Arup Ventures backs development of new polymer modular bridge

28 July 2017

Arup Ventures, the investment arm of the engineering consultancy, has aided the creation of a new glass-fibre reinforced polymer modular bridge. The innovative technology, developed by construction expert Mabey, was also part funded by the Rail Safety and Standards Board. The new glass-fibre reinforced polymer modular bridge will be used in areas in where traditional steel torsion bridges are unable to tread.

Initially a general building supplies business, Mabey was founced in 1923 as Mabey & Johnson. By the 1940s the company was increasingly focused on the design and delivery of bridges, a heritage that has continued to this day, with an emphasis on non-mechanical construction equipment and services.

The company has remained innovative in its approach to supporting clients with modern and cross functional bridges. One of the latest offerings, based on a concept from engineering and consultancy firm Arup, is a post-tensioned bridge – that can be delivered to sites where heavy equipment can’t reach. The new type of bridge, whose development was part funded by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), goes by the name Pedesta.

Arup, mabey and RSSB

In order to support both commercial and military needs, the bridge is modular, with each module being 1 meter length, with each module able to be bolted together to form a complete bridge. The structure is built from a glass-fibre reinforced polymer, which makes it 70% lighter than steel, with up to 30 modules able to be connected in series. Each module can meanwhile be moved by a forklift, making them relatively easily transported to location.

Engineering consultancy Arup played a key role in the development of the new designed bridge through its ‘Arup Ventures’ programme; an initiative which supports company personnel to take an innovative idea or solution for the environment to the market – here, through Mabey and the RSSB. Arup are part of a growing professional services trend in this manner, as numerous consulting firms leverage venture capital wings, either seeking to make sizeable returns from their beneficiaries, or looking to extend their own service portfolio for more long-term profitability. Big Four professional service industry rivals EYDeloittePwC and KPMG each boast growing corporate investment schemes, with a host of competitors including McKinsey & Company and PA Consulting following suit.

Rebecca Stewart, an Associate at Arup, remarks about the new design, “We are focused on engineering solutions to make bridges more resilient and simpler to construct. This modular bridge is quick and easy to install, minimises disruption to the surrounding communities and significantly reduces ongoing maintenance costs. We can see this bridge being useful for a whole host of global applications – from rail footbridges to road and river spans. It is great to have partnered with Mabey and for them to have become our first licensed partner.”

Mabey Bridge CEO Michael Treacy says about the newly designed bridge solution, “There is always room for innovation in bridging, and we pride ourselves on pushing boundaries with new materials so we can safely build longer-lasting structures even faster. What we have developed from Arup’s concept will change the game for our customers who tell us cost and ease-of-use come first. This is a significant step in our ongoing mission to lead the future of modular bridging and we look forward to seeing the game-changing Pedesta make its UK debut.”


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Grant Thornton named administrator for 'Welsh Carillion' Dawnus

22 March 2019

Following the collapse of Cardiff-headquartered outsourcing firm Dawnus Group, the firm has been compared to failed contractor Carillion, while 700 workers have lost their jobs. Grant Thornton has been installed as administrator to the collapsed firm to oversee the sale of its remaining assets.

Dawnus Group, a major construction firm based in Swansea with 6 regional offices and 44 construction sites, has confirmed it is under administration, resulting in 700 people losing their jobs. The group operated throughout the UK, from six regional offices and 44 construction sites.

Alistair Wardell, Matthew Richards and Philip Stephenson of Grant Thornton UK were appointed joint administrators of the UK operations of Dawnus in the middle of March 2019. Their appointment covers all the branches of the Dawnus Group, with the exception of the international operations of the network, Dawnus International, Dawnus Sierra Leone or Dawnus Liberia.

Grant Thornton named administrator for 'Welsh Carillion' Dawnus

According to the administrators, the group succumbed to pressures resulting from a broader downturn in the construction industry. Construction played host to some 3,940 insolvencies throughout 2018, as even while demand for new homes across the UK boomed, it was plagued by Brexit pressures and an economy plagued by sluggish productivity.  They added that while the financial difficulties of the group were not a direct consequence of Brexit, there is “no doubt” that the enduring uncertainty surrounding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU – just days before its final deadline – had impacted the ability to rescue the business.

Grant Thornton restructuring Partner Alistair Wardell said, “The Dawnus Group has struggled with a wide variety of challenges and despite significant efforts to turn the business around, unfortunately it has not been possible to rescue the group. As a consequence, the future cash flows have meant that the business was not in a position to continue to operate, including completing existing work in progress… Our priority is to work with management to ensure that any impact on customers, employees and creditors, including subcontractors, is minimised.”

Cardiff-based Dawnus has been described in some quarters as ‘the Welsh Carillion.’ When a keystone company goes belly-up in this manner, it often has a ripple effect on the broader supply chain, as seen with Carillion. Members of the National Assembly of Wales were quick to note that initial analysis of supply chain creditors indicates that there are in the region of 455 Welsh suppliers which will be affected.

‘Welsh Carillion’

Joyce Watson, AM for Labour in Mid & West Wales, asked for a statement from the Welsh Government, saying, “...When a large company like Dawnus does go into administration, it puts smaller, local businesses at risk, potentially having a devastating impact on those local economies. We know that they directly employ 700 people – and that’s a large number in and of itself – but there is a much larger potential number within the locality, as I’ve just described. These are not just numbers of people, but real families being affected by this collapse.”

Watson then listed a number of public sector projects affected by the news, including four school projects and a new road in Fishguard. Welsh Economy Minister Ken Skates told the Assembly that the Welsh Government stood ready to help employees, but stated that he made “no apology” for providing the company with support in regard to the many public contracts it had won in the lead up to its collapse.

Not everyone was entirely pessimistic in the fallout of Dawnus’ collapse, however. While employees now face an anxious period of adjustment, and a scramble to find gainful employment to keep their heads above water, Lyndon Wood, CEO, Moorhouse Group, suggested there was a silver lining for them.

Wood said, “This is a very difficult time for all employees of the Dawnus Group. If there is a positive to be taken out of this it is probably that these highly-skilled tradespeople now have the opportunity to become self-employed and further increase their earnings. Recent reports state that post-Brexit Britain could see a slumber in the skilled labour force – highly-skilled tradespeople such as Dawnus Group employees now have the potential to fill that gap.”

According to the Office of National Statistics, the average annual salary of an electrician in the UK is £30,765 per year, while a plumber earns £29,136. By becoming self-employed, at present, experienced electricians can earn up to £35,000, while plumbers could charge up to £90 an hour, and potentially make £1,000 each week.

While Moorhouse’s CEO might point to the potential money self-employed workers could make in the present economy, however, this neglects the potential impact Brexit will have on the jobs market. Professionals operating in the gig economy feel more vulnerable than their directly employed counterparts in the lead-up to Brexit. Without any permanent contract to secure rights to benefits – including a redundancy package – contractors and those who are self-employed feel much more negative about Brexit this year than in 2018. When asked ‘How do you think Brexit will affect your current employment?’, a recent survey found an increase of pessimism by more than 50% amongst contractors expecting a negative impact than in 2018, and a 33% increase in those who are self-employed expecting a negative impact.