthly subscription to cover end-to-end, integrated journeys making the most of all travel modes such as rail to bike, park and ride, bus and walking.

The development of a seamless MaaS offering can deliver greater network efficiencies and tackle existing transport challenges by:

  • positively changing the behaviours of commuters to address challenges such as urbanisation, population growth and expanding towns and cities
  • reducing congestion and journey times, improving health and wellbeing from safer travel and reducing noise and pollution exposure.
  • improving strategic insight and aiding decision-making so the transport network can meet customer needs and changing preferences and behaviours.

These digitally and commercially enabled approaches (such as MaaS) require us to be organised and to operate differently in the future, using our existing physical infrastructure in new, and in some cases, unprecedented ways.

The publication of the Vehicle, Technology and Aviation Bill includes key measures to support the next generation of transport in the UK, providing a real opportunity for the regional transport strategy for the North to respond.

By planning for both incremental and transformative change and progress, the region can plan to unlock digital capability and innovations alongside its existing physical and commercial infrastructure.

The North has the scale, vision, ambition and capability to lead the UK in an improved intelligent mobility network – to drive and attract economic activity and retain its attractiveness as a great place to live, work and invest – moving from delivering transport, to improving mobility for all.

UK & Europe ,

Lisa Knowles
21 Mar 2017

Research by think-tank IPPR highlights that there are approximately 20 towns in the North with populations of more than 75,000. These towns represent nearly one-third of the North’s economy (£82 billion) and a similar amount of its population.

Towns are a focal point for education, employment and cultural activities. This is highlighted by travel to work area geographies, highlighting the importance of UK towns (and surrounding districts) as self-contained labour market areas (e.g. where most people both live and work), and highlighting that cities are not the sole focus for jobs and economic activity.

Steven Broomhead, CEO, Warrington Borough Council, understands and acknowledges the importance of successful towns in contributing to the wider productivity drive in the North of England.  

Warrington has seen rapid economic and population growth. It has traditionally been overshadowed by its M62 neighbours to the East (Manchester) and West (Liverpool), but its location alongside the M6 provides a potential focus. Steven is developing the idea of bringing together several key towns along the M6 corridor to pool expertise and knowledge, drive economic growth, support each other, maximise inward investment and ensure that jobs and homes are available for local people.  The idea is to focus upon improvements required by collective areas, including connectivity, planning, public transport, roads, rail and housing. This proposal is being labelled ‘Northern Power Towns’.

Bringing these Power Towns together rather than operating as single entities will improve productivity across the area. This requires the common areas and themes to be established. This includes:  economic development through the wider power towns opening up new markets for SME’s; improved infrastructure development and land management with joint transport solutions, and moving from bilateral developments between two authorities to macro developments across the Power Towns. The Governance and resourcing of this concept will be key to its success.

These smaller towns have a key role to play in supporting their bigger neighbours and helping deliver a true Northern Powerhouse that works for everyone. There is a strong enthusiasm from local authorities and with strong leadership and a spirit of collaboration there is a great opportunity to make it happen.   

UK & Europe ,

Part of the challenge here is that infrastructure isn’t developed overnight. For instance, major transport tends to be decades in the making and works to five-year funding cycles. This can be at odds with the priorities and shorter timescales that are driving the creation of homes at a local or regional level. So closer alignment between homes and infrastructure will reap significant benefits for everyone. 

Members of the public do not consider local authority boundaries when it comes to choosing where they live, where they work and how they travel. But they do assume that someone will be considering their needs. Problems start to arise though if this is being done by individual organisations in their traditional silos.

Our experience has shown that a clear understanding of the roles of the local, sub-regional and regional / national networks is needed in planning for the needs of housing and growth. Take transport as an example. The rail network largely supports a wide range of travel needs, including leisure, commuting into the bigger cities and business journeys, whereas Highways England is focused primarily on business trips and movement of goods and often expresses concern about its roads being used for local commuting and junction hopping. Add to this the local authority’s perspective about the use of their local network and it is clear to see how failing to address the supporting infrastructure at a very early stage could lead to delays or cancellation of much needed housing projects.

The right starting point is that wherever possible local authorities and city regions should be locating homes in places that are close to jobs and services, to minimise the distances that people need to travel, or in places currently well connected by public transport. This is nothing revolutionary – it has been accepted good practice for years, but is often not given proper credence.

Where this is not possible, or when new or upgraded infrastructure is going to be needed it requires detailed planning to be carried out at a sub-regional level. The city regions are the right places to drive this, and it plays well into the devolution agenda with the new Combined Authorities. It’s vital that they ensure the likes of Highways England and Network Rail, as well as pan-regional bodies like Transport for the North, are part of the conversation as early as possible so they can contribute and start forward planning within their own structures and cycles. So, through this collaborative process, a coherent strategy can be developed with strong synergies between the transport strategy and the spatial strategy, so that the two become self-reinforcing, benefitting everyone.

UK & Europe ,

Return to top ^


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 ,

Return to top ^


Philip Dyer

View my profile

Chris Mulligan

View my profile

Janet Miller

View my profile

James Rose

View my profile

Paul Yates

View my profile

Return to top ^