Neil Elliott started Hydroline Solutions in 2011. It was a brave move, against the advice of friends and family who valued his success working as an employee in water engineering; first irrigation and then water pipelines. Neil had seen an unsatisfied demand for a quality water pipeline contractor. He followed his instincts and took the plunge!
His working life as an engineer had taught him the clear lessons of delivering quality and of getting it right first time; attributes which would set his business ahead of the pack. The quality approach was rewarded, gaining the recognition of big, respected players in the water infrastructure sector. This included Costain who not only granted the fledgling company ‘Strategic Partner’ status within their supply chain but also awarded their ‘Defining Blue’ Award for exceptional performance.
Of course starting a business is a risk. The peculiar risk in the water infrastructure sector derives from the way it is funded. As a result of the privatisation of the industry, five year asset management plans (“AMP”s) were introduced linking water companies’ performance to allowable price increases.
Hydroline Solutions, which is based in Catcombe near Somerton, was established one year into AMP5, pretty good timing within the often accused boom and bust cycle created for contractors in the industry.
It is certainly true that spending peaks significantly in the central 18 months of each plan cycle after which work tails off. According to research, supplying design and construction services in the industry often lose 40% of their staff in the winding down phase of the cycle and this leads to many withdrawing from the sector. Certainly a risk to a young water pipelines contractor but it’s been managed at Hydroline.
Not long after setting up the business, Neil embraced an initiative for the nearby Hinkley Point C project, one of the largest and most complex construction projects in Europe, to leave an economic legacy in the local area. Neil would say he just went along and when the time came, delivered.
There have been significant demands on the development of the business along the way but the process has worked. The diversification has helped maintain consistent strong and steady growth throughout the early life of the business, outweighing the AMP tail off. Hydroline Solutions has steadily grown its directly employed workforce every year at an average of 44% per annum.
Its anchor project at Hinkley was The Construction Operations Management Alliance (COMA) group, a Tier 1 partnership arrangement of three south west businesses providing construction utilities and enabling services to the project, one of the largest construction sites in Europe, which will deliver the first nuclear power station to be built in the UK for a generation.
The alliance was formed in 2015 and in July the same year, was announced as one of five local supplier appointments. This was even before EDF Energy’s Final Investment Decision.
These announcements followed three years of innovative and intensive activity by the suppliers, EDF Energy’s Project Delivery team and the Somerset Chamber of Commerce. The approach taken by EDF Energy focused on developing a partnership approach to delivering project needs, giving the local supply chain the opportunity to work up viable, competent and competitive proposals. Large infrastructure projects in the UK had not engaged with local supplier groups in this way before.
This partnership approach has been sustained by the three member companies; Wessex Water, Hydroline Solutions and MMES2012, with a philosophy of taking the experience and expertise of each member of the group to develop a learning and supportive culture. The group’s pride in promoting a safe working environment to deliver top quality services to HPC was recognised when it won the Best Safety Performance – Local Supplier award at the HPC Excellence Awards 2018.
The group is responsible for delivering a range of services to HPC and its associated development sites. These include; potable water supplies, water drainage systems, roadway and pedestrian walkway lighting systems, electrical distribution systems, environmental recovery work and specific civil engineering enabling works.