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Young Engineers and Apprentices Railway Seminar: Integrated Travel...Roundtable interview with four of our seminar speakers

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Young Engineers and Apprentices Railway Seminar: Integrated Travel, 30 November - 1 December 2023, Charles Street Building, Sheffield Hallam University
Young Engineers and Apprentices Railway Seminar: Integrated Travel, 30 November - 1 December 2023, Charles Street Building, Sheffield Hallam University

Ahead of our Young Engineers and Apprentices Railway Seminar 2023 event, we caught up with four of the event's speakers as they discuss their roles and involvement with regards to the seminar, industry challenges and why it is important for engineers to attend.

Q: Please could you briefly explain your role, involvement, and experience with regards to the Railway Industry and the IMechE’s “Young Engineers and Apprentices Railway Seminar 2023”? 

Nick Swift, Eversholt Rail (NS): I work in the Product Development team within Client Services at Eversholt Rail. Eversholt Rail are a rail vehicle owning company, buying and leasing trains to many of the UK passenger train and freight train operators. The Product Development team are seeking ways to improve and enhance our fleets, whether that be reducing emissions, improving performance or finding new uses for vehicles displaced by new trains.

I have worked in the rail industry since leaving university, first for a train operator and then at Eversholt Rail in a few different roles across the engineering function. I am fortunate to be part of some of the most interesting and diverse projects we do here at Eversholt. I like finding new ways of solving problems and applying new technology. I attended Young Member events earlier in my career and look forward to sharing ideas with new rail industry colleagues at this year’s event.

Bill Reeve, Transport Scotland (BR): I am responsible for the £1.4bn p.a. expenditure of the Scottish Government to support rail infrastructure and services in Scotland. I will explain the benefits of the integrated approach used in Scotland’s railway.

Eduardo Garcia Thomas, Amey Infrastructure (EGT): I am an Assistant Project Manager for Amey Infrastructure Wales. My role has been to assist in the delivery of Depot improvements works required to service the new fleet of trains that will be utilised on the core valley lines. I graduated from Swansea University with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering. I previously worked at Port Talbot’s Steelworks but have now been working in the rail sector for 18 months.

Rowan Phillips, Transport for Wales (RP): I am currently involved in the creation of the South Wales Metro with Transport for Wales, ensuring that all maintenance provisions are in place for our brand new rolling stock. I was previously a graduate engineer and attend this conference 10 years ago and I am excited to share some of my experience.

Q: What, in your experience, has been the biggest roadblock for utilising Integrated Travel in your sector?

NS: Linking new technology into some of the old legacy systems used to manage the day-to-day operation of the railway is one of the biggest challenges. Justifying changes with a safety critical systems involving multiple stakeholders can be time consuming, with many people to consult for even the smallest of changes. Integrated Travel is about creating seamless links between systems to create end to end journeys, ensuring public transport forms a real alternative to private road vehicle use.

BR: Lack of alignment – between transport organisations and with strategic objectives.

EGT: The number of stakeholders required for consents and approvals often poses a risk to programme. Additionally ageing assets add considerable complexity to projects and can inhibit the timely delivery of works.

RP: Clear responsibilities and accountability can be a barrier, especially when different modes are not controlled by a single guiding mind.

Q: What key topics are you excited to discuss at this year's event?

NS: I am going to be talking about managing innovation in rail, why we need to innovate and how to get your ideas adopted within an organisation. I will share some examples, drawn from across our asset portfolio, and how we can keep rail relevant for the 21st century.

BR: The value of integration and the importance of rail’s role in decarbonisation.

EGT: I am excited to discuss the implementation of value engineered options for the delivery of a modern rail network.

RP: I am excited to discuss the introduction of new and novel technology that has the potential to make the business cases for investment into integrated travel projects more appealing.

Q: What would you say are the technologies or applications to watch for the future?

NS: Rail as a mode of transport has inherent advantages that remain as strong as ever, but as an industry we are relatively small, so the ability to develop our own solutions is limited. We need to adopt technology from other sectors, including automation, use of digital technologies and new advances like AI.

New zero-emission rail traction opportunities are being explored for parts of the rail network where electrification cannot be justified at current costs. New methods of rail system signalling and control are being progressed, adopting new positioning technology that is becoming commercially viable.

Whilst the rail industry faces some challenges, there is always lots for engineers to do, which makes it an interesting sector to work in.

BR: Electrification.

EGT: The introduction of CFS and PES sections on historical infrastructure can deliver value for money for the taxpayer. I would expect this technology will be introduced around the nation.

RP: The use of battery and multi-mode rolling stock that enables the introduction of new networks and services without the complexities of extensive infrastructure investment. I am also excited about the potential to use more automated inspection and diagnostic equipment to streamline maintenance of assets.

Q: Who else are you most interested in hearing from on the programme?

NS: As a regular user of East Midlands train services, I am looking forward to hearing from Rachel about the new fleet that is being built for this line, and working in the light rail area I am keen to learn more about the conversion of heavy rail to light rail in South Wales.

BR: The presentation from East Midlands Railway's Head of New Trains Rachel Turner: 'A new dawn for the East Midlands'.

EGT: I’m passionate about sustainable travel and keen to see others encouraged to get out of their cars and utilising public transport - therefore discussions around integrated travel is of great interest to me. I’m keen to learn about other projects that are currently underway to further develop the critical asset to our society which is the railway.

Q: Why is it important for engineers to join this event?

NS: Attending events is important to meet other Engineers and share ideas.  The Engineering Institutions have been in existence to enable this for nearly 200 years, and that sharing of thoughts and experience in person is as valuable today as it has always been.

BR: This is a fabulous opportunity to gain strategic insight about the future development of railways and also a great opportunity to build valuable networks. I benefited very much from IMechE events like this earlier in my career – and I still do.

EGT: Having joined the rail industry recently, I am keen to understand the ongoing network improvement works across the UK rail as well as the common challenges faced in the industry.

RP: I am very fortunate to have a great network of peers in industry that I have built from attending and engaging with IMechE events. This is a fantastic opportunity for new entrants to our industry to start building their network and learning about the wider industry.

Young Engineers and Apprentices Railway Seminar: Integrated Travel will be taking place on 30 November - 1 December 2023 at Charles Street Building, Sheffield Hallam University.

Join this event to:

  • Learn about the current technologies in the industry and potential future technologies
  • Gain a greater understanding of the breadth of the railway industry and the different career paths that you could take within it
  • Don’t miss out on the opportunity to tour Wabtec Rail in Doncaster
  • Network with fellow engineers and apprentices throughout the two-day event, including an evening networking dinner at the end of Day 1
  • Take part in workshops to develop solutions to real-world engineering problems relating to the theme of Integrated Travel and propose innovations which will combine distinct transportation modes to maximise efficiency in terms of time, cost, safety, accessibility and convenience

To book your place, please visit the event website.

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