Arup and Mace brought on board for Commonwealth Games stadium revamp

19 November 2018

Two leading engineering and construction consultancies have been tapped to help modernise Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium, ahead of the 2022 Commonwealth Games. The £70 million overhaul will ultimately expand the arena’s capacity to 40,000 seats for the international athletics event.

The Commonwealth Games are an international multi-sport event involving athletes from the Commonwealth of Nations, which consists of 53 nations which are largely former colonies of the British Empire. The event was first held in 1930, and at intervals of four years has since completed 21 editions across the globe. Following its most recent outing on Australia’s Gold Coast, the games are due to return to England in 2022, with Birmingham to become the third English city to host, and the first from the country since Manchester in 2002.

In order to prepare England’s 'second city' for the event, a number of renovations will be required to see stadiums in the area fit for purpose, before 2022. This saw Birmingham City Council put out a tender for firms to lead a £70 million retooling of the Alexander Stadium in particular, which will host all the games’ athletics events, plus the opening and closing ceremonies.

Arup and Mace brought on board for Commonwealth Games stadium revamp

The Council stated in a contract notice in the Official Journal of the European Union, “A key component of the Commonwealth Games 2022 will be the redevelopment of Alexander Stadium site to meet all the games' requirements.”

Opened in 1976, Alexander Stadium underwent a £12.5 million expansion and refurbishment in 2011, which included the building of a 5,000-seat stand opposite the current main stand. This took the capacity to 12,700, just in time to host the Diamond League British Grand Prix in July 2011. The new proposals by Birmingham’s local authorities would see the stadium's capacity increased to 40,000, including 20,000 permanent seats.

The project will see the back straight stand from 2011 remain, but the other three stands will be demolished and rebuilt. In addition to the new stand, the work will see a 400-metre outdoor practice running track permanently housed at a nearby high-performance centre, along with new community sports facilities, a permanent warm-up track and a conference meeting space.

Following a competitive tender process, Arup has been selected to deliver the redesign of Alexander Stadium, fending off 12 other firms – eight of which were SMEs – for the role. Arup has previous experience on high-profile sports venues, something which is likely to have helped mark it out from the other firms. This includes having provided structural design services at Beijing’s National Aquatics Centre and the National Stadium – known as the “Bird’s Nest” – before 2008’s Olympic Games; as well as having worked on Bayern Munich’s Allianz Arena and ACF Fiorentina’s Stadio Artemio Franchi.

At the same time, construction consultancy Mace has been appointed to manage the project as a whole. Earlier in the year, Mace published a report calling on British construction firms to modernise practices for maximum efficiency, in order to drive demand post-Brexit. Most recently in the sporting world, meanwhile, Mace has been working with Populous on its troubled revamp of White Hart Lane for Tottenham Hotspur. The stadium, which was expected to be re-opened for the new season, will reportedly host its first game in January 2019, according to reports from industry news site


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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.