ExpertiseConstruction, Project Management
Regenerating St Pancras station and Kings Cross for High Speed 1
Taking Railtrack (in administration) and transforming it into Network Rail
Building all the infrastructure, stadia and housing for the London 2012 Games
What was your presidential theme and what inspired it?
My central theme was to encourage engineers to engage in the ‘why’ rather than just the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of infrastructure.
To seriously interrogate the client’s brief to understand their fundamental objectives, before jumping to engineering solutions (which is often the easy bit!).
Linked to this, I stressed the opportunities opened up by asking the question ‘why not’ – encouraging engineers to explore the art of the possible, partly as a way of validating the process of refining the ‘why’.
Alongside this, I felt it was important to challenge the profession – especially during a period of public spending constraints and wider economic challenges – to be prepared to plan and design down to a specific budget.
Finally, I was keen to use my year to call for collaboration between all the professions required to deliver the infrastructure which underpins our economy.
There is no infrastructure without politics. We can build anything, but we must recognise the needs and preferences of the citizen (who's usually paying for the infrastructure, one way or another) – which will in turn influence politicians.
Who or what inspired you to apply to be ICE president?
Realising it was time to give something back to the institution and the profession.
Insights from an ICE past president
What makes a good ICE president?
The ability to communicate, inspire and listen.
What do you think is the most important quality in a leader?
The ability to express a vision and enable people to buy into that vision.
Did you learn any lessons during your presidency that you have taken forward in your career?
That no one person, organisation or country has all the answers. We can always learn from others.
Which individual project or person inspired you to become a civil engineer?
When I was 16, being inspired by the definition of civil engineering: ‘harnessing the resources of nature for the benefit of mankind’, as it was phrased back then.
What’s your #1 piece of advice for someone just starting their career as a civil engineer?
Accept any new challenge. You never know where it may lead.
What are the most important skills for civil engineers today?
- remember the end user
Tell us how you work with people to create or foster diversity in the workplace.
Trying to treat other people as I would wish to be treated and being open to understanding how what we do impacts different groups in society.
At the National Infrastructure Commission (NIC), we have a Diversity and Inclusion Strategy that not only seeks to ensure our staff base is representative of the UK population but also that we consider EDI impacts of our policy recommendations.
In the second National Infrastructure Assessment (NIA2), published in October 2023, we undertook distributional analysis of the household costs of infrastructure services. This helped inform our work.
Tell us how you work to address the problems caused by climate change.
One of the NIC’s formal objectives set by government is to “support climate resilience and the transition to net zero carbon emissions by 2050.”
So all of our work and policy recommendations are shaped by that goal, among others.
The net zero goal has animated many of our areas of work, such as the need for faster rollout of electric chargepoint infrastructure.
As a particular example, NIA2 had a whole chapter devoted to achieving net zero, primarily through changes to the energy system.
We also had a whole other chapter dedicated to climate resilience focusing on the need for transparent service standards for each sector, with costed appraisals by operators on how they will meet those standards in the face of more extreme weather.
What do you think is the greatest challenge the industry is facing and how can civil engineers overcome this issue?
Convincing politicians, the media and wider public that the UK can deliver major projects on time and to budget.
This requires leadership and collaboration from everyone involved in schemes: from clients through to subcontractors.
The London 2012 Games
The London 2012 Games project transformed part of Stratford in east London into a 2.5 km2 Olympic Park with facilities including an athletics stadium, aquatics centre, velodrome and BMX track.
High Speed 1 and St Pancras Station
Install a high speed rail link from the Channel Tunnel to St Pancras in London
Cut journey times from England to Wales via a Victorian tunnel and a modern suspension bridge.
- My first job as a project manager building a PvC manufacturing plant in Poland.
- After the Falklands War, working on a new airport (RAF Mount Pleasant) on the island capable of handling much larger aeroplanes: this project inevitably involved complex logistics and engineering challenges.
- Overseeing construction of the second Severn Crossing (a great example of private finance enabling a public good).
- High Speed 1 (Channel Tunnel Link) the related regeneration of St Pancras station and Kings Cross area: this taught me the value of political leadership and proper public consultation.
- Taking Railtrack (in administration) and transforming it into Network Rail, while improving on time service performance from 75% to 90%.
- Leading the Olympic Delivery Authority: building all the infrastructure, stadia and housing for the London 2012 Games on time and under budget.