BRITAIN’s biggest manufacturer of steel castings has fought off fierce competition from French rivals to secure work on the Paris Metro.
The William Cook group has cast the first of up to 50 steel supports for a new viaduct on the metro system.
The family-owned business is designing and developing a cast steel column to support the viaduct and elevated metro station in a multi-million euro project led by French architect Marc Mimram and the Parisian transport agency RATP.
Weighing as much as 12 tonnes and up to 7 metres tall, the columns are the largest castings ever poured at William Cook’s Sheffield foundry. A pair of full-size prototypes has been cast, with an order for a further 48 columns hoped for in 2018.
William Cook has previously worked on high profile projects such as the Millennium Bridge across the Thames.
The viaduct is part of an extension to Metro Line 11. The 37 million euro project is due for completion in 2018.
RATP said it wants the viaduct to be “a strong architectural gesture” integrated into the surrounding environment with a sleek and elegant design.
Sir Andrew Cook, chairman of William Cook Holdings, said: “We are delighted to have won this scoping project against strong French competition.
“It demonstrates our ability to create safety critical components that are engineered to the highest levels of structural and aesthetic integrity.
“William Cook has a long track record of designing and engineering steel components for prestigious projects, including Wimbledon Centre Court, Heathrow Terminal Five and the new stadium of a leading London football club.
“We are proud to be partnering with the leading French architect Marc Mimram and RATP and flying the flag for world-class British engineering.”
William Cook has invested £6m in its precision factory in Sheffield, further enhancing its design and engineering capabilities.
It has installed the latest 3D printing and investment casting technology to allow the rapid manufacture of complex steel alloy components.
The group employs around 500 people across three sites, in Sheffield, Leeds and County Durham.
William Cook, who is Sir Andrew’s son, and a director of William Cook Holdings. said: “We have a very strong track record in architectural projects having developed the specification for structural steel castings when we worked on Stansted airport in the early 1990s.”
Earlier this year, Sir Andrew called on politicians to set aside their differences and form a “Grand Alliance of the Centre” to stop Britain heading towards “catastrophe” by leaving the single market.
Speaking at a conference in Sheffield, Sir Andrew warned of an impending economic crisis caused by dramatic falls in sterling.
Sir Andrew quoted Rudyard Kipling, saying the case to leave the EU was “twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools”.
“Those knaves delivered a small majority of 1.3m to unconditionally leave the EU. As a result, I believe Britain faces the greatest catastrophe since 1939: not a military catastrophe, but an economic one. Here in Britain, the oil is running out. The bankers are preparing to leave. The investors are walking away.”
William Cook said he shared his father’s views on Brexit. But he stressed that the William Cook group had been around for 200 years and would take the future in its stride.
He said that the UK has a lot of large infrastructure projects on the drawing board and that firms such as William Cook stand to win work as a result..
“We are planning to take on more apprentices, particularly in Leeds and County Durham.”
Earlier this year, Sir Andrew staged a grand opening of the new foundry at the firm’s Sheffield site, with Lord Sebastian Coe, VIPs, friends and suppliers.
Lord Coe praised Sheffield’s manufacturing expertise, following a string of high profile announcements in the run-up to the opening of the foundry.
THE William Cook group has seen an increase in new orders for its specialist cast products from customers across Europe and Scandinavia as the oil and gas sector shows signs of recovery after a downturn that claimed a number of UK foundries.
Last month, the company reported “a lot of positivity in the market” and an upturn in enquiries for heavy engineering work at its newly modernised site in Sheffield.
The oil and gas sector is emerging from the deepest slump in a generation and appears to be in the early stages of a cyclical expansion, according to industry analysts. The gradual increase in oil prices and drilling activity is driving demand for William Cook’s high-specification castings in specialist alloys.