A Message from Lord Pickles and Lord Blunkett, followed by Colas's best practice article

The ability to listen and learn from one another has always been vital in parliament, in business and in most aspects of daily life. But at this particular moment in time, as national and global events continue to reiterate, it is uncommonly crucial that we forge new channels of communication and reinforce existing ones. The following article from Colas is an attempt to do just that. We would welcome your thoughts on this or any other Parliamentary Review article.

Blunkett signature Rt Hon The Lord David Blunkett
Pickles signature Rt Hon The Lord Eric Pickles

Carl Fergusson, CEO
Route des Tamarins,
Reunion Island
Founded in 1922, Colas UK is the UK-based subsidiary of
the French transport infrastructure firm Colas SA. The UK
business has undergone a total transformation from well-
respected roads specialist to become one of Britain’s most
formidable infrastructure contractors. CEO Carl Fergusson
led an 18-month strategic review which has resulted in Colas
undertaking a markedly new direction.
With a substantial injection of funds, know-how and expertise from our French
parent group, Colas UK is set to become a familiar sight at major infrastructure
projects throughout the country – and beyond. We have already been working as
far afield as Uganda and the Falkland Islands as well as in our home markets.
The UK’s construction industry is still rocking from the collapse of Carillion and
many are concerned over the impact of Brexit on the economy, as some firms signal
they are preparing to leave. But the construction landscape may just rock a little
more because Colas SA, a world-leader in infrastructure, operating in 50 countries,
believes Britain and Ireland offer “significant opportunities” for the group. And,
building on our UK heritage, we are confident in our ability to shake up our industry
– through the way we do business and the way we deliver for theclient.
It is an exciting time to be leading Colas in the UK. Our global parent sees in
Britain a golden opportunity to introduce fresh ideas, cutting-edge materials and
a highly productive approach. In France and elsewhere, the Colas group leads the
way with innovative solutions to major projects – marked by meticulous attention
to detail and careful planning – from the earliest stages. Precision tendering and
procurement is a critical factor. It is an approach that works; one that is proven to
deliver projects on budget and ontime.
»CEO: CarlFergusson
»Established in 1922
»Based in Crawley, West Sussex
»Services: Supply of sustainable
solutions for transport
»No. of employees: 1,415
»Operational geography:
Britain, Ireland, Middle East
and Africa (BIMEA)
Colas UK
Highlighting best practice
There can be no surprise that
Britain is seen as very attractive by a
leading international enterprise. As
a member of the G7 and an open,
ethical economy, similar in size to its
French home market, the UK is an
obvious target market for Colas SA,
which turned over 11.7 billion last
year. Add to this the government’s
£600 billion National Infrastructure
Plan and it is not hard to see why a
European business might be interested
in investing in the UK at this time.
Under the group’s plans, our business
in the UK will double in size within
four years and we will be able to
compete alongside other more familiar
construction market leaders.
Under the distinctive “yellow
diamond” livery of our global group,
we are bidding for large-scale projects
both at home and abroad, from
international aviation and marine hubs
to critical arterial routes. The Colas
diamond will become a familiar sight
wherever major infrastructure schemes
are under construction.
What makes Colas UK different
Clients and competitors will see
a difference. Colas UK is now an
“end-to-end” infrastructure player –
competing for projects at every stage.
It has added investment, design and
construction to its existing portfolio of
operations and maintenance.
It is different, however, because
we offer customers our parent
company’s continental-style and
market-leading efficiency, productivity,
innovation and sustainability. While
British infrastructure schemes have
traditionally been bedevilled by delays
and cost overruns, the French private
sector is notorious for its productivity
and can-do approach.
Colas’ global operations offer
productivity levels and a large-scale
approach unseen in the UK. As far
as the Colas group is concerned, it is
standard practice; it is second nature.
Our colleagues elsewhere don’t
appreciate that their level of productivity
is exceptional by the UK benchmark.
Birmingham airport, UK
Projects are
carried out on
a massive
scale in the
Colas Group.
We’re seeking
to bring this
approach to
the UK
Projects are carried out on a massive
scale in the Colas group. We’re seeking
to bring this approach to the UK and
reverse the debate over productivity
levels within UK construction.
In one case, at East Midlands
airport, we took our new approach
to complete the project ahead
of schedule. It meant minimising
disruption at the airport – not a single
flight was cancelled during the works.
We used windows to carry out the
project over just five weekends. It was
the first time three mobile asphalt
plants had been used on a UK airport
project and some 50,000 tonnes of
material were laid in five weekends.
How we did it
Critical to our new approach is the
financial firepower that comes from
being part of a large international
group. Unlike many in the
beleaguered UK contracting business,
Colas offers the assurance of financial
stability. Our global portfolio means
we are not overexposed to any
By their very nature, large
infrastructure schemes need a high
level of funding. And the group has
an award-winning record of bringing
investors to the table alongside global
expertise in road, rail and air.
Another big factor is our French
parent’s know-how and expertise.
In our Paris-based laboratories,
revolutionary new surfaces and
materials are being created which
totally change the way the industry
does business and the market
operates. To give one example,
over a decade ago, we brought
the specialist runway material BBA
(Béton Bitumineux pour chaussées
Aéronautiques) to the UK. Developed
in our Paris labs, it is quicker and easier
to lay and has completely transformed
the way we operate.
The future
Colas is a group in a hurry and rapid
organic growth has already given us
a massive boost. We have established
a dynamic new team, UK Projects,
staffed by people from throughout the
group and the industry. It is driving our
UK business forward rapidly, taking on
projects in the UK and internationally,
for which we would not previously
have been able to compete. But the
whole business is part of this move.
We are all very excited about the
As we move forward we cannot rule
out M&A growth – although you
would not expect me to disclose any
plans here. We continue to build on
heritage business, delivering the quality
and assurance our customers have
always received. One of our straplines
is: “We are looking after today and
unlocking tomorrow.”
People in the industry, and our clients,
are going to notice the difference.
They are going to see our diamond
livery a lot more but our aim is to
change the culture to one in which
projects are delivered on time and
on budget. Ask our clients – our new
direction is already here.
There can be
no surprise
that Britain is
seen as very
attractive by a
Falkland Islands -
RAF Mount Pleasant,
batching plant

This article was sponsored by Colas. The Parliamentary Review is wholly funded by the representatives who write for it. The publication in which this article originally appeared contained the following foreword from The Rt Hon Theresa May MP.

The Rt Hon Theresa May MP's Foreword For The Parliamentary Review

By The Rt Hon Theresa May MP

This foreword from the then Prime Minister appeared in the 2018/19 Parliamentary Review.

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review. For Her Majesty’s Government, our task in the year ahead is clear: to achieve the best Brexit deal for Britain and to carry on our work to build a more prosperous and united country – one that truly works for everyone. 

The right Brexit deal will not be sufficient on its own to secure a more prosperous future for Britain. We also need to ensure that our economy is ready for what tomorrow will bring. Our Modern Industrial Strategy is our plan to do that. It means Government stepping up to secure the foundations of our productivity: providing an education system that delivers the skills our economy needs, improving school standards and transforming technical education; delivering infrastructure for growth; ensuring people have the homes they need in the places they want to live. It is all about taking action for the long-term that will pay dividends in the future.

But it also goes beyond that. Government, the private sector and academia working together as strategic partners achieve far more than we could separately. That is why we have set an ambitious goal of lifting UK public and private research and development investment to 2.4 per cent of GDP by 2027. It is why we are developing four Grand Challenges, the big drivers of social and economic change in the world today: harnessing artificial intelligence and the data revolution; leading in changes to the future of mobility; meeting the challenges of our ageing society; and driving ahead the revolution in clean growth. By focusing our efforts on making the most of these areas of enormous potential, we can develop new exports, grow new industries and create more good jobs in every part of our country.

Years of hard work and sacrifice from the British people have got our deficit down by over three quarters. We are building on this success by taking a balanced approach to public spending. We are continuing to deal with our debts, so that our economy can remain strong and we can protect people’s jobs, and at the same time we are investing in vital public services, like our NHS. We have set out plans to increase NHS funding annually by an average by 3.4 percent in real terms: that is £394 million a week more. In return, the NHS will produce a ten-year plan, led by doctors and nurses, to eliminate waste and improve patient care.

I believe that Britain can look to the future with confidence. We are leaving the EU and setting a new course for prosperity as a global trading nation. We have a Modern Industrial Strategy that is strengthening the foundations of our economy and helping us to seize the opportunities of the future. We are investing in the public services we all rely on and helping them to grow and improve. Building on our country’s great strengths – our world-class universities and researchers, our excellent services sector, our cutting edge manufacturers, our vibrant creative industries, our dedicated public servants – we can look towards a new decade that is ripe with possibility. The government I lead is doing all it can to make that brighter future a reality for everyone in our country. 

British politics provides ample material for analysis in the pages of The Parliamentary Review 
The Rt Hon Theresa May MP
Prime Minister