When Union Railways North (URN), a subsidiary of London and Continental Railways (LCR), needed some experienced engineers on site to report on progress and advise on problems involved in building part of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL) - also known as High Speed 1 - it turned to Firstco, the technical consultancy, project management and systems integration specialists.
As a result, Firstco’s Pedro Osorio and John Myers have spent some months as URN’s representatives on-site, helping URN to fulfil its responsibilities for Section 2 of the CTRL project – building the railway from Ebbsfleet in Kent, under the Thames, overground to Dagenham and then in tunnel (some 30m below ground level) to the Kings Cross Rail Lands.
Pedro Osorio commented: “Naturally, offering this advice and guidance has needed to be done in an unbiased fashion.
“As the project is nearing completion and, for example, Eurostar is moving its operations to St. Pancras International, my role is now evolving,” he added. “It is taking on elements of project management, which means that I can now use my experience to help support and motivate those constructing the railway and make their job simpler.
“I’m someone who can be contacted whenever there is a difficulty. I help to ensure that things run smoothly and efficiently – especially in these last few days before St Pancras International station opens officially on 14th November and the CTRL is complete.”
While there are still some challenges to be overcome before that date and there are bound to be some ‘snags’ to be ironed out after that, Firstco has been delighted to play a key part in helping the CTRL project to progress as well as it has done.
Firstco’s involvement in the CTRL project also includes commissioning the managing process for the control and communications systems being used on the CTRL. Firstco, which opened subsidiary companies in Dubai and Mauritius earlier this year, has some ten years’ experience in this field, including:
• Providing specialist input to the project leaders for controls and communication systems and systems engineering.
• Ensuring the systems requirements of the stakeholders (user, operator and maintainer) are fully understood.
• Helping to clarify the briefs to enable the sub-project teams to move forward with their definition and detailed designs.
• Assisting in interfaces with specialist client and supplier systems teams and the existing rail stakeholders (such as train operating companies and Network Rail).
• Supporting and facilitating progress of the sub-project teams by aiding communication, identifying possible solutions providers and opportunities for rationalisation and challenging thinking.
• Designing, commissioning, testing and project managing the delivery and integration of station and tunnel control systems into a single control room graphical user interface (GUI).
Firstco’s chairman, Mark Calnan, added: “We strongly believe in being part of a team, including clients and contractors. This is the basis for our concept of Value Assured Engineering’ (VAE) which, we have demonstrated time and again, has brought success to projects in which we’ve been involved – both in engineering and budgetary terms - and it’s the philosophy that we have brought to our work with the CTRL.”
About the Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL)
Full UK Government approval was granted in 1996 for the two sections of the 69-mile (108km) high-speed Channel Tunnel Rail Link (CTRL). The opening date of the first phase, 43km, was 28 September 2003, with the rest four years afterwards. Speeds of up to 186mph (300km/hr) make the journey time from London's Waterloo International station to Paris, Lille and Brussels up to 20 minutes quicker (fastest journey times of 1hr 40min to Lille, 2hr 20min to Brussels and 2hr 35min to Paris).
After 11 years of financial and political turmoil, the £1.9 billion project moved forward after the signing by London & Continental Railways (LCR) in October 1999 of construction contracts for the new line from the Channel Tunnel to Fawkham Junction in north-west Kent.
Railtrack agreed to fund the construction of the shorter but more expensive CTRL Phase 2, from Fawkham Junction to London St Pancras via north Kent and east London. This completes a high-speed route from the Channel Tunnel to London.
The CTRL project was originated by London & Continental Railways, a consortium of eight major shareholders, including design and planning consultancy Ove Arup and Partners, engineering firm Bechtel, train and transport operators Virgin and National Express, investment bank SBG Warburg and French rail project manager Systra. Control passed to the newly-formed Network Rail in 2002.
Once the whole line is open in 2007, London-Paris times should be cut to 2 hours 15 minutes, with Brussels possible in two hours. The Channel Tunnel portal is just 35 minutes from St Pancras and, from 2009, Kent services will see significant reductions with Ashford taking around 36 minutes from London via the CTRL.
CTRL domestic services will connect London with Gravesend, Margate and Broadstairs by joining the classic network at Ebbsfleet, while services to Canterbury, Ramsgate and possibly Dover will continue to Ashford to join existing routes there.
Established in 1998, Firstco is now a major force in the areas of technical consultancy, project management and systems integration. Working in a range of industries – notably transport, especially rail installations and airports; power and construction – Firstco specialises in controls and communication solutions for assignments of all sizes from buildings through to large scale infrastructure projects, including sub-surface railways and airports.
Firstco’s in-house team includes specialists in: systems engineering, software engineering, control room integration, consulting, project management and commissioning management.
Through its core services of consultancy, system delivery and project management, Firstco provides its clients with a total solution - from concept to commissioning and maintenance, based on collaboration and integration with clients and partners.
Its mission is to advise, deliver and support high quality control and communications solutions that improve transport and workplace environments, create value for clients and make a positive difference to their end users.
Firstco’s approach is based on four core values:
• Service Excellence - achieving client confidence by truly understanding the business drivers and the project requirements, delivering the agreed solution to plan, managing issues and communicating clearly and regularly - while being easy to do business with and enjoyable to work with.
• Integrity - applying professional and technical expertise to ensure the right solution for the right reasons, as well as being open, honest and fair in all of its dealings.
• Teamwork - deploying the right blend of talent and experience to get the job done, and integrating effectively with client and third party personnel and activities.
• Development - continually seeking to enhance its own capabilities and processes, enabling it to remain innovative and challenging - and sharing this with its clients.
Firstco’s clients include: BAA Heathrow Airport; Esso Petroleum; Heathrow Express Operating Company; London Underground; Standard Life Assurance; Morgan Stanley; Arup Associates; Balfour Kilpatrick; Siemens; EdF; Mott MacDonald; Scott Wilson, Crown House (Carillion), and Transmanche Link.
Further information from:
David Bligh / Rupert Exham, Firstco, 0207 034 0833