Welsh renewals in lockdown: an interview with Network Rail’s Kevin Collins, Wales and Borders

3 min


Working from home life, major renewal challenges, and what success looks like: ahead of his speech at this month’s Wales Transport Week, Tangent sits down for a (very) brief chat with Kevin Collins, project director for renewals of the Wales and Borders route, Network Rail

Tell us a little bit about the work of the Wales and Borders Renewals department since lockdown?

KC: Once lockdown kicked in, our first priority was assessing our work bank to make sure that we prioritise our projects, to make sure that key projects were still being progressed to keep on moving key workers and essential freight during the lockdown period.

Kevin Collins, route director Wales and Borders, Network Rai

Also, it’s a very big piece of work to suddenly mobilise the 50 people in my team from a primarily office-based project management organisation, to moving overnight to a process working from home! We had the usual challenges of IT, etc., but we’ve now after a short period of time are fully up and running, and it’s almost a new norm working from home. We’re still out and about doing project assurance, and operating business as usual.

It’s a very big piece of work to suddenly mobilise the 50 people in my team from a primarily office-based project management organisation, to moving overnight to a process working from home

The only difference being that as a rule we’re not commuting into city-centre offices. So that’s basically the change in working environment that we’ve seen.

One of the biggest renewals projects ongoing for Network Rail in Wales is the Barmouth Viaduct line, however earlier this the decision was made to transfer the Core Valley lines from Network Rail to TfW – how did that process go and what challenges does a project like the Barmouth Viaduct present?

KC: It was effected in March – my only involvement was in capital repair schemes due to be carried out in that area, so there was the handover to TfW for those schemes. I’m not involved in Core Valley lines operations so I can’t comment on that.

Major improvement work will include investing £22m to renew the iconic Grade II listed Barmouth viaduct and delivering Phase 2 of the Port Talbot re-signalling scheme to improve reliability on the Wales and Borders route c. Network Rail

[Barmouth Viaduct] It’s a two-year project; the challenges we have is a two-star listed structure. There’s a lot of reservations with stakeholders in terms of getting the design right, and working with stakeholders and agencies such as Cadw, which is the historic preservation organisation in Wales; working with local planning authorities, working with environmental consultants etc.

So there’s a lot of design and planning work involved, and it’s essential that we get that right before we start the project.

With a busy year ahead for the renewals team, what does success look like for your department?

KC: Success is the same year in, year out. It doesn’t change year by year. We get a five-year determination from the Department of Transport, and that then goes into the strategic business plan.

Success is the same year in, year out. It doesn’t change year by year

So each year we have a set amount of volumes and projects to deliver, and success for me is making sure those key volumes on time, to budget, and overall safely, and making sure that we put the needs of the passengers first.

Kevin Collins will be a keynote speaker at Peloton’s Wales Transport Week webinar series, starting 28 September. Click here to register for free!


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