Ground specialist eyes ‘steady’ Scottish growth

AARSLEFF Ground Engineering MD Kevin Hague is targeting ‘steady’ growth in Scotland as the business responds to its third significant challenge in recent years.

Aarsleff started its transition from a piling to a specialist geotechnical contractor in 2014, redefining and rebranding the company. No sooner had that challenge been embraced when Brexit created market uncertainty. Most recently, of course, Covid-19 has resulted in firms all over the UK – and further afield – to take stock and implement new working practices.

Hague told Project Scotland, “We took a lead on Covid. When it was announced we had to go into lockdown and the hotels closed down, we took stock. 

“We slowed down a little bit, protected our workforce, and reassessed our risk assessments and working practices. We quickly engaged with our customers to develop a new way of working, new way of travelling to sites. 

“We were proud of the way we got through it. We reflect on it now and it was almost as if we automatically went into survival mode overnight. That’s what we did, we survived. What we’re trying to do now is move very quickly out of survival mode, back into prosperous road.”

Turning his attention to Scotland, Hague said, “We partner with a contractor called Northern Piling. We support those projects those guys deliver with our services and they also buy our piles from our pile manufacturing company. 

“We also have plans to grow into Scotland because the geotechnical conditions are complemented by the services we offer and the expertise we have in-house. We’re aiming for steady growth in the Scottish market and it will be done in a very considered way.”

Aarsleff recently announced it had become a partner of the Northern Powerhouse, the UK Government initiative designed to boost the economy in the north of England.

“It wasn’t necessarily geography-based,” Hague added. “We’re a national business and do a lot of work down south as well, but it complements what we offer and we have a good office covering in the north. 

“That was primarily the reason. It was geotechnically-led because it matches up with our services, but I must stress, it’s not just about being a northern-based company because about 35% of our turnover is in the south. 

“There’s a good, all encapsulating strategic journey that’s been proposed under the umbrella of the Northern Powerhouse. We wanted to be part of that journey.

“The Northern Powerhouse covers everything – infrastructure, retail, commercial, industrial, civils. We’re not aligned to any specific market. What we can do is fit in to all markets. We’re a very broad business and what we offer is essentially plug and play for the sectors it’s going to cover.”

Aarsleff is currently engaged on the Sunderland Strategic Transport Corridor, implementing the geotechnical and retaining wall structures for a new section of dual carriageway connecting the A19 to Sunderland. 

The firm was appointed by Esh Civils to undertake works on the project, including designing and constructing a contiguous bored pile retaining wall, large soil nailed wall and a ground anchor investigation trial.

“We call it our iconic project at the moment,” Hague explained. “We were awarded a ground engineering package worth around £3.3 million. It’s a very complicated geotechnical solution that we designed and are currently executing.”