Consultants design new Cavendish III laboratory at University of Cambridge

28 December 2017

The Cavendish III laboratory is soon to be constructed at the University of Cambridge. The new facility will provide a highly sophisticated environment for fundamental physics research, as well as various teaching and public access facilities. The £300 million project, which received £85 million in funding from the Dolby family estate, has been partly designed by engineering consultancy, Ramboll.

The University of Cambridge is continuing its world-famous Cavendish Laboratory lineage, with the construction of the third laboratory to bear the name of Henry Cavendish – the discoverer of hydrogen. The former laboratories were presided over by some of the world’s most famous scientists. James Clerk Maxwell oversaw the first laboratory, opened in 1874, as its Director. Ernest Rutherford also spent a spell as its Director, while the laboratory hosted the work of Francis Crick and James Watson: the discoverers of DNA.

The latest installation, that of the laboratory ‘Cavendish III’, comes with a £300 million price tag. The project will eventually replace the current facilities, opened in 1974, which are now well beyond their intended lifespan, and which subsequently incur disproportionate costs due to their poor environmental performances. Following its demolition, the former laboratory will become the site for a new building for the university's Engineering department.

Consultants design new Cavendish III laboratory at University of Cambridge

The investment will be partly government funded, to the tune of £75 million, partly funded by the university itself, to the tune of £75 million, with the final £150 million to come from philanthropy. The largest trench of which, totalling £85 million, was donated by the Dolby family the estate of Ray Dolby, founder of Dolby Laboratories.

Aside from state-of-the-art laboratories, the new building will also provide space in which to communicate findings with student and wider audiences, through teaching labs, seminar rooms and two lecture theatres. The focus of the project will be to deliver a space that meets the requirements of the next generation of physics research, including a highly stable environment, as well as adaptability to future requirements. The public space, aims to facilitate the university’s extensive programme of work with schools and the public.

Ramboll has worked on the project since 2014, working with the department to provide technical consultancy related to civil, structural and vibration engineering design, for which the firm won a commission. In addition, with architects Jestico & Whiles, the firm also delivered acoustic and fire engineering design.

Commenting on the donation from Dolby’s legacy, Cambridge Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Toope said, “This unparalleled gift is a fitting tribute to Ray Dolby’s legacy, who changed the way the world listened – his research paved the way for an entire industry.”

David Dolby, the son of Dolby Laboratories founder Ray, added, “Our family is pleased to be able to support the future scientists and innovators who will benefit from the thoughtfully designed Ray Dolby Centre.”


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.