Our News Updates

New Passenger Rail Link between Oxford and Marylebone, Chiltern Railways

Chiltern Railways’ new service between Oxford and Marylebone, London, opened on Monday 12 December 2016 and was the first new rail link between a major city and London for over 100 years. This event marked the final phase of a project known as ‘Evergreen 3’.

‘Evergreen 3’ included a new Oxford Parkway station at Water Eaton, north Oxford, a new station at Bicester Village and major upgrading of an existing freight line to twin track passenger lines. Half hourly train services from Oxford Parkway commenced in 2015 and the upgraded railway forms an early section of the planned East West Rail Link between Oxford and Cambridge via Milton Keynes.

PFA Consulting was a key member of the project team during the planning stages focusing on the highway and traffic impacts of the project. The wider highway effects were assessed using the Central Oxfordshire Transport Model with local impacts and the testing of improved highway layouts at stations assessed by building micro-simulation traffic models.

A Public Inquiry followed the submission of a Transport and Works Act Order (TWA Order) application. A TWA Order effectively provides planning permission, compulsory purchase powers and a highways agreement. A Director of PFA Consulting produced written evidence for the Inquiry and appeared as an expert witness. PFA Consulting continues to be involved in the project analysing passenger and traffic survey data to monitor the air pollution impacts of traffic generated by passengers driving to the new stations. This work is required to fulfil a planning condition of the TWA Order.

MERIT 2016

MERIT is a national game and training exercise designed by the ICE, its focus and principles are on Management, Enterprise, Risk, Innovation and Teamwork.

The competition requires teams to manage a virtual construction company; making decisions to ensure the shareholders are happy, the company’s profitability will be high, securing enough forward workload and building client relationships. The choices made impacted the game week on week requiring participants to have a versatile and effective management strategy to stay ahead in the long run.

For the past 8 weeks two teams of five engineers from PFA Consulting participated in the competition against companies such as ARUP, ATKINS India, Mott Macdonald and many more. This year the simulation had been made even more interesting and challenging requiring a deep understanding of the construction industry to achieve a good result week on week. Despite this, both teams managed to finish in the top 50 out of 117 teams and are looking forward to a similar success story next year.

PFA Consulting Help Raise £3,675 for Bristol Children’s Charity

PFA Consulting recently entered a team in the annual Redrow Homes South West five-a-side competition to help raise £3,675 for Bristol children’s charity ASK St Nicholas. The event saw 20 football teams from housing building and planning backgrounds compete in the event at The Goals Soccer Centre, in Stoke Gifford, Bristol.

ASK St Nicholas is a purpose-built specialist school for children and young people, aged four to 19, who have severe, complex or profound and multiple learning disabilities. It currently has around 80 students. The aim of the school is to give its pupils the same opportunities as other children. The after school club enables them to mix socially with their friends and also gives parents and carers extra respite.

The PFA Consulting team managed to negotiate the league stages with two wins out of their four league games, to then progress through the knock out stages to the final of the plate competition. Unfortunately their legs were to give up on them as they lost 4-2 in a hard fought and frantic game.

PFA Consulting would like to thank Redrow Homes South West for organising the event for a very worthwhile cause and we look forward to next year’s competition.

PFA Consulting in Local Football Sponsorship Deal

Royal Wootton Bassett Town FC Under 10’s Yellows have secured a new sponsorship deal with PFA Consulting.

Ex Swindon Town Goalkeeper and owner of Digby & Co. (Sports) Limited Fraser Digby presenting Chris Isherwood with the jackets for the 2016/2017 season.

The deal will see the PFA Logo branded on the back of the Under 10’s jackets. Anthony Moore (Under 10’s Yellow Manager), gave his views on the sponsorship: “It is fantastic to have a local organisation help sponsor a local team and support the development of grass roots football”.

Chris Isherwood, Managing Director of PFA Consulting, said: “We welcome the opportunity to support a Local Football Club in what looks like being a very exciting time for grass roots development. RWBTFC under 10’s yellows have a group of young players looking to develop their skills and enjoyment for the sport. We hope our involvement will help the club and players achieve its goals in the coming season and beyond”

Employment Vacancies

As a result of continued demand for our services we are looking for a range of staff as listed below to join our teams here in Swindon. If your experience and skills match the 'essential requirements' of the positions on offer then please forward your CV to Diane Hudson.

Posts on offer:

No agencies unless instructed.

Engineering Day

Engineering Day

Kingsdown School in Swindon invited PFA Consulting to volunteer two engineers to assist with an Engineering Day for Year 9s. This year the company was assigned the Roller Coaster Project where each team produced a roller coaster ride for a table tennis ball using materials such as drinking straws, kebab sticks and paper. The day was about team work, initiative and originality of design. The success of the day was apparent from the enthusiasm shown by the pupils and the excitement generated when testing their engineered rides. PFA Consulting is keen to inspire the younger generation into engineering and, as in the past, will continue to support this prestigious day.

Read the full article here >>

Picture: Student Catherine Hall works with engineer Holly during the engineering day at Kingsdown School.
Photo © Dave Cox

PFA Consulting's 30th Anniversary

PFA 30th Anniversary

PFA Consulting is now 30 years old and we celebrated this milestone with clients, past and present, and friends at STEAM, the museum of the Great Western Railway, which is located in part of the previous Swindon Railway Works complex.

Peter Finlayson, Chairman, spoke of the history of PFA Consulting, from his decision to start the company in 1985 to his intense pride in seeing such a successful and professional company serving a multitude of clients throughout the construction and development industry.

Feedback from those who attended included:-

“The idea of the STEAM Museum and the engineering focus was a really good choice and made for a memorable evening”

“We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and had a fabulous time. The venue was perfect –congratulations.”

“Please pass on our grateful thanks for PFA’s kind hospitality the other evening at Steam.
Great venue...
Great team...
Great achievement...”

Overall, a really social and enjoyable evening was had by all.

Guidance On Transport Assessment

When the web-based planning practice guidance suite (http://planningguidance.planningportal.gov.uk/) was launched in March 2014 in support of the National Planning Policy Framework, it superseded a long list of documents, including Good Practice Guidelines: Delivering Travel Plans through the Planning Process (2009). Although the relevant section of the planning practice guidance1 included advice on transport assessment and statements, the Guidance on Transport Assessment (GTA) published by the DfT and DCLG in March 2007 was, at that stage, retained.

The GTA, although perhaps unnecessarily detailed, contained some useful benchmarks relating, for example, to assessment years, and to the acceptable age of traffic data (normally surveyed within the last three years). In particular, Appendix B set out indicative thresholds for transport assessments, identifying levels of development at which no assessment, a transport statement, or a transport assessment and travel plan were appropriate. Although these thresholds were for guidance only, many local authorities relied upon them or included them in their own guidance. The GTA was archived on 22 October 2014 and a new section was added to the planning practice guidance: Transport evidence bases in plan making2 . This section, however, only provides guidance to help local planning authorities assess strategic transport needs to reflect and, where appropriate, mitigate these in their Local Plan.

The guidance on when transport assessments and transport statements may be required to be submitted in support of planning applications, and what they should contain, remains as launched in March 2014. This national guidance does not advise on thresholds, only referring to paragraph 32 of the National Planning Policy Framework which states: “All developments that generate significant amounts of movement should be supported by a Transport Statement or Transport Assessment”. It is left to local planning authorities to make a judgement as to whether a development would generate significant amounts of movement on a case by case basis.

It is very likely that, for the time being at least, many local planning authorities will continue to rely on the thresholds within the now archived GTA and some may ultimately publish their own guidance. However this is by no means certain and consequently it is all the more important to open up discussions about the scope of the transport study required for development at an early stage.

In the current climate this will provide a further opportunity for authorities to require payment for pre-application advice. Nonetheless, unless it is clear that a proposed development will have minimal transport impact, PFA Consulting advises that early pre-application advice should be requested by submission of a transport scoping report, to avoid possible delays and potential additional expense at a later stage of the planning process.

Caroline Mumford MSc, CMILT, MCIHT, MTPS Associate

Assisting Green Energy Companies

Green Energy

Over the past 18 months PFA Consulting has worked on over 300 solar farm sites and numerous wind turbine sites for a variety of specialist green energy companies. Invariably, each site has required either a Flood Risk Assessment or Transport Assessment or, more often, both, in support of a planning application. The locations of the solar farms have been mostly across the South of England and in Wales, although we have also prepared assessments for sites in Northern Ireland, the Midlands and Eastern England. Wind turbine sites have been located throughout the UK, often in remote locations. Following the successful grant of permission we have prepared engineering details to discharge planning conditions.

The technical work has involved:-

  • assessing the transport impacts of the development during construction;
  • the preparation of Construction Traffic Management Plans;
  • the design of construction accesses;
  • identifying and designing physical infrastructure improvements for the construction phase; and
  • designing drainage works to mitigate or alleviate flooding issues.

If you are seeking technical advice to support a planning application for a solar or wind farm please contact Graham Eves geves@pfaplc.com or 01793828000.