Reinforcing tunnelling expertise with Bamser & Subterra acquisitions

The acquisition of Bamser, in Australia, and Subterra, in Spain, positions SYSTRA as a leading global player in the field of tunnel design and construction.

SYSTRA, a member of the British Tunnelling Society, recently completed the acquisition of two companies dedicated to the design of tunnels and underground structures, Bamser, and Subterra. Both acquisitions reinforce SYSTRA’s position as a leading global player in the field of complex tunnels, following the acquisition in 2021 of Italian based SWS Engineering.

With a number of high-profile subterranean infrastructure projects planned in the UK over the coming years, SYSTRA will be uniquely positioned to be able to draw on over 600 global tunnelling and underground infrastructure specialists to support its UK-based team in the delivery of major infrastructure.  SYSTRA’s UK and Ireland presence has grown over the past few years to a team of over 1000, with major infrastructure expertise including geotechnical and ground engineering, BIM modelling, civil and structural design and assessment, planning consents and environmental biodiversity.

As we look to grow our infrastructure portfolio across the UK and Ireland, these acquisitions further consolidate the expertise we can offer. Tunnels are complex structures requiring specialised skills, I am delighted we can draw upon such a significant resource to support our clients in engineering underground structures.

Nick Salt, Managing Director UK & Ireland, SYSTRA

We have over 600 tunnelling experts at SYSTRA. We are currently project managing the development of much of the Paris Metro, an enormous project known as ‘Grand Paris’ involving 200km new lines + 68 new stations. Learn more about our tunnelling engineering services.

SYSTRA Reinforces tunnelling expertise with Bamser and Subterra acquisitions.Download Press Release
New Cycle-Rail Toolkit Guidance for Station & Train Operators

On 28th June 2023, new guidance commissioned by the Cycle-Rail Working Group administered by Sustrans and developed by SYSTRA was launched in Westminster by Minister of State for Transport Rt Hon Jesse Norman MP, Network Rail’s Chair Rt Hon Lord Peter Hendy CBE and representatives from Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT), Chiltern Railways and Active Travel England.

The updated ‘Cycle-Rail Toolkit 3’ offers guidance to station owners, Train Operating Companies (TOCs), local authorities and other scheme promoters on making the journey to and from the railway station easier by cycle as well as advising on how best to provide space for cyclists and their cycles at stations and onboard trains.

The rail network is the backbone of Britain’s public transport system, yet passenger journeys do not start nor finish at railway stations. Improving the overall ‘rail offer’ by making it easier to walk, wheel and cycle to and from rail stations by personally owned or shared cycles will encourage more people to travel by train. A simultaneous reduction in the number of people making short journeys to railway stations by car will also ease traffic congestion in our towns and cities and benefit the environment and address social challenges such as health, well-being and air pollution.

The new Cycle-Rail Guidance provides best practice case studies, practical information to support the justification for investment, and also points out possible new sources of funding.

Jesse Norman – Transport Minister

Phillip Darnton OBE, Cycle-Rail Working Group Chair said, “On commissioning this work we wanted to create a user-friendly step-by-step guide to encourage and increase the overall number of cycle-rail users. I am delighted that both the cycling and rail sectors have worked in partnership to help create such a fantastic and informative Guide. It has been written specifically for rail and station operators and those involved in making end to end journeys more attractive”.

Emma Spencer, Cycle-Rail, Sustrans said, “It was great to welcome Transport Minister Jesse Norman and to hear him speak enthusiastically about the importance of combining cycle-rail travel. The launch and guidance highlight the close relationship between the Cycle Rail Working Group and organisations such as Active Travel England, Network Rail, Great British Railways Transition Team and other train operating companies”.

Sébastien Dupont, Managing Director Consultancy, SYSTRA, said, “At SYSTRA we think about the whole transport system and how it interacts. We know that more emphasis on the end-to-end journey is critical for creating the necessary shift towards sustainable transport and achieving net zero by 2050. This Cycle-Rail Guidance is a key tool to support the growth of sustainable transport. We are very proud to have developed it with the Cycle Rail Working Group and are now looking forward to supporting its implementation”.


David Alderson, Active Travel Lead, UK and Ireland, SYSTRA said, “It’s been thoroughly rewarding for my team to develop the Cycle-Rail Guidance, our combined enthusiasm, knowledge and expertise has proven to be a perfect match for the Cycle Rail Working Group. We very much look forward to supporting TOCs, GBRTT, Active Travel England, local authorities and other scheme promoters to develop their cycle-rail offer”.

The interactive Cycle Rail Guidance: Toolkit 3 is available to download free of charge today.

Transport Minister Jesse Norman helps launch
brand new industry standard cycle-rail guidance for
station and train operators
Download Press Release
HS2 slides into the record books

In December, HS2 celebrated a world first as a team of around 450 people, led by HS2’s construction partner in the Midlands Balfour Beatty VINCI (BBV), slid a 12,600-tonne bridge a record 165 metres across a motorway in Warwickshire.

A video of the Marston Box Rail Bridge sliding into position over the M42 was the BBC’s ‘most watched’ at one point over the Christmas break. As the footage demonstrates, this was both an impressive spectacle and an engineering triumph that could lead to wider use of this method in the UK.

It was good news for motorists too. The project team worked closely with National Highways to eliminate two years of restrictions and the closure even ended a whole day earlier than planned.

“The Marston Box slide was a great example of what can be achieved when we work collaboratively and as one team,” says Sasan Ghavami, BBV’s construction director, who oversaw the project. “This complex and challenging puzzle was solved thanks to lots of different teams coming together, each bringing their own area of expertise and experience. It’s certainly a career highlight for me, as I’m sure it is for many others who contributed to this impressive engineering feat.”

Sasan Ghavami, BBV’s Construction Director

Taking place between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, this was the first slide of its kind across a smotorway in the UK and specialist Freyssinet, which designed the slide, believes it to be the world’s longest. Box slides are not uncommon in the UK but are usually over or under rail lines; in North Africa and Europe, box slides over highways are less of a novelty.

This was an alternative design for the M42 Marston Box Rail Bridge, requiring BBV’s designer SYSTRA – as part of the Mott MacDonald SYSTRA Design Joint Venture – to rethink the structure, working closely with Freyssinet on the interfaces between temporary and permanent works to ensure the bridge’s 120-year design life. And then there was the plethora of tolerances to contend with, how the structure would settle and the impact on headroom for the motorway and the high-speed rail line above it, since the box sits straight on top of compacted fill with no piles.  

“We had to look at all the positive and negative tolerances and understand how they would work in multiple scenarios. As a project team, we worked closely with HS2, BBV and Freyssinet to understand their methodology and with our geotechnical engineers to understand the ground conditions. And we had to build some flexibility into the design.”

~ Paul Mills, Design Manager, SYSTRA Ltd

slimmed down

The design for the original M42 Marston Box Bridge, which crosses the M42 near junction 9 in Warwickshire, consisted of a pergola-type structure, sitting perpendicular to the carriageway. The box slide alternative came out of an extensive and wide-ranging value engineering exercise that took place in 2018 after BBV was appointed on lots N1 and N2 phase 1 of the HS2 project.

“We were looking at ideas, construction methods, innovation, how we could do things better than the way assumed at the hybrid bill stage,” recalls SYSTRA’s UK highways lead Andy Baines.

It was a big step for National Highways to agree to this method, but there were some compelling reasons why it looked like a good alternative, says Baines. First, this would be far safer for workers and drivers, with much less work taking place alongside live motorway lanes. Second, there would be far less disruption to road users: rather than two years of reduced lane widths and speed limits and three months of overnight closures, this method required just two road closures.

The new bridge design consists of a two-cell box, skewed at an angle of 61 degrees. It has a large flat base, to reduce the bearing pressure in the temporary and permanent states, three piers which span its width, and a top deck.

There were carbon saving benefits to this solution. Since this structure had to be pushed into position, it was vital to limit its weight. The result is a structure that uses far less concrete, with a smaller plan area than its predecessor design and no concrete piles, leading to a significant reduction in embodied carbon.

The slide

Like all the best engineering solutions, Freyssinet’s patented sliding system is simple in its concept. The box structure is constructed on top of a concrete guide raft, with grease and polythene sheeting between the two concrete surfaces, bentonite is added to lubricate and then jacks push the structure out across the motorway.

The clever bit is how the jacks are deployed. For Marston Box there were nine of them, each with a 1,000-tonne capacity. Each jack creates its thrust by pulling itself along a cable which runs beneath the base of the box structure in a groove cast into the guide raft, anchored into the far end of the raft. The raft is prevented from slipping itself by several 1.7m-deep spades, cast into the ground at intervals along its length.

Drone images of the Marston Box bridge after it was successfully installed over the M42 motorway in Warwickshire
Drone images of the Marston Box bridge after it was successfully installed over the M42 motorway in Warwickshire.

Once the box reaches the end of the guide raft, it slides onto compacted ground. For Marston Box, the existing ground wasn’t good enough which meant that 3m had to be excavated out, once the carriageway had been removed, and replacement material brought in and compacted. A dewatering system was installed across the area to lower the ground water before the guide raft could be constructed.

“A massive ground replacement exercise took place during the first seven-day closure over Christmas 2021,” says SYSTRA’s geotechnical expert, Tim Ngai. “During that time BBV also carried out a motorway drainage diversion ready for the final bridge position.”

Understanding the ground, which is extremely weak mudstone overlain with fluvial deposits, was vital for the long-term design. One of the early challenges for SYSTRA was creating the geotechnical model with limited borehole information – and no way to do more bores through a live motorway.

Replacing the carriageway was not straightforward either since it is a concrete pavement. Reinstating a concrete pavement after each closure would not have been possible since it would not have reached sufficient strength in the timeframes. Instead SYSTRA, with input from Mott MacDonald, designed an asphalt pavement which required the creation of a special joint detail where it met the concrete pavement at either end.

The lessons learnt from the first closure enabled improvements to be made for the second one. Systra’s highways team, which had been modelling traffic flows and supporting BBV to plan road closures with Staffordshire and Warwickshire County Councils and National Highways, was able to reduce diversions and closures to free up more traffic the second time.

first time for everyone

The video demonstrates BBV’s success in sequencing and logistics, showing the carefully orchestrated preparatory works completed in phases as the huge box structure advances at an average rate of 4.64m per hour. But what it can’t demonstrate is the vast amounts of cooperation and coordination that took place between all the stakeholders involved in this feat.

“There were many meetings and workshops to explain every aspect of the design to National Highways, HS2 and BBV,” says Mills. “We had to make sure everything was signed off and assured and the right consents were in place. And we were all doing it for the first time.”

This won’t be the last time, however. HS2 has two more box slides planned: one across the rail line between Coventry and Leamington Spa this summer and another over the A46 in Kenilworth.

“This has been a huge team effort, with daily challenges,” says SYSTRA’s HS2 engineering manager, Hani Benkhellat. “We are proud to have delivered a ground-breaking design for BBV, HS2 and UK plc.”

SYSTRA bolsters UK-IRL business with two strategic appointments

SYSTRA Ltd is delighted to announce two senior appointments to support its ambition of sustainable growth in the UK & Ireland. Llewelyn Morgan is appointed as Head of Innovation to lead and develop new ideas, technology and methods for working. Dr Peter Weldon is appointed as Director of Net Zero Transport to lead the delivery of transport decarbonisation projects and assist clients in their net zero transitions.

Llewelyn has over 20 years of experience, he joins from Oxford Country Council where he was Head of Innovation leading an award-winning cross-departmental team that undertook many InnovateUK and Government funded projects covering transport, energy, social care, health and the environment. On future mobility, Llewelyn has led projects on connected autonomous vehicles (CAV), Mobility as a Service (Maas) and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV). Oxfordshire is recognised for being at the heart of testing and trialling projects for a digital future.

Peter joins from engineering and professional services firm GHD where he was Business Development lead specialist for transport decarbonisation projects, developing business for both public and private sector clients. Peter has developed his expertise in the decarbonisation of transport over the past 10+ years. Most recently he was the technical author of BSI standards aiming to improve the accessibility of EV charging infrastructure for those with disabilities. Peter has a PhD in Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering from Trinity College, Dublin and is the author of many papers spanning energy, EVs and sustainable transport modes.

Nick Salt, CEO of SYSTRA UK & Ireland said, “ I am thrilled to welcome Llewelyn and Peter to the business. Both are accomplished professionals with a proven track record of delivering value to clients through innovation and sustainability. They will help drive our sustainable growth and will help raise our profile through their impressive range of expertise.”

“I can’t wait to get started at SYSTRA which has a rich pedigree in R&D investment having established a cross-business innovation unit in Paris over 20 years ago. SYSTRA in the UK and Ireland is already working on many major projects which will benefit from new ideas and ways of working.”

Llewelyn Morgan, Head of Innovation, SYSTRA Ltd

“It’s such an exciting time to be involved in the transport decarbonisation space. The transition from a fossil fuel-based society to net zero emissions will be tackled through a multi-faceted approach including zero emission vehicles and a wholesale shift to public transport and active travel. I am already working on several exciting projects which will be trailblazers for our clients and for our industry.”

Dr Peter Weldon, Director of Net Zero Transport, SYSTRA Ltd
SYSTRA bolsters UK-IRL business with two strategic appointmentsDownload Press Release
Paramics Discovery 26 unveiled with new active travel capability

SYSTRA is delighted to unveil Paramics Discovery 26. The latest version of the well-known Paramics transport planning software tool has improved functionality to simulate behaviour across more modes of transport to better reflect how we use our road infrastructure.

Paramics has been reproducing real world traffic conditions by simulating travel behaviour on a user-defined road network for motorised transport modes since 1996. The latest version Paramics Discovery 26 includes active travel modes for the first time and has been designed to enable transport professionals to design, evaluate and present transport and mobility solutions.

Paramics Discovery 26 can be used to test a wide variety of transport planning interventions simply and quickly, including assessing the impact of increased traffic on a road network, new junctions and infrastructure, changes to traffic signal control, public transport operations, roadworks and event planning.

The intuitive software also enables transport planners to assess both economic and environmental impact from their proposed interventions including cycling and walking to public transport and private motorised modes

We are incredibly excited to reveal Paramics Discovery 26. We listened to our clients, colleagues and authorities around the globe who expressed a strong interest for sustainable transport modes to help their detailed transport planning and appraisal programmes. With Paramics Discovery 26 we have equipped authorities with an intelligent tool to support the transition to NetZero. We hope you like it as much as we do.

Sébastien Dupont, Managing Director Consultancy, SYSTRA Ltd

Two years in development, and we are absolutely delighted to release Paramics Discovery 26. As towns and cities throughout the globe are witnessing a massive return on investment by dedicating more road space to active travel modes, our improved software will for the first time allow authorities to envisage thriving local economies and test how best to reach their carbon reduction targets.

Malcolm Calvert, Digital Director, SYSTRA Ltd
SYSTRA’s £20m Levelling Up Fund Success

SYSTRA’s Business Case & Appraisal Team, alongside Cushman & Wakefield, supported Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council in developing its latest Levelling Up Fund bid submission, which has now been awarded £20m in funding as part of the latest round of major Government investment in local communities across the UK.

The Levelling Up Fund forms an integral part of the UK Government’s efforts to improve local infrastructure and cultural/heritage assets, underpinned by £2.1bn of second round funding for schemes across the UK. To secure funding, local authorities were required to submit bids outlining improvements that would support levelling up priorities within their communities, according to criteria set out by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities.

SYSTRA assisted several local authorities in the production of bold and ambitious bids for schemes which would help to improve local accessibility and public realm, increase the attractiveness of sustainable travel, and better link key destinations within local communities via sustainable modes.
In the case of Redcar & Cleveland, SYSTRA worked with Cushman & Wakefield on the local Council’s bid to create a strategic cycle route linking South Bank with Guisborough via Nunthorpe, as well as a High Street and Beckside walkway regeneration scheme in Guisborough town centre, by way of economic appraisal and design support/auditing.

I am proud that our team of business case experts has been able to support Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council in preparing and submitting its successful Levelling Up Fund bid, which has now achieved a funding award of £20m and which builds on our previous successes in the first round of funding allocations. SYSTRA’s business case and appraisal team bring together a wealth of knowledge and experience gained from years of working closely with local authorities, and I’m particularly delighted that we’ve been able to help Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council successfully secure key funding towards an ambitious local scheme.

Amy Sykes, Sector Director, SYSTRA Ltd

With a third round of submissions to the Levelling Up Fund likely still to come and around £1bn worth of funding left to be distributed, SYSTRA are now looking forward to supporting clients in refining and resubmitting any bids which were unsuccessful this time around (over 400 bids lost out in this round of funding), as well as supporting Redcar & Cleveland Borough Council in achieving their proposed vision.

SYSTRA appoints Romain Pison as Director of Decarbonisation

Romain Pison joins SYSTRA as Director of Decarbonisation and will consolidate and expand SYSTRA’s existing comprehensive offer supporting public and private sector clients in achieving their Net Zero ambitions. Romain is an award-winning transport director with 25 years of experience designing, leading, and implementing complex, multi-million-pound transport projects and green policies across the world. Romain is leading SYSTRA’s market growth in ESG consulting and advisory services, focusing on infrastructure, supply chain, and nature-based solutions. He joins SYSTRA from sustainability software company Wiia which he cofounded in 2020 and was Green Infrastructure specialist with the World Bank from 2013.

Sébastien Dupont, Managing Director Consultancy, SYSTRA, said, “We are delighted to welcome Romain to our growing team in the UK & Ireland. As well as the passion he brings to the challenges of creating a liveable net zero world, Romain also brings an excellent track record in building strong public-private partnerships and identifying key opportunities for digital transformation that will complement our already strong decarbonisation service offer.”

“I am thrilled to join the team at SYSTRA as they push further their ambitious program to drive decarbonisation in infrastructure and across the built environment. I am passionate about the possibilities of sustainable technology and the solutions it can provide to decarbonise our transport and energy systems. SYSTRA is a world-leader in this sector, and I am excited to be part of a team that will be working to make a real difference. I believe that SYSTRA’s wealth of experience, their advanced expertise, and the enthusiasm of their experts across the world, provides the perfect platform to make huge strides towards decarbonising our clients’ assets and operations. I’m looking forward to using my skills and experience to contribute to SYSTRA consultancy’s ambition and to be part of this incredible journey with our clients.”

Romain Pison, Director of Decarbonisation, SYSTRA Ltd
SYSTRA appoints Romain Pison as Director of DecarbonisationDownload Press Release
Sébastien Dupont appointed as Managing Director of Consultancy

SYSTRA Ltd is delighted to announce the appointment of Sébastien Dupont as Managing Director for Consultancy (UK-IRL). Sébastien joined SYSTRA in 2017 as Chief Financial Officer for Latin America based in Såo Paulo, Brazil before moving to London in 2019 as International Chief Financial Officer, responsible for UK, Nordics, South America and North & Western Africa. He is an accomplished operations and financial leader having worked for 20-years in the transport engineering and automotive sectors.

I am delighted that Sébastien has agreed to join SYSTRA Ltd. He is an astute business leader with significant international experience and will form a significant part of our Leadership Team as we continue on our journey of sustainable growth.

Nick Salt, CEO, SYSTRA Ltd

Sébastien led the integration of TSP Projects that was acquired in 2019, doubling the size of the SYSTRA Ltd’s Transport and Infrastructure business. As Managing Director for Consultancy, Sébastien will support the sustainable growth of the business, raising the profile of its many thought-leading technical and digital experts.

Sébastien Dupont, Managing Director Consultancy said, “Moving to the UK has been one of the highlights of my career so far. After working with a vast network of international entities across multiple continents, I am now delighted to shift my focus to the UK & Ireland market in order to support our clients delivering on decarbonisation and sustainability. It is my absolute pleasure to lead SYSTRA’s consultancy team which has a rich and diverse pedigree of delivering fascinating work, thanks to its deep expertise and relentless commitment to each of our customer’s success.”

A big leap forward for the Ebbw Vale Rail Upgrade

The £70m Ebbw Vale rail upgrade funded by Blaenau Gwent Country Borough Council via a loan from the Welsh Government, the investment will allow a new hourly passenger service between Ebbw Vale Town and Newport. The existing line has to be closed periodically throughout the next year in order to make the major improvements and closure dates have been published on the Network Rail website.

Our ‘One team’ approach ensured the success of the blockade pulling together the contracting teams supported by Network Rail’s Construction Services team who removed and relayed the track. A great example of project delivery leading up to the new Control Period.

The combined team worked tirelessly leading up to and throughout the blockade to co-ordinate these major works and deliver them successfully and safely within a tight nine day window. I am incredibly proud of the team we have created; we have carefully gathered together exactly the right expertise to deliver this timely rail upgrade

David Camacho, Ebbw Vale Project Manager, SYSTRA Ltd

AmcoGiffen’s Operations Director for Wales and Borders, Andy Crowley said, “Our efforts at Ebbw Vale are a fantastic example of our ‘one team’ approach in action, as we work closely with our client Network Rail and Supply Chain Partners Siemens, SYSTRA and Network Rail Construction Services to deliver the multitude of works. In line with the new CP7 strategy, we’ve reviewed our working practices to be collaborative and holistic in approach. This has brought an increased level of transparency and engagement to our intelligent client offering and supplier approach, allowing all the different teams to come together in a seamless, cohesive manner. Throughout this work, the safety of our 120-strong team was paramount, and I’m happy to report that this paid off in zero reported incidents.”

Key highlights of work undertaken

Between 22nd and 30th October major works were carried out on the Ebbw Vale Line which was temporarily closed for nine days.

Newport Rd Bridge

  • 2 spans of bridge removed weighing 30t total
  • 4 cill beams, 2 decks and 6 L planks installed weighing 150t total
  • Steel suspended platforms installed in 3 lifts weighing total 50t
  • 25 pre-cast concrete planks average length 5m installed
  • 200 tonnes bottom ballast install including ballast ramps

At Newbridge station

  • A rail bridge over Bridge Street was replaced using a 650-tonne crane;
  • 415metres of new track was installed, and platform extensions were carried out
  • A 20m x 40 meters existing retaining wall was demolished involving 250 lorry loads of spoil removed before the embankment was regraded

At Llanhilleth station

  • 55 meters of platform foundation excavated
  • 60m3 of concrete poured
  • 1800 blocks laid
Mike Muldoon joins SYSTRA Ltd as Business Development Director

Mike Muldoon joins SYSTRA Ltd as Business Development Director for UK & Ireland and as member of the Executive Board. Mike brings over 30 years of transport industry experience serving clients and customers around the world. Mike began his career in rail rolling stock before moving into project delivery. In 2010 he joined Alstom UK & Ireland as Tenders Director before becoming Head of Business Development in 2017. Latterly he has led Alstom’s UK focus on the development, promotion and application of emerging decarbonisation technologies and the resulting closer integration of the transport and energy sectors.

SYSTRA‘s CEO, Nick Salt said, “We are absolutely delighted to welcome Mike to our Executive Board for UK and Ireland, he brings a wealth of experience driving growth in new and emerging sectors. SYSTRA has developed a strong position in the UK & Ireland, growing our core consultancy and engineering capability to respond to the needs of the transportation and infrastructure markets.”

I am delighted to be joining SYSTRA at such a pivotal time in the development of transport and infrastructure in the UK and Ireland. Behaviours and needs across the region are changing and the sectors we serve must evolve and grow to facilitate this change. If people are to have the freedom and opportunity to travel sustainably and affordably in the future, we must apply the strength and diversity of SYSTRA in both our existing areas of proven success and along new and exciting paths.

Mike Muldoon, Business Development Director, SYSTRA Ltd
Mike Muldoon joins SYSTRA Ltd as Business Development DirectorDownload Press Release