A Reputation for Rail Infrastructure

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-By Aleisha Parr

In tough economic times, construction companies must do one of two things to survive: grow to compete in other markets or focus within on core competencies, relying on reputation and specialist experience to weather the difficult times. New South Wales construction company, Gartner Rose Pty Ltd, has chosen the latter route, trusting in its specialised rail infrastructure services and its long-time reputation for reliability to carry it through until the general market improves.

“It’s not as healthy as we’d like it to be,” reports Charlie Pidcock of the current state of the market, “the construction industry in general is struggling. Currently most of our work is in the rail sector, but we also build for a range of clients across the community, commercial and education sectors.”

Gartner Rose has been serving the industry since April 1991, completing over 400 projects. Michael Rose, who had previously worked for tier one builders John Holland and Abigroup, used his expertise and experience to establish his small business through a number of small rail projects. Since its inception, the company has grown its staff and capabilities while maintaining its focus on rail infrastructure with some sixty per cent of all projects involving some aspect of rail work including station construction, sub stations, easy access upgrades, and commuter car parks.

The company provides construction management and project management on a design and construct or lump sum basis. While most of the work completed by Gartner Rose has typically been in the $3 – 5 million range, Charlie Pidcock says that the company has recently completed Burwood Station ($15 m) and was awarded Newtown Station ($20 m) in January 2011.

Mr Pidcock says that it is through this sort of project growth that the company has been able to continue to grow despite the difficult market conditions while still staying true to its preferred market. He explains, “We’ve aggressively pursued larger project sales. That is, we’ve bid on some jobs that others traditionally would have thought as too big for us, won them and then delivered a quality product on time and met budget. The reputation that we’ve gotten through this work [has allowed] our previous clients to see us in a different sort of light.”

Another way in which Gartner Rose has been able to gain experience and expand its expertise is through work on projects taking advantage of the increasingly popular Alliance Model, whereby multiple companies join together on a project through an intensive two-step selection process to form a unified team with stricter standards and ultimately a higher probability of success for the client. Charlie Pidcock reports that many of the larger infrastructure projects throughout NSW are utilising this approach for delivery, including the Transport Construction Authority.

One such project that Gartner Rose is currently involved in is for the Southern Sydney Freight Line with the Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC). The project is slated for completion by the end of this year, after several years of work put in by Gartner Rose alongside such experts as John Holland Rail, Westinghouse, and the O’Donnell Griffin group. The project calls for upgrades and infrastructure work on ten separate railway stations carried out simultaneously. This is an extremely complex project, as it requires that each of these stations remains operational throughout the process and while the new freight line is being constructed adjacent to the stations.

These types of Alliance projects, while offering exciting opportunities, also present unique challenges. Charlie Pidcock explains that primarily the concerns relate to Safety, Quality and Environmental issues that become even more complicated with the number of stakeholders involved. “A lot of this is around trying to ensure that safety is paramount,” he says, “and this is the price that the community has to pay to ensure that everyone goes home like they turned up for work. Infrastructure projects using Alliance models for delivery [mean] that we and other businesses will have to become more aware of the cost implications of including these requirements. It is part of the world these days in working on and for large infrastructure.”

Another exciting project Gartner Rose is currently at work on is an easy access upgrade project for RailCorp at Newtown Station. The $20 m project commenced earlier this year, is estimated to run for twenty months, and is the second largest project awarded by RailCorp. Mr Pidcock says that the team is ready and excited to begin this challenging project. “We have a very, very competent team on that site including three of our previous winners of Employee of the Year award and Foreman of the Year award, so we’re quite confident of our team on that project.”

Gartner Rose is also currently at work on two other rail projects for Railcorp, being Picton (station upgrade) and Beverly Hills (canopy) Stations. Additionally Gartner Rose is redeveloping Schofields Station with the Richmond Line Alliance (RLA), and Revesby Concourse with the K2RQ Alliance project, both of which are partnered by Leighton.

Explains Mr Pidcock, it is “the skills that we’ve acquired over time by concentrating on those markets, particularly in the rail industry” which have allowed Gartner Rose to carve out a niche for itself. Furthermore, he attributes the company’s success to “the knowledge of operating effectively in the rail sector, with its unique features around safety during construction for not just workers but also commuters and customers of our clients. We’ve worked closely with our clients for many years to get it right; sometimes we make mistakes but are always learning new ways to approach various challenges as they come up.”

The workplace culture at Gartner Rose also plays a strong role in supporting the company’s growth. Gartner Rose has always nurtured its staff and workforce as though they were family. “It’s a privately owned family business and it has been for many years, it is how we operate,” says Mr Pidcock. “We have staff, some of which have been here for a long time, and that’s a good thing because you get quite intimate with them.”

The company is now entering its second generation as Michael Rose’s son, Daniel, steps up to follow in his father’s footprints as Managing Director. Although Daniel’s experience is different, Charlie Pidcock reports that the staff is excited to work with Daniel into the future. “Daniel’s not necessarily a builder, but he’s a very astute commercial and financial guy. We have had quite a lot of growth in the last 4 or 5 years since Daniel joined the business and that’s quite exciting to be a part of.”

As for the direction of that future, Charlie Pidcock reports that the plan is to keep moving up. He says, “We’d like to continue our growth projections over the next few years and ultimately turn over $100 million in five years’ time. This is going to require us to consolidate our processes and our people, to penetrate more into our existing market and find some new markets. There are a lot of challenges there.” He reports though that Gartner Rose intends to face those challenges with the same commitment to quality and values as it has from the very start, “We’ve been around for a long time, we have an excellent reputation in our chosen market for getting on with things and we’re happy to talk [with prospective clients].”

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June 2, 2020, 3:02 PM AEST