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Erwin Kretschner, InterSearch Practice Group Construction & Infrastructure spoke with DI Harald GOERRES, International Director of SWIETELSKY Bahnbau, the rail infrastructure division of SWIETELSKY Group.

Core business of Swietelsky Bahnbau is maintenance  and service of existing rail tracks of all gauges and construction of new tracks, as well as slab track for high speed lines and new construction in the Urban Rail segment (Trams & Metros). Key markets are Germany, Austria, Switzerland, CEE, UK and Australia. Swietelsky Bahnbau is the European market leader in their segment with annual sales of € 400 mio and 1500 staff.
The highly sophisticated and specially designed equipment, so – called „maintenance and constructions trains“, deployed on tracks across Europe & in Australia, represents a book value of some € 100 million.

Erwin Kretschner: Mr Goerres, Swietelsky Bahnbau, operates in a quite diverse geographic market portfolio – with activities in the German-speaking markets, CEE, UK and Australia – who are your typical clients there?

Harald Goerres: Typically, these are the owners of the national railway grid, e.g. ÖBB Infra in Austria, DB in Germany, SBB in Switzerland, Network Rail in UK, ARTC in Australia. The noteworthy exception being Australia – where we are in the progress of trying to win Rio Tinto as our client, the global mining company, transporting minerals from inland production sites to port facilities at the coast.

Which segment is the major generator / driver of your business?

The key driver and larger volume generator is the maintenance and service of tracks, whereas construction of new tracks is more stochastic and focussed on (segments of ) high-speed rail lines or huge rehabilitation projects
In general, our business depends on state budgets for rail infrastructure or European funding for designated  „TEN“ rail corridors – linking northern & southern /south eastern countries.

Which countries will show best growth volumes in 2018 for your business?

Our number 1 market in continental Europe will continue to be Germany, followed by Hungary.

Let’s also take a look at the role of HR in your company. Is staff fluctuation of concern to senior management?

No, rather not – as this is a quite typical experience in the rail-infrastructure sector. However, the scope & nature of work differs with seasonality – during winter, we recondition and repair our expensive equipment, except for urgent track-repair work in connex with train-accidents. During the other 9 months, we are busy and out on the tracks.

Is Swietelsky Bahnbau an attractive employer for young graduates from technical universities?

By common understanding and perception, the work we do – mainly on weekends, holidays and during the night – is considered as „hardship work“ and hence rather unattractive.
However, we do manage to hire the talent we need, which is predominantly replacement for age / retirement reasons. 70% to  80% of our staff are blue collar workers.

What’s the percentage of female staff and managers?

App. 10% and fairly constant – in finance and admin predominantly, but we have a few female construction engineers as well within the  rail-infra sector.

Is Swietelsky actively working on Employer Branding?

Not yet – we are still in the brainstorming phase.

Are qualification profiles changing in your industry?

Yes, as a matter of fact they are. The increasing complexity of the equipment we use with more „smart“ machines to come does require us to look for managers and specialists with very good IT-skills, and good knowledge in electronics and robotics. Due to the high safety standards required for working on rails we demand regular training on driving skills and knowledge of all relevant regulations on a yearly basis.

In closing, what’s the most „exotic“ market in the pipeline for you?

Africa, southern part, most probably – we are looking at ambitious projects to build and condense railway linking ports on the Southern coast to large mineral deposits located in the Eastern parts of sub-Saharan Africa.

Mr. Goerres, thank you for talking to P&P.

Swietelsky is a client of P&P / Intersearch in Austria and Serbia.