Operating a rail network is about transporting passengers, keeping the trains running on time. But it’s also about maintaining the stations used by millions of travellers every year. London Midland needed an interim who could look after maintenance, supervise major improvement works, and develop a vision for the future of managing facilities and estates.
Running up to 1,300 services a day from London to Birmingham and Liverpool, London Midland manages 148 stations and around 60 million passenger journeys each year. With half of all journeys serving commuters the network’s stations are busy, some seeing footfall of almost six million passengers a year. Since winning the franchise in 2007, the company has completed a station improvement programme worth £11.5m, while a further £270m has been invested in new rolling stock.
London Midland presented a stiff challenge for the interim taking over the management of its built assets.The company needed an executive who could not only master day-to-day operations for a facilities team of 24 staff, but also take a strategic view that would mould the department for the future. The job would include heading maintenance for the network’s 148 stations and six dedicated maintenance depots. In addition the interim would manage a series of major improvement projects for stations and depots, some of which were already underway. Lastly, the interim would need to design the structure and mission of facilities for the future.
“The job was about managing the facilities team and getting on top of the project work – the cost and finance risk. But it was also about reviewing all of our facilities activity and setting its strategic direction and then managing the transition,” says Richard Brooks, commercial director at the rail network.
Though an interim, Cliff was at London Midland for almost two years from July 2012 to June 2014. His background reveals a raft of appointments at high-profile organisations over 25 years managing engineering, facilities and construction projects. He arrived at London Midland after a spell as interim engineering director with National Express while other assignments have included head of operations and maintenance with naval defence specialist BVT Surface Fleet. Cliff has been interim head of technical services at HMRC, head of technical services for Ocado, and engineering director at Tibbett & Britten. He has been an interim for six years.
London Midland hired Cliff Hoare, an Chartered engineer and facilities professional who has worked with names like Ocado and National Express. His priority was to understand the risks facing London Midland, in particular safety, cost and reputation within day to day maintenance and improvement projects. Working with the facilities team he pinpointed how improvements could be made, and then set about bringing in best practice standards while at the same time talking to stakeholders, such as Network Rail and the Department for Transport, to understand their concerns.
This resulted in a stringent audit of compliance with statutory maintenance standards, and contract value for money performance monitoring.
On the station improvement works Cliff began with a review of contract and progress for each of the projects. This allowed him to once again meet with stakeholders, contractors and regulatory bodies, spot key issues and then adjust the project process for managing cost, resource and safety.
Lastly, Cliff set about drafting the principles and structure that would leave London Midland with a plan for managing estates going forward.
Change happened quickly. Procedures for measuring maintenance were updated and concentrated on root causes not symptoms. One outsourced contract was brought in-house resulting in a considerable saving. Cliff also led negotiations with construction contractors that produced further cost reductions. His proposals for the facilities department were put in place.
In all Cliff supervised over 40 improvement projects which resulted in the work of the facilities team being highlighted as industry best practice by Network Rail under the National Stations Improvement Programme.
“I enjoy working where the organisation has a genuine desire to continuously improve. As an operating company delivering a service you need that mentality and approach. London Midland were striving to find the right solutions so it made for a great environment to work within, ” says Cliff.
According to Richard Brooks, Cliff delivered on his promises. “Cliff’s aim was to save the business more money than he cost. Overall Cliff achieved that,” he says.
“He brought precisely what was required to the job in terms of moving it from just being about bricks and mortar to being a commercially astute role. He was able to work at all levels and we were able to place a great deal of trust in him as he met with contractors and our stakeholders. Cliff also brought the right kind of challenge to our own executive group.”
For Cliff, working with Impact’s adviser Trudy Peeler was about making sure he was a good fit for the post. “Trudy is very professional and worked hard to ensure the role fitted my strengths and weaknesses, and also whether it was a good cultural fit.”
This was a telling element for Richard Brooks too. “I met with Trudy to give her the brief and she quickly found us three quality candidates, any of whom probably could have done the job. But there was a real spark from Cliff.
“Impact and Trudy really showed interest in London Midland and kept in close contact to hear about Cliff and his progress in the business. This is a company I would definitely work with again if the need arose.”