With an exclusive dedication to the rail industry, Martinus is bringing the approach of a family-owned business to major rail projects around Australia and New Zealand.
Speaking with Treaven Martinus, over a video call in June, the CEO of Martinus Rail is back to where it all began almost 15 years ago, an office in his home in Cronulla.
“I’ve been in the rail industry through my whole working career and in 2005 I ventured out to start a product supply business for the rail industry,” said Martinus.
The business that he founded supplied turnouts to the Australian rail industry, is now delivering the largest track construction project in Australia, the Carmichael Rail Network.
“After seven years developing the product supply business, we saw the opportunity to diversify the business and expand into rail infrastructure construction,” said Martinus.
Over the next eight years, Martinus grew organically into a full-service rail contractor and expanded its presence across Australia, New Zealand and now Chile.
The company’s initial growth was driven by carrying out periodical maintenance across NSW for Australian Rail Track Corporation (ARTC). In 2013, Martinus set out its strategic five-year plan.
“The end vision at that point in time was to be a full service rail contractor for NSW, but, what happened in those five years, and it’s been a constant story throughout, is plenty of challenges along the way as we’ve had to change our direction depending on what barriers got put in front of us.”
The first barrier was focusing on the concentrated NSW market. Despite being based in Sydney, to this day, only three per cent of Martinus’ work is done in its home state, instead the company has gone where the opportunities are.
“There’s been a barrier to entry for us in Sydney which has been our success as it’s pushed us to go where the opportunities are,” said Martinus. “We only focus on rail infrastructure construction, we don’t do anything outside the rail space, so we had to go where the opportunities were, first being the Hunter Valley, then Brisbane was the next step, Victoria after that, and then we kept just diversifying regionally.”
The series of projects that Martinus would work on would develop the company from a maintenance contractor to a project delivery contractor in its own right.
The main contributors to the company’s early success in the construction space were two young, enthusiastic, and energetic engineers who are now part of the senior leadership team at Martinus, chief operating officer Ryan Baden and senior pre-contracts manager Toby Briggs.
“It’s always been our people who helped us reach the impossible, exceeded client expectations and were instrumental in supporting the growth of the business – and that has been the only constant for us,” said Martinus.
Martinus soon developed a reputation for its people, particularly for their strong work ethic, safe delivery of projects, and shared love for all things rail.
In line with their strategic plan, Martinus set out to win more work and they did this by targeting four main projects which met their skill set and strategic direction of delivering larger projects.
“The four projects we wanted to go for were the Port Kembla coal terminal upgrade, a $15m project, over two years; the ARTC Gunnedah yard rationalisation, a $10m complete re-build of the yard, signalling and drainage; Aurizon’s long term stabling facility in Hexham, the $8m subcontract for the track construction and supply of the materials; and then Morton Bay rail line upgrade where Theiss were the head contractor on that $1bn project and there was a 30-kilometre track package of works.
“We went for all these four projects and we won all four, and that was a huge turning point for us,” said Martinus.
“From there our reputation continued to grow, as did our in-house capabilities and soon enough we became the delivery partner of choice.”
The scale of these projects required Martinus to grow rapidly, and here the company would develop a core principle, one great person equals three good people. Particularly for Martinus himself, ensuring that the company had the right people on board was critical.
“I have, myself, no background in rail construction/contracting apart from seeing it, which led to the actual successes we had because I had to recruit people who knew what they were doing and then give them the autonomy and authority to deliver.”
In addition, with the projects spread out in regional areas across NSW and Queensland and as more and more project came online, Martinus had to decentralise some internal processes.
“To encourage autonomy across our project delivery, we implemented a project controls framework to empower our project teams,” said Martinus. “The framework has a strong focus on safety and provides project support for each team and is flexible enough to be tailored to suit each project.”
Having delivered those four projects in what Martinus describes as a hectic 2013, the company could consolidate its position as a full-service rail construction contractor. Today, the company has experience across all aspects of rail construction, from light rail works in Sydney to heavy haul in the Pilbara, and crane rail construction projects at major ports to underground metro rail in New Zealand. With the infrastructure pie only expected to grow, Martinus has invested in its people, processes and equipment so that the company can self- perform on the projects that it is bidding for.
“To sustain the business growth in our home markets of Australia and New Zealand, we invested more than $60m in three key areas of the business: our people, plant and systems over three years. This also speaks to our motto: growth always, in all ways.”
Martinus’ strategic investment will go a long way in solidifying their position in the market, particularly when it comes to Martinus’ depth of capability when it comes to delivering complex large-scale projects.
“Our model is to secure both greenfield and brownfield works across Australia and New Zealand and then deliver those works with our team and extensive range of multi- gauge plant ranging from flashbutt welding machines to ballast trains and track laying machines,” said Martinus.
When it comes to investing in people, Martinus is also finding a way around the skills shortage that is often thought of as afflicting the rail sector.
“We look for passionate railway professionals who are driven to succeed. We provide the right support and training to nurture future industry leaders,” said Martinus.
In addition, Martinus found people from outside the rail sector whose skills were transferrable. These hires were not only from other construction areas but from the military and hospitality industry, and to ensure they stayed, the company has focused on creating a positive culture.
“Because we hired some of those leaders that were not from the rail industry, they were fresh into the rail industry, it actually opened up our pool of the great people that we wanted to hire,” said Martinus.
Combined, these investments ensure Martinus can provide an alternate method for delivering rail infrastructure solutions for their clients.
Martinus attributes their current pipeline of projects to the hard work and dedication of their people, including the Carmichael Rail Network in central Queensland and the Forrestfield-Airport Link in Perth.