• 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

Raj Mukherjee
11 Jul 2017

Northern England has some great cities and it’s vital they keep pace with other major cities globally which are already taking advantage of the value that can be gathered from extracting insights across numerous public and private data streams, helping city leaders to positively influence the local economy and future growth. City residents won’t realise just how much data, in some cases given off directly by their hand-held devices, is shaping the immediate city decisions around them.

Here are three ways data can help to shape the success of our cities, including those in the Northern Powerhouse, both now and in the future.


All business and investment decisions are based on a range of evidence points. For cities in the Northern Powerhouse new data streams from sensors, cameras and mobile phones could generate, or are already generating, more detailed insight into the way people are using spaces, visiting shops, transport services and entertainment venues. This intelligence is being used to influence better urban planning decision making and in turn an improved end-user experience of the city.


The National Needs Assessment for Infrastructure, published in 2016, recognised the positive impact that technology, and particularly data, will have on extending the life-cycle of existing transport assets and reducing congestion and pollution. Congestion on the road and on trains wastes time, increases pollution and is costly to society. Commuters in the north of England waste more than 50 hours a year in traffic jams; that’s the equivalent of more than a full week of work. Greater Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham, has already pledged to develop a new digital infrastructure plan as the basis for establishing Manchester as a world-leading ‘Digital City-Region’ and we would like to see other cities across the Northern Powerhouse make similar sorts of commitments.

Inclusive growth

For many cities data is being used to enable the growth of new sectors. These indicators highlight vitally important trends and provide city leaders, along with designers, architects, engineers and developers, with insights that ensure we are creating cities that enable these new emerging industries to flourish. Crucially the data can help city leaders make decisions that balance economic benefits against health and social measures; to create strategies that will encourage growth that will benefit the whole of society.

These are just three of the many areas where data can provide tangible evidence points that enable city leaders and urban designers to visualise options and then make complex decisions which enable them to create truly liveable and vibrant cities. It’s an extremely exciting field and we are at the beginning of what is possible.

UK & Europe ,

Julie Hurley
05 Jul 2017

To achieve this, it’s important that we think differently about the way we do things, attracting private investment into transport infrastructure programmes and looking at alternative models of funding.

TfN is moving beyond rhetoric and will become the first sub-national transport body by March 2018. The pace has been swift – moving from an informal group of northern politicians, Local Enterprise Partnerships, central government and national agencies, to a statutory body that has produced a Northern Independent Economic Review, Strategic Transport Plan and Implementation Programme, in what will be just over three years. We need to make sure that our approach for securing investment in the crucial infrastructure which will drive connectivity and economic prosperity in the North is equally ambitious.

Organisations such as TfN will not be able to rely on government funding alone and competition for funding is fierce. Private sector investors can bring new approaches to efficiency, value for money and innovation.

Furthermore, technology companies are in the transport space and may well be the transport providers of the future, providing the infrastructure and vehicle investment, tipping the balance of public and private money. At the moment, the industry is watching and waiting for someone to make that first big move which will change the funding model. Certainly, if these transformational plans for transport are to be delivered, then organisations such as TfN will have to reverse out of the Treasury funding cul-de-sac and find a new route.

To incentivise investors in the Northern Powerhouse, we can:
• Embrace the potential powers that devolution can bring to secure the decision-making responsibility needed from central government
• Focus on funding and financing options at the pre-feasibility stage of a project, as part of the establishment of a robust business case, building confidence that programmes of work are ‘real’ and have the support of the enabling stakeholders
• Provide clarity and purpose of vision so that potential investors can explore the optimum way of supporting a project and understand how they can earn money on potential investments
• Keep the momentum going – maintaining the interest of the business community during the long gestation period of large scale infrastructure projects
• Show a willingness to do things differently, to think agilely, to provide a more efficient route to ROI
• Provide confidence that projects will be completed to deadline and that they are as low risk as possible.

Sponsors and promoters of projects need to ensure that sound pre-feasibility and due diligence work, including market demand analysis and financial modelling, is undertaken well in advance before engaging potential investors. Despite the perception that investors are waiting with large amounts of capital ready for investment in government-backed or supported infrastructure schemes, competition for finance is high and investors will not entertain poorly tested proposals.

A robust investment case must demonstrate clarity in terms of:
• Transparency in project scope and the distribution of responsibilities and risks among stakeholders
• Clarity when distinguishing between funding and financing, where a blend of the two is required (especially large scale, complex projects)
• Options for structuring finance which optimise cash flows, maximise investment returns and accelerate delivery
• Carefully targeting the right investor for the right project by having good market knowledge of differing investor appetite for different types of projects (e.g. brown field v green field infrastructure)
• Measuring and capturing revenue from project-based investments
• Identification of the most appropriate procurement and delivery model for the project in hand, including consideration of asset transfer and balance sheet treatment
• Setting out robust evidence which demonstrates value for money including key decision-making metrics, such as comparative cost of capital and economic impact (job and economic output).

The Northern Powerhouse is presented with a unique prospect to yield substantial economic returns through an approach which genuinely integrates the planning, funding / financing and delivery of infrastructure schemes, with the latent land-use and development opportunities such investments will release. By following this approach, some of the value created by investment in infrastructure schemes can be more readily captured to enhance or ensure the viability of projects.

UK & Europe ,

Leanne Kelly
05 Jul 2017

This new framework would seek to bring balanced economic growth, both between and within areas, to help shape the post-Brexit economy and to release new growth potential.

The northern cities are a natural subject of the Inclusive Growth lens, where they have a set of relevant elements on the demand side - large populations spread across more local communities; growth potential, especially with infrastructure developments arriving; and lingering issues with productivity and poverty. And on the supply side – anchor institutions are often key in local employment and purchases, whilst the northern city regions have an excellent opportunity here with devolution, as has been well recognised.

The recently published Inclusive Growth Monitor, by the University of Manchester and Joseph Rowntree Foundation, places these city regions in a national context, and shows a relationship between the economic inclusion and prosperity themes (places above median inclusion tended to have above median prosperity). Across the 39 combined authority areas, the Northern city areas all ranked in the bottom third – with their own inclusivity issues and separations from wider UK growth. Liverpool (38th) and North Eastern (Newcastle, 36th) showed challenges in labour market inclusion and workless households, and were labelled ‘low prosperity, low inclusion’ areas alongside Sheffield City Region (35th), for example.

The monitor can help focus efforts in Inclusive Growth, where there is visibility and awareness of some of the underlying issues as well as comparisons between areas. The cities and their leadership can now look at how to address these gaps and incorporate these into new budgeting and decision making.

However, the agenda must not exclude the already ‘left behind’ or overshadowed places. The cities will be the hosts of major new infrastructure development and investment, but the inclusivity and prosperity of this development overall will be driven by the feeder towns, including the capturing of contracts by local businesses, those living in the surrounding towns will also feed into new job opportunities and engage in using new infrastructure and development for work and leisure. Disconnected, deprived or left behind places will reflect a lost opportunity here.

As such, the smaller, medium towns can also be engaging, shaping and using a set of applications that follow on from the new conceptual framework of what economic success looks like, as well as link up with Inclusive Growth developments in the cities. These applications may effectively cover:
• an accessible and recognised measurement of Inclusive Growth and economic success
• the diagnosis of inclusivity and prosperity problems
• the matching of these problems to intervention proposals, or policy adjustments, that can be assessed, prioritised and monitored
• the raising of finance for schemes that have a focus on inclusivity, where the benefit-cost ratios and initial returns may be lower but the value comes in releasing cumulative impacts over time that strengthen communities and the long-term economy.

By addressing the challenges of small local areas, connecting them to growth and disconnecting deprivation, the UK can enhance the value of infrastructure and other developments, raise the quality of life through Northern towns and city areas, and move towards more long term and balanced prosperity.

Atkins is developing an approach that both captures the multi-faceted nature of inclusivity – labour market dynamics, place environment, wellbeing, connectivity, local business and productivity - and supports places in meeting their own Inclusive Growth challenges and aspirations. This approach will consider not just the decisions the authorities can take but also the relationship of socio-economic outcomes to public service provision and the role of local anchor institutions in driving local spend and good work processes.

UK & Europe ,

Paul Yates
29 Jun 2017

Hydrogen can transform domestic heating and vehicle transport, large scale energy generation and energy intensive industry. It is flexible and clean at the point of end use, helping to address local air quality issues, and can be stored under pressure at high volumes, providing resilience. It is already in use in fuel cells powering vehicles such as buses and fork lift trucks. The Energy Research Partnership (ERP) considers that it has the potential to power up to 10% of road vehicles and to replace natural gas in the grid transmission system, in the same way that towns gas was replaced with natural gas in the 1970s.

Of course, the use of hydrogen doesn’t come without its challenges. Manufacture through electrolysis is only low carbon if the electricity used is low carbon and in reality, the quantity of electricity required will be prohibitive. Using hydrogen from steam methane reformation (SMR) would require about a third more natural gas to produce it than using the natural gas itself directly. Carbon capture and storage (CCS) would also be required to avoid a negative impact in terms of climate change.

So, for the hydrogen economy to be a viable route for decarbonisation, we need SMR, CCS and use of the existing gas network, replacing natural gas with hydrogen. Current thinking is that we need 100% hydrogen replacement of natural gas, as blending at lower proportions simply does not work out as carbon beneficial due to the CO2 generated in manufacture. However, this leaves us with a problem: domestic appliances are not able to run on natural gas with more than about 20% hydrogen, so would have to be replaced. Safety concerns about hydrogen combustion in enclosed domestic spaces would also need to be fully understood and addressed.

So, the widespread use of hydrogen is far from straight-forward. However, the pace of research and investment is rapidly increasing as the push for decarbonisation moves on, and there are positive results:

  • We have worked with the Energy Technologies Institute (ETI) to study in detail the potential for storing hydrogen and hydrogen gas mixtures underground in salt caverns, which can then be used in gas turbines when demand for energy is high. We are also looking at opportunities with Ports and Councils on low carbon infrastructure that will form part of the equation.
  • Northern Gas Networks are progressing their H21 City Gate project to replace natural gas with hydrogen while using existing gas networks, incorporating CCS and hydrogen storage in the Yorkshire salt caverns, and are looking to extend this to Hull.
  • Peel Holdings are working on a hydrogen hub in the North West to decarbonise heating and energy production for a mixed-use development.
  • Alstom has developed a Hydrogen fuel cell powered version of its Coradia iLint suburban train and is testing it in Germany. The test runs in Lower Saxony use hydrogen generated as a by-product of industrial processes. In the longer term, Alstom aims to support production of hydrogen using wind power.
  • Fuel Cell Systems, working with the University of Birmingham and Hitachi Rail Europe, has completed a six- month study for the UK rail industry, which shows that hydrogen fuel cell technology can be successfully retro-fitted to extend the life of existing rolling stock. Funded by RSSB and Network Rail, the project demonstrated that the use of fuel cell technology could reduce journey times, eliminate emissions at the point of use and improve passenger comfort through smooth and rapid acceleration and minimal noise and vibration.

This is a really exciting opportunity for the UK and the North of England to be at the forefront of the low carbon economy. But it requires leadership in thinking across traditional market boundaries and between projects. Something Atkins is ideally positioned to lead.

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 ^