STARC (Cardiff)


Directors Philip Owen and Chris Phillips met early in their railway careers working closely in the rail industry. They were both professional engineers, recognised with industry accreditations, who already had experience of leading and delivering profitable projects. Learning from previous successes and failures, Chris and Philip wanted to establish a small, team capable of working in a safety critical environment, with a willingness to work hard and be flexible. The industry was going through a slow cycle due to the financial issues facing the world, but they could see a future growth opportunity, due to the lack of experienced engineers, as well as upcoming Network Rail works. Both directors wanted to compete on larger more complicated projects, rather than small engineering one off schemes and spent the first 18 months establishing solid foundations and obtaining stringent industry accreditations. The directors recognised the need to have a strong board and invited Julian Tee to re-join in 2010, bringing a fresh impetus and additional engineering skills to help drive the company forward

Our main challenges when starting the business

One of the key challenges was to ensure the company managed cash, without the need to borrow. The management team had previous experience of financial institutions and did not want any credit. Overhead management was key, with overhead staff also engaging in direct delivery activities. This enabled excellent profits and good cash retention. Market penetration was difficult at the start, but quickly accelerated, due the growing customer reputation of right first time, every time. Starc became synonymous with flexibility and trust, whilst delivering value for money.

Success Factor

Excellent levels of Health and Safety knowledge, experience and robust systems, normally associated with much larger companies. These processes provided a lot of comfort to Network Rail and main contractors that Starc are a reliable contractor and not just a “man in a van”. The company also has considerable railway experience both geographically and in knowledge that has enabled it to provide a full range of services from design, through implementation, testing and handover to maintenance. There is limited experienced resource available in the industry, which gives Starc a competitive advantage. Finally, Starc have developed an enviable reputation, that nothing is too much trouble and no quibble guarantee of workmanship. The attention to pleasing the customer is prevalent throughout the whole company and all the staff are recognised by the customer, to be willing to work hard, develop solutions to problems as they occur.

The Future

Starc have recently been awarded the coveted Principal Contractors Licence “PCL” by Network Rail. which is the Pinnacle of Network Rail’s safety, quality and environmental assurance schemes and this allows it to tender and deliver larger schemes directly to Network Rail. Starc is currently geared to operate in the Crossrail area of the western region and will be developing its service offering to operate in other parts of the UK. In addition to this, Starc will be also developing its service range to include civil works as well as electrical projects.