January 17, 2022

Metcalfe Plant Hire Ltd – The bridge to success

It is testament to the level of quality that Metcalfe Plant Hire Ltd’s civil engineering division was able to deliver on the Brougham Old Bridge project in Cumbria that it has been shortlisted for a North West Regional Construction Award 2018 within the Preservation & Rejuvenation category. Construction Industry News recently caught up with Matthew Healey, Contacting & Operations Director, to talk about the Penrith-based company’s role in the development.

“We were initially appointed two years ago by Cumbria County Council to carry out a temporary Design & Build stabilisation of the bridge after it was extensively damaged during Storm Desmond in 2015,” explains Mr Healey. “The stabilisation aspect was extremely challenging, particularly from a health and safety perspective, as we were working on a bridge that could potentially fall down at anytime. We were able to overcome these challenges, however, and safely stabilised the bridge for the winter of 2016/17 by underpinning it. We then successfully tendered for the permanent works, which we carried out again on a Design & Build basis last year, with our partners, Curtins Consulting, looking after the design aspect.”

Having so successfully overcome the challenges involved in the project, it is all the more pleasing for Metcalfe Plant Hire that the Brougham Old Bridge development has been shortlisted for a prestigious North West Regional Construction Award. “We’re delighted to have been nominated because so much hard work went into the scheme, not only from ourselves but from the entire supply chain,” adds Mr Healey. “It’s therefore great that it has received such recognition, particularly as it’s such an unusual project. We won’t get the opportunity to work on many other schemes of this nature, particularly considering the traditional building skills used to construct the bridge. Obviously we have access to modern equipment and machinery that makes things much easier, but it really makes you appreciate the skill of those that originally built the bridge. We’re really pleased that we’ve been able to play our part in reviving the bridge and ensuring its survival. It’s been a really good scheme to be involved in, even if it was extremely challenging.”

So what was the key to overcoming these challenges so successfully? Mr Healey feels that good old fashioned team work was crucial. “The collaborative working of everyone who was involved was absolutely integral to how the project was completed. It was a real joint effort and everybody played their part. For example, the designers really left no stone unturned when it came to ensuring the stability of the bridge, looking at the finest detail in terms of modes of failure. The level of insight they were able to provide allowed us to develop a highly detailed plan of our own when it came to carrying out the works. From a safety perspective this information was absolutely invaluable.”

For its own part, Metcalfe’s experience and heritage certainly helped ensure that it was able to play its role in delivering such a complex project safely and to a high standard. The company was created in the early 1970s by Tony Metcalfe, originally as a plant hire business before branching out into small-scale earthworks. This evolution continued to the extent that a full-blown contracting division was created to better meet the needs of the marketplace. Today the civil engineering element is the biggest operation within the overall company, although plant hire remains a sizeable business in its own right. A workforce of over 100 staff support its various activities, all of which undergo extensive training, particularly on health and safety.

“Safety is an area that we really excel at as a company and in-line with the strong work ethic we have within the business, everyone takes the subject very seriously,” says Mr Healey. “It has always been our main priority and we’re fortunate that every member of our staff is fully on-board with our safety practices and understand their importance.”

As it looks to build on the success of the Brougham Old Bridge project, Metcalfe Plant Hire is now aiming to further utilise its impressive infrastructure and robust approach to safety by capitalising on the opportunities that are currently available within the marketplace. “We continue to have a significant amount of ongoing infrastructure recovery work with Cumbria County Council and we’re currently moving forward with four other Design & Build projects for them. Thankfully none of them are proving as challenging as the Brougham Old Bridge development, while we’re also doing a number of agricultural projects at the moment too. Due to the broad skills base we have within the company we’re able to tackle a wide range of different developments.”

In addition to the strength of its own workforce, Metcalfe Plant Hire also benefits from a well developed supply chain, again complementing the collaborative approach that the company takes. “Working closely together makes everything so much easier and ensures that the contracts run more smoothly and efficiently. In turn this provides a better quality project for the client, as well as improving the value.

“Moving forward, we want to keep building on the relationships we have developed with our suppliers, our partners and our clients. We’ve developed a strong foundation within the marketplace and we’re keen to keep building on it. We’re also particularly keen to continue carrying out Design & Build contracts, as we’ve found that getting involved in schemes as early as possible has been really worthwhile in producing an efficient end result. We certainly have the expertise, the experience and the supply chain to offer high quality Design & Build solutions, so it’s something that we’re keen to push as much as we can.”

The success of the Brougham Old Bridge development certainly showcased exactly what Metcalfe Plant Hire can offer and it will be no surprise if the company ends up securing more award recognition in the future.