BAS comissions Ramboll to support Antarctica research station move

20 December 2016

To secure the future of the Halley VI research station on the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica, the British Antarctic Survey has commissioned Ramboll to provide technical advisory services related to the station's move. The firm's structural engineering Director, Ben Rowe, is on-site to support the move.

Halley VI is one of the major research stations operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) in the Antarctic. The station is a centre of research into a host of fields, including space weather and atmospheric science – one of the centre’s most notable discoveries is the ozone hole, and its rapid expansion from pollution, in 1985. The first station, Halley I, was a wooden hut founded in 1956. The latest station, Halley VI, was launched in 2012 and is designed to have a longer shelf life than its predecessors – it stands well off the ground and has ski feet which allow it to be moved, when needed.

The station stands on the Brent Ice Shelf, which is a 150 meter deep. The shelf is not stable, however, sliding at around 400 meters per year towards the sea, where it breaks off, periodically, into ice bergs. The movement of the shelf brings with it a range of additional risks, including the formation of a large chasm near the station, which has, in recent years, started to grow actively.

To safeguard the future stability of the centre, which is in one of the world’s most inhospitable environments, the station is to be moved 23 kilometres. “Halley was designed and engineered specifically to be re-located in response to changes in the ice", remarks Tim Stockings, BAS’s Director of Operations.

BAS comissions Ramboll to support Antarctica research station move

Over the last couple of years operational teams have developed detailed plans for the move, with preparatory work completed last year. The move will require the station’s 8 modules to be pulled separately by tractors to their new location.  

Now that the summer season has again begun, the move itself can be attempted. Stockings: "Antarctica can be a very hostile environment. Each summer season is very short – about 9 weeks. And because the ice and the weather are unpredictable we have to be flexible in our approach. We are especially keen to minimise the disruption to the science programmes. We have planned the move in stages – the science infrastructure that captures environmental data will remain in place while the stations modules move.”

To support the move, Ramboll is providing technical advisory services to the BAS. One of the firm’s structural engineering Director, Ben Rowe, will be on-site throughout the move – which is projected to take three years.

Rowe, who left for the station at the start of December, says about the move of the station, “It is a privilege to be part of the operation to move Halley VI away from the chasm to ensure its continued safe operation into the future. While my primary role is as structural advisor, my experience of managing teams and projects in complex environments will be used to support the Station Leader and the project team, to contribute to the project’s overall management.”

Furthermore, the firm has also been supporting BAS with support relating = to the upgrade of BAS’s wharf and jetties facilities.

The centre, which is one of the world’s foremost research stations and in 2013 became one of 29 global stations of the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and Global Atmosphere Watch (GAW), will continue its research from temporary premises.


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How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

11 April 2019

Amey Consulting has leveraged data insights to assist Network Rail with the improvement of its South-Eastern route. Using the Quartz tool, which monitors train movement, Network Rail will now be able to commit to data-enabled interventions to quickly improve underperforming train stations.

With rail services in the UK coming under strain from the demands of modern commuter life, while the infrastructure and service delivery of the nation’s railways has come in for sustained criticism in recent years, a period of regeneration is on the cards at last. Network Rail is the owner and infrastructure manager of most of the railway network in Great Britain, and has subsequently tapped the consulting industry on a regular basis to help find areas of improvement.

The group recently drafted in consultancy BearingPoint to conduct a thorough organisational evaluation and advise Network Rail (High Speed) on attaining a ‘fit for purpose’ organisational standard – for which the consultancy was nominated at the 2019 MCA Awards. Meanwhile, ArupArcadis and Aecom have been contracted to help Colas Rail and Babcock Rail implement a decade-long framework for Network Rail, aimed at supporting the delivery of the next generation of rail systems, with the contracts said to be worth as much as £5 billion

How data insights helped Network Rail improve the South-East route

As Network Rail further aims to improve its performance and customer service offering, another area it has sought help from the consulting sector for is its South-East route. The network of railways connects London with the southern parts of the country, as well as with Europe, making it the busiest in the country, with more than 500 million passenger journeys per year. This crucial expanse of rail was plagued with small minute delays, which were impacting millions of passengers every day, while reducing the efficiency and capacity of the overall network – something Amey Consulting was selected to help solve.

Amey Consulting soon determined that with the sub-threshold delays to services only lasting for 1 or 2 minutes, most were not the subject of detailed root cause analysis, and this made their corrections almost impossible – with dire consequences. Without addressing these delays, passenger satisfaction would fall, while the capacity and efficiency of the network would be reduced, stinging the income of Network Rail even before a host of delay-related fines would hit the company.

In order to help the client gain a better understanding of where, how, when and what these small delays occur, Amey Consulting looked to demonstrate the value of data-led consulting, with a significant reduction in delays within the first month of rolling out changes to key stations. The consultants embedded themselves in Network Rail’s team, helping them learn the key skills needed to support and apply data-driven solutions.

Agile transport

This involved the deployment of the Quartz tool. The system utilises to-the-second train movement data to present the performance of individual stations across the South-East route. It allows users to effortlessly understand station performance with a high level of detail, and use this information to identify losses caused by small-minute delays. The granular data allows for targeted actions to drive efficiency savings and performance improvements. More importantly, it allows users to understand the impact of small process changes on performance. 

Steve Dyke, an Executive Partner at Amey Consulting, said of the project, “We looked to identify the physical root cause on the infrastructure, building a case for change then managing that project implementation and tracking the benefit/value.  In doing so we are working to define a data performance improvement service to the operational and infrastructure owners.”

Just as important for the project as the technology, however, was teaching the Network Rail team how to leverage it after the consultants were gone. The Amey Consulting team worked to develop an agile working culture within Network Rail’s South-East division, helping staff to be confident in using data to improve the journeys of millions of people per year by attacking the problem from the ground up.

Dyke concluded, “This is less about the tools and about the approach to managing performance.  It meant using by-the-second analysis, data science, and then agile development to visualise and identify areas where improvements can be made.  We then worked with NR to change the way they approached the management of the infrastructure changes.  So rather than pass the information down the value chain, any of which could have been missed, we managed the change end-to-end.”

The project was so successful that Amey Consulting was also among those honoured at the recent MCA Awards. The firm scooped the Performance Improvement in the Public Sector prize for its work with Network Rail, at the 2019 ceremony in London.