Amey Consulting announces Mark O’Connor as new Rail Market Director

11 January 2021
Amey Consulting has today announced Mark O’Connor as its new Rail Market Director for its Strategic Consulting business. O’Connor joins Amey Consulting from Wood Plc, where he was Associate Director and led the development of a strategic asset management team, as well as managing its Network Rail account. O’Connor will be responsible for growing Amey Consulting’s existing rail portfolio through leveraging its expertise in data science and asset management to improve decision making and drive business improvement for clients across rail.

2020 was a strong year for Amey Consulting’s rail business and among its success was joining an innovative consortium to deliver work across three lots of Network Rail’s Intelligent Infrastructure programme, running until the end of CP6 in 2024. 

Speaking on the announcement, Alex Gilbert, Managing Director Amey Consulting said “I am delighted to welcome Mark O’Connor to Amey Consulting. His proven track record on major UK rail projects and his passion for new technologies and innovation means he will be a real asset to our data-led rail offering. Mark’s appointment is one of many investments we have made into our business that will not only drive business growth but ensure our clients in the rail industry deliver on their strategic objectives both now and beyond the COVID-19 recovery.” 

On the announcement of his new role, O’Connor opened up about opportunities for the rail industry and the unique role of data and analytics in helping the UK meet Net-Zero by 2030.

2020 was a difficult year for the rail industry and budgets will be cut. How can you help? 

Even before Covid, the rail environment was changing. 2020 has accelerated this change and has proved to me that having a robust analysis on how we manage transportation infrastructure is essential. Clients have less budget and more pressures, which means we all must be smarter with how we invest our money and how we make our decisions.  Our strategic consulting team is all about improving our client’s decision making, for their assets and their business. More than just providing a service, we work to achieve business outcomes for clients, and I think this strategic approach is crucial to sustaining an efficient rail network into the future.  

Many asset owners have declared a climate emergency and need their suppliers to provide answers on meeting Net-Zero targets. What’s the answer for the rail industry?

I am a civil engineer by background and in my previous role my environment colleagues would always ask was it ‘Environment Mark’ or ‘Civil Engineer Mark’ who was in that day! And I think that’s because I have always believed the two are inherently linked, particularly with climate adaptation.  

The rail industry has always recognised that it plays an important role in managing climate change and most recently committing to Net-Zero by 2050.  I am very keen to work with clients in understanding what Net-Zero by 2050 means to them. My passion lies is in asset performance and knowing that a commitment to Net Zero does not have to mean a reduction in asset performance. More an opportunity to do better for the communities’ railways serve by providing a better, more sustainable service.  For example, our performance analytics team have been working with Network Rail on improving timetabling and the efficiency of train planning. Taking a network approach to improving the efficiency of train paths and smoothing scheduling is a great opportunity that I’m excited to pursue with the team. This approach has a direct link to carbon reduction and marginal gains across all the routes nationally would be a great outcome for the rail industry. 

Tell us a little bit more about your background? 

I started as a Network Rail graduate in Scotland, working on maintenance, out shovelling ballast. One of my first projects was to replace the highest railway summit signs in Scotland. They were even featured on Michael Portillo railway journeys, which didn’t impress my wife as much as I thought it would! From there, I worked on the Thameslink programme where I developed expertise in CAPEX delivery, design management, programming and everything needed to make major improvements to railway programmes. Moving on from the Thameslink Programme I took up the role of Civil Engineer for the High Speed 1 route working for Network Rail (High Speed).  I was responsible for developing the asset specific policies and the ORR regulatory approvals for the civil assets: bridges, tunnels, drainage, high-security fencing and earthworks.  Most recently I was Associate Director at Wood focusing on new offerings for Wood in Transport and Defence. 

What excites you most about working in rail? 

Wherever I have been I have always championed innovation and the role of data in making better decisions around assets. I have always been motivated by trying to do things differently and I must say I am equally enthused by the passion and capabilities of my new teammates. They are true leaders in their field and I am excited to begin bringing our collective creativity to clients.  

And finally, what will the next 5 years look like for Amey Consulting? 

One of the reasons I wanted to come to Amey Consulting was because of its established capabilities, and its good track record and reputation. I really share the ambition of my new colleagues that we can grow the business even more. I strongly believe the natural place for strategic data-led consulting is right beside the client, working as a direct advisor on how best to manage assets. I also believe there is even more opportunity to embed what we do across Amey’s operational business. The power of combining traditional engineering and operational expertise with our data and analytical insights makes Amey Consulting a very exciting place to be.