The COVID acceleration?

Dominic Browne

Necessity and great invention often go hand in hand. Peter Baynham (pictured), Atkins UK’s head of strategic highways, talks to Dominic Browne about remembering the lessons of the last few months and the positive changes for business.

How many people are in your team and how have you been working together over the last few months?

Our highways team is about 700 staff across the UK and in our global design centre in India. We have had internal and external meetings using video conferencing. We do not see a huge difference between the virtual meetings and face to face, to be honest.

How has Atkins dealt with the lockdown and remote working?

We have made a significant investment in digital tools in recent years, so it was surprisingly easy to work from home. We have moved to digital design systems in highways, and COVID has accelerated us on that journey. I think we are ready to come out of lockdown but let’s not forget the lessons we have learned around how we can make ourselves more productive.

Can you give an example of where the highways business might change?

For instance, in planning consent this is a chance for us to look at how we go through the regulatory procedure without face to face meetings – we have had to do this. It’s really important we don’t stop progress on schemes. There is a lot of legacy regulation and procedure in our sector and what COVID has given us is the opportunity to look at doing things differently. Why can we not engage remotely? There are other ways of engaging the community than face to face meetings.

How has working from home changed your view of offices?

We all need to reduce our travel. We need to look at the footprint of offices around the country but also recognise the need to build effective teams. That is something we need to look at as we move towards more virtual working. How do we support people and help them be part of an integrated successful team?

We all have city centre offices. These may become more like hubs where we meet. The role of the office could change. It might be used differently. Workers get a better life balance without the commute. If anything, it’s been more efficient. Atkins is looking at how we use city centre offices in the future. They are expensive. I know of several other companies that are looking at what offices should be in the future. But there are no decisions yet.

If we move away from offices, does this mean the workforce will go much more international?

I have worked at companies that had global design teams, but there are problems with how the teams integrate. Atkins has been in India for 15 years, and it takes some time to build up teams in another country. We need to be careful and we need to go where we can attract top talent particularly as we move into the digital world because we are looking at a different set of skills.

What about procurement processes throughout lockdown?

We have tendered for work and submitted bids. We have notched up some successes. We are working and mobilising teams for projects for Highways England, which has kept things moving forward. We continue to see government clients tendering for work.

What about contract disputes?

If you are going to be delayed, you should go through an early warning system to give the client notice. That’s not just Tier One, that’s something that is supposed to flow right down.

How might things change for the supply chain?

The supply chain needs to come together and work to help each other survive. That means all clients making sure things aren’t delayed, especially payments. That has to be a priority. We have seen prompt payment during the crisis, and we don’t want to lose what we learned.

Supply chains take a long time to build, and they can be quite fragile if work doesn’t come through. It’s important to keep the bidding and tenders going.

One thing we have seen so far, which has been good, is sector-wide collaboration. We have been sharing ideas across companies. No one has a monopoly on good ideas, and that has been very helpful.

Will it change the way we shape contracts and contractual relationships?

There are new contract models being worked and in place already. Look at the Regional Delivery Partnerships - the client, contractor and designer very much as an integrated team with a technical adviser, all trying to achieve the same goal. That is a new way of working that is changing the way everyone works, and if we can make that work, it’s positive for everyone.

Do you think the highways sector is in a good place?

We are in a much better place than a lot of other sectors. There are really tough challenges out there. I am pleased I am in this sector at the moment.

Highways jobs

Senior Planning and Highways Lawyer

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£45,834 - £48,819
Are you a Senior Planning & Highways Lawyer with local government experience who is looking for variety and challenge Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Technical Lead Officer – Transport Planning and Policy

Somerset County Council
£34,728 to £38,890 per annum
We have a fantastic opportunity in Somerset within our Transport Commissioning team. Taunton, Somerset
Recruiter: Somerset County Council

Outreach and Engagement Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£26,592 - £28,672
You will have a good understanding and some experience in waste management practices. Camden, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Camden London Borough Council

Cyfarwyddwr Corfforaethol - Economi a’r Amgylchedd / Corporate Director Economy & Environment

Caerphilly County Borough Council
£117,115 - £130,128 p/a
Tîm Caerffili-YN WELL GYDA’N GILYDD Team Caerphilly- BETTER TOGETHER Caerphilly (Caerffili)
Recruiter: Caerphilly County Borough Council

Operations Manager (Traffic & Compliance)

We’re looking for the right person for this role, so we don’t mind where you’re located, as long as... London (Greater)
Recruiter: Capita

Operations Manager (Traffic & Travel)

You’ll be responsible for developing strategies and delivering projects and programmes as part of the service senior management team - including... London (Greater)
Recruiter: Capita

Operations Manager (Development Control)

You’ll be responsible for the overall delivery of all highways and development control management in this varied role. London (Greater)
Recruiter: Capita

Operations Manager (Assets)

It’s an exciting role where we’ll look to you to ensure highways projects are delivered against continuous improvement and... London (Greater)
Recruiter: Capita

Asset Manager

You’ll be part of a friendly team and work closely with the operations managers and senior team to... London (Greater)
Recruiter: Capita

Technical Supervisor

You’ll make an impact in a friendly team who are responsible for... London (Greater)
Recruiter: Capita

Traffic & Travel Manager

As part of a friendly team, you’ll support the operations manager of traffic and travel in the overall delivery of... London (Greater)
Recruiter: Capita

Environmental Surveyor

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council
£34,900 - £47,300 per annum
You will have practical experience of grounds and repair works to common parts of housing estates and... Kensington and Chelsea, London (Greater)
Recruiter: The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea Council

Traffic Engineer

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£25.137 - £34.209
We are looking to appoint a Traffic Engineer to work within the Traffic Group (Traffic Team) to
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Senior Travel Plan Officer

Somerset County Council
£25,991 to £29,577 per annum
Fantastic opportunity in Somerset to work in our Travel Plan Team within the Highways Development Management service as a... Somerset
Recruiter: Somerset County Council

Outdoor Learning Assistant

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£11,036 per annum
You will contribute to the outdoor learning programme for a wide range of participants visiting our Centres. Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Director of Operations

St. Helens Metropolitan Borough Council
£92,968 - £98,282
This role is an opportunity for talented, corporate thinking and grounded leaders to grow personally and professionally in... St Helens, Merseyside
Recruiter: St. Helens Metropolitan Borough Council

Refuse Driver (LGV Chargehand Driver)

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£22995 - £24258 per annum + plus contractual overtime and allowances
It is an exciting time in Waste and Street Services at the Royal Borough of Greenwich. This is a opportunity to be part of a busy, successful team mak England, London, Greenwich
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Principal Traffic Signal and ITS Engineer

Warwickshire County Council
£40,876.00 - £42,821.00 plus annual standby allowance of £2,562.84
You will be responsible for the day-to-day operation and maintenance of our Urban Traffic Management and Control System. Warwickshire
Recruiter: Warwickshire County Council

Refuse Driver

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£22.995 - £24.258
The successful candidates will work anywhere within the Borough of Greenwich, work outside in all weathers, and be able to use... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recruiter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Public Protection Group Leader

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£43,857 - £45,859
You will develop a strategic approach to deliver a service which promotes jobs and businesses, protects the safety of... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recruiter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Highways on Fridays

Register now!

Latest Issue

latest magazine issue
  • Highways Awards shortlist revealed
  • Jim O’Sullivan interview
  • Legalising e-scooters: risks and rewards
View the latest issue

Latest Video