In a conversation with Rail Express, 2XM managing director Matthew Morrish talks about his background in rail and exciting plans for the future.
From boxing biscuits in the English Midlands to bronzing on Bondi Beach, it’s been a rail-filled global adventure for 2XM Projects’ managing director, Matthew Morrish. As the company prepares for an exciting 12 months ahead, Rail Express caught up with him to find out about his move Down Under, becoming a citizen and how, in under 10 years, he’s led a company that started with just himself and his mobile phone and grown to more than 200 people with head offices in three big Australian cities.
REX: Matthew, tell us a little bit about your background.
MM: I was born and bred in the West Midlands of the UK. The Midlands is often referred to as the industrial heartland of the country and is also home to some of world’s biggest rail manufacturers, so you wouldn’t be too surprised to find out I was always interested in the rail industry.
As a young man I did an apprenticeship with Alstom. I like to think fate has played a big part in my life as it was with Alstom where I met my wife to be. The apprenticeship combined hands-on practical application with an engineering degree at Sheffield Hallam University.
After university I took a summer job in a biscuit factory working on the malted milk line, which has for some reason followed me throughout my career. I get a few laughs when I share this part of my past, I guess boxing biscuits and rail bogies are worlds apart.
REX: So, how did you get your first job in rail?
MM: Calling upon fate again, while dropping a friend off at an open evening for Adtranz (now Bombardier) I needed to go to the toilet, so I popped in to use the facilities and I ended up getting interviewed and offered a job.
My time there was great, and we developed some cutting-edge manufacturing and assembly processes, which led to me having the responsibility of designing and building an assembly line for new trains delivered to London.
Over time my responsibilities increased leading to multiple project management roles, meaning a rise in working directly with clients to bridge the gap between their needs and practical project application. Satisfying client requirements by finding and executing solutions soon became my favourite part of the job and with that my career advanced quickly.
As I became more client facing, I moved into overseeing all sales and bids for the new UK domestic market trains, and also ran bids for the international market as well, for example: China, Taiwan, India and South Africa to name a few.
REX: How did your move to Australia come about?
MM: During my time in the UK I was asked to go to India for two weeks to support one of our bids. That bid ended up being successful and two weeks became three years living in Delhi.
We delivered a complicated and time sensitive project providing new trains for Delhi Metro phase 2 where the design was done in Sweden, the trains built in Germany and then requiring Antonov planes to deliver the first few to India.
During these formative years I also got married and had two kids with my family joining me in India. My wife has extended family in Australia so whilst there we’d often travel here for family holidays.
We actually honeymooned in Australia and with each visit we fell further and further in love with the country, it’s natural beauty and welcoming people. My wife and I often spoke about the idea of making it permanent.
As fate would have it, we were once again enjoying Christmas in Australia, I got tapped on the shoulder by an Australian train manufacturer who asked if I would be interested in joining their company which would include a move to Sydney.
To be honest there wasn’t much of a conversation, we jumped at it and the rest as they say, is history. One of our families’ proudest moments is when we achieved our Australian citizenship back in 2015.
RE: So, how did the creation of 2XM Projects come about?
MM: My first foray in Australia was with Downer Rail in 2010, working as their train acceptance director, which I executed for a few years. On a work trip to Northern China, I ran into a couple of the TXM Group’s senior executives.
I knew TXM Group’s founders: Lawrence Seward and Keiron Gallimore, from my time in the UK and a conversation started as they were exploring the expansion of their global presence into Australia and were keen to establish a rail project management business there.
TXM operates in the UK, North America, United Arab Emirates and already had a presence here in Australia through its 2XM Recruit and 2XM technology companies. My challenge was to set up a rail project management service, starting from scratch.
So, I took a desk within the 2XM family in Sydney, rolled my sleeves up and decided to build a service that stood for all of the brilliant values the global group proudly embodies.
REX: You started as a one-man band, where is 2XM Projects now?
MM: What started life as just me in a shared office in Sydney has grown to over 200 employees located in three major Australian cities: Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. We now have an executive board with large specialist teams working within each sector.
The hard work over the past 10 years has helped 2XM Projects build a great reputation to be identified as a ‘Swiss army knife of the rail industry’. There’s a lot we’re now able to offer: if a client needs some extra horsepower, no problem; if there’s a knowledge barrier issue, we can deploy an expert; we can scale up a multi-disciplined team and bring in executive level input at any point. We truly do offer a top to bottom, 360˚ rail service solution.
REX: What’s the future for 2XM Projects?
MM: In the short term we’re seeing real growth, not just in the operational side, but in the engineering consulting, management review and independent review arms of the business too.
The ‘Consult’ services start from when clients are bidding for work, through to delivering the full lifecycle of a project. So, from bid, through to contract award, delivery and closing, our consult services go through all of those spheres.
Our focus over the next 12 months is to reinforce and celebrate the wide range of white-collar rail services that complement and enhance our project operations. Our long term plan sees us expanding into the great Asia Pacific Region, so watch this space.