The Sweett way

Gerard Fitzpatrick heads up rail, the fastest growing sector team at independent commercial consultant Sweett Group. He tells Bernadette Ballantyne about “getting things done” in the growing infrastructure market.

Gerard Sweett

With 1575 employees in 18 countries the business has grown hugely since its founding in 1928. Which parts are growing today and why?

The infrastructure sector is anticipated to have the biggest growth over the next five years, particularly energy and transport. Major growth was initially triggered through successfully securing a major framework with Transport for London. This, coupled with our continued work for Network Rail and commercial services delivery at Heathrow and Gatwick airports, have seen the transport sector in particular go from strength to strength. 

Rail is the fastest growing sector team in Sweett Group with 75 individuals working on rail related projects in the UK. 

Which current projects best represent your division in Sweett Group?

Over the last 20 years we have helped our clients deliver over £30bn worth of complex, challenging rail and infrastructure projects in the UK and overseas. Three current commissions that stand out are London Bridge which is going to make a significant difference to people’s journeys, as well as reaping regeneration benefits; London Overground where we are sole provider of cost management on Transport for London’s £330m capacity improvement programme; and our recent involvement at Blackfriars redevelopment project.

What are your biggest challenges / opportunities at the moment?

There are some major opportunities coming to the market in the next few years and we have been really pleased with our growth in the transport team regionally. Historically, our focus was on London but we have seen continued expansion in our teams in the north and south west on projects such as Bristol Rapid Transit, Halton Sidings and a major park and ride scheme in York. We see this expansion progressing and are pleased to have recently been successful on the Network Rail Scotland Framework where we are one of two key providers.

With over 20 years experience in multidisciplinary high value rail projects you have built a reputation for “getting things done”, tell us more about your career.

Prior to joining Sweett Group I was at Mott MacDonald where I was project director leading commercial management activity for rail projects in the south of the UK. Before this I was at Balfour Beatty Rail which I joined in 1995 as a principal quantity surveyor. My major projects experience includes being the commercial manager on the NLRIP; working as a major change procurement manager for the East London Line; commercial manager to close out Blackfriars station redevelopment with Network Rail; and 13 years on major UK track renewal programmes.

Where did you get started?

My career started as a trainee quantity surveyor working for a formwork and concrete subcontractor, CJ O’Shea & Co Ltd. I learned from the sharp end of the importance of cash flow management and the intricacies of getting paid by main contractors in the 1980s. I then moved into general construction as a senior quantity surveyor. I was lucky enough to achieve my MRICS status through day release and this type of learning approach is something I am really happy to help the next generation of people with, who will steer construction forward into the digital era.

How are you supporting the next generation of people into the company?

One of the key achievements this year is the implementation of the Sweett Group Apprenticeship scheme. This scheme is designed to attract school leavers to a career in our industry, above other professions. The apprenticeship program provides a career path for these school leavers, with a 2 year NVQ Level 3, followed by the organisation supporting the transition into a HNC and degree program. Ultimately it is a career path towards Chartership. 

Looking to the future what sort of people will find a happy home at Sweett Group?

I don’t think there is a typical “Sweett” person but I am a firm believer in allowing people to do the type of work that they enjoy doing, as this results in a better product. Our culture is strongly focused on enabling our people to develop by pursuing further qualifications and attending external seminars. At present, 20% of our staff are studying for qualifications. 

In November, we were delighted to get a 100% success rate for those completing their APC programme, becoming members of RICS. I am proud that my team consists of many skilled professionals, 70% are fully chartered professionals. This is an excellent advertisement for my people. 

If you would like to contact Bernadette Ballantyne about this, or any other story, please email