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HS2 Enabling Works contract continues to pave the way with a leading-edge response to a global pandemic

Thank you NHS from Costain Skanska JV

01 July 2020

With over £500m delivered so far, the HS2 Enabling Works contract (EWC) has identified a leading-edge response to the global pandemic as a key part of the programme’s continued success.

The Costain Skanska joint venture (CSjv) team has responded exceptionally to the challenge and recently achieved further key milestones as they deliver their mission to create the platform for the construction of HS2.

Neal Carter, deputy programme director, said: “I am immensely proud of the successes the EWC team have contributed to in the past few months and how this has enabled the ongoing delivery of the EWC. The level of focus and ingenuity from everyone in the face of adversity has been outstanding. Looking back in years to come, the whole team will see how the experience gained on the contract, generally as well as in response to the pandemic, has helped to shape and accelerate their career.”

CSjv’s team have led the way in terms of a behavioural response embedding Cultural Behaviour Management (CBM) techniques in the planning and delivering of the works. Driven by a dedicated team from across multiple disciplines, they developed an industry leading change programme across all their operations. It’s no coincidence therefore that HS2’s first media visit since the pandemic started was at CSjv’s Old Oak Common site, which was specifically chosen because HS2 were confident in CSjv’s collaborative approach to managing the situation and adhering to social distancing guidelines.

Des Roy, head of safety, health, wellbeing and environment, outlined the approach saying: “We said from the onset of the crisis that behaviours would be critical, and immediately increased our resources from the CBM team to ensure we had the very best support. We knew it wouldn’t be good enough just to provide an antecedent and say in our plans to stay 2m apart and wash your hands, we knew we needed to create an environment where these behaviours could be performed reliably.”

Bryan Williams, works superintendent led the operations team on the ground and said: “The team have done a fantastic job in setting up sites that support our new working environment. We’ve had great feedback from the 400+ site team and the visitors we have had for embedding a regularly evolving risk assessment process seamlessly. It’s great that we’ve been able to deploy some thermal monitoring cameras from our team based at Costain's new technology centre in Worle to add an extra layer to our protection against importing the virus too.”

thermal imaging camera technology
Thermal imaging camera solutions

A new typical day at CSjv now sees around 60 staff members traveling to their London sites, with a further 250 working at home. Some colleagues have been working across both site and office. Feedback from them has helped us balance the need to come in versus following government guidance work at home wherever possible.

Era Shah, senior engineer, is one of those people coming into work on occasions and told us: “I’ve personally really benefitted from being back in the workplace and thrived on the buzz of being around other people again. Initially it felt a bit surreal travelling into work and being back on site but the physical and behavioural measures I’ve seen are very reassuring for me. The virtual workplace has also opened my eyes up to the potential of balancing my time between the workplace and home in the future. As the FAIR network, we’ve managed to organise our biggest International Women in Engineering event, including creating a video involving around 50 colleagues, all without ever meeting in person.”

CSjv absolutely recognise that wherever people are working there is the opportunity for people’s wellbeing to be impacted and have put in place several steps to support their staff. Everyone’s situation is different and CSjv have driven a campaign of support, from signposting guidance and light touch support, through to offering confidential one to one help. By clearly underpinning wellbeing through all current colleague engagement, the team have continued to deliver high levels of performance whilst supporting the challenges faced by colleagues.

Michael Tarrega, CSjv’s communications manager and member of the wellbeing focus group said: “Two months ago we launched Wellbeing Wednesday – a mechanism to accelerate the implementation of our internal ‘five ways to wellbeing’ programme. There has been phenomenal engagement with activities, including a weekly virtual neck and back exercise class to ensure everyone is comfortable wherever they are working. We recently launched a session on vulnerability to our senior leadership team – helping to understand and learn how to promote positive discussions. This was so successful that we are now going to push this out to the wider team. Most importantly we’ve encouraged people to talk about how they’re doing, whether through people they trust or confidentially, so that we can provide as much support and guidance to people as possible.”

The CSjv team has not just adapted to the new environment but have continued to expand their remit. Using drones, the survey team previously developed full 3D models with volume calculations of excavations around Euston and worked in confined spaces to carry out asbestos surveys in cellars to assess conditions before people were sent in. As a result of successes like these, the team are continuing to secure more scope, such as survey and monitoring work by using their in-house survey technology to deliver faster and safer outcomes.

HS2 EWC site surveys
Engineer carrying out a site survey


Dean Bain, survey delivery manager, is pleased to get the additional scope of works: “The survey team has excelled in delivering surveys, quicker, more accurately and safer than ever before. We’re pleased to have gained additional scope so that we are able to deliver leading edge solutions to problems, really satisfying our stakeholders along the way.

CSjv have shaped the way that they work to ensure that they are supporting the continued delivery of the unique set of challenges the EWC is tasked with solving. This is most noticeable in our extensive archaeology programme, where the team have been working on a very challenging removal of a Paolozzi statue in Euston.

Caroline Raynor, project manager for Euston North was on site for the works and commented, “The reverse engineering and dismantling of the Piscator by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi always represented a very specific heritage challenge. Weighing in at an estimated 16 tonnes, and sitting over the subterranean Euston Station taxi rank, the dismantling and lifting process was never going to be easy and that was before the added challenge of COVID-19 and social distancing measures. Removal required a highly collaborative approach by the on-site and remote team. Temporary works design and advice was delivered remotely by our colleagues in Manchester using 3D models created by the CSjv Survey Team.


Paolozzi at Euston
Lifting Paolozzi

Works activities including co-ordinated communications with M-Tech and the Arts Council for England were co-ordinated by senior site agent John Yabbacome and senior engineer Justyna Jablonska, who worked from home throughout the process. On site the team from CSjv, M-Tech and McGees carefully managed social distancing and minimised risk through implementing bespoke COVId-19 risk assessments. Our stakeholders within the Arts Council for England and the Paolozzi Foundation have been delighted by the diligence, care and engineering know-how applied to the works and it’s not often in your career you get to see a famous piece of 20th century sculpture silhouetted against the blue skyline of Euston suspended from a tower crane!”

Neal concludes, “delivering these works with people spread the length and breadth of the UK (and some overseas!) has tested the team but they’ve risen to the challenge and shown how more dynamic site management practices can support more inclusive teams, whilst still delivering safe operations.”