Michael Martin, FCBC Project Director

Michael Martin’s fascinating career began with Ove Arup & Partners in the 1970s. Founded by the eponymous Danish “Philosopher Engineer”, the company is renowned for the importance it places on its values, vision and the contribution individuals can make.

Kessock to Queensferry, the long way

“They used to say there,” recalls Michael, “that responsibility is everywhere at Ove Arup.  All you have to do is bend down and pick it up.”

Responsibility is a key word. You get the sense, right from his first job as a graduate engineer on the construction of the Brighton Marina to his latest role as Principal Contract Project Director on the Queensferry Crossing, Michael Martin doesn’t just pick up responsibility but scoops it up with both hands.  And encourages others to do the same.

Carlisle-born Michael assumed the leadership of the FCBC (Forth Crossing Bridge Constructors) joint venture at the end of 2014 after previous Project Director, Carlo Germani, moved on to a major infrastructure project in Qatar.  Already an FCBC Board member (since 2012) representing one of the partner companies, Morrison Construction, Michael was well acquainted with the Project and had a detailed knowledge of the progress to date and the challenges ahead.

"My psyche is such that I wanted to be a part of it.  What civil engineer wouldn’t want to be involved?  It’s an amazing construction project and I just didn’t fancy admitting to myself later on that the challenge had been there but I had avoided picking it up and had just watched from the sidelines. It’s not me.”

Michael, enjoying semi-retirement, had been invited on to the FCBC joint venture board after a distinguished career in global civil engineering working on many significant infrastructure projects with Morrison and other companies.  Amongst a variety of large projects at home and abroad, he perhaps has a particular track record in Scottish bridges, past projects on his CV numbering the Kessock, Dornoch and the smaller but no less challenging Kylesku Bridges.  Largely free of other work commitments, he had been able to stay very close to the Queensferry Crossing Project and was already a familiar face on site.

“Given we were midway through the job, it wouldn’t have been ideal to bring in someone from outside with little knowledge of the job.  My involvement over the previous three years or so had given me a detailed grasp of all the technical and logistical issues.  I hadn’t been looking for the post but I couldn’t say no.  It’s too important a job and it needed somebody to come in, run it, build on the great work done since 2011 and see it through to completion.  It wasn’t exactly what my wife, Mary, and I had planned for the next three years, but we both knew I would always have regretted shying away and not standing up to the challenge.

“It’s an incredibly important project.  Important for Scotland, important for the industry’s reputation in Scotland when there have been a couple of high profile major infrastructure jobs that have not gone well here in recent times.  This contract needs to be seen to be more successful than those.  Whilst I personally have a background with Morrison (now owned by Galliford Try), I had also got to know the other FCBC shareholders, too, and I equally represent them.  I know how important it is for them. For all these reasons, I couldn’t stand back from this role.”

Sitting in his office in the main site office in Rosyth, gazing out at the emerging Queensferry Crossing, Michael’s career has in some respects come full circle.  As already mentioned, his notable early jobs involved technically challenging bridge projects such as Kessock and Kylesku, from both the client and contractor side of the table.