Professional Head of Track
Professional Head of Track
I emigrated from Zimbabwe, that’s where I grew up, I was coming over to England to do something very different and had a bit of a gap before I could start… I got a part-time job on the railway and absolutely fell in love with it and quite quickly got offered a role within Network Rail.
I got an opportunity to join Network Rail as part of their foundation degree in engineering. You went to university for seven months and then you came into industry for five months to put into practice what you learnt.
The Railway means everything… It’s an amazing opportunity and there are amazing things we’re doing… It keeps us going as a country.
A high point would have to be the work out in Toronto with Network Rail consulting and winning the next contract with TTC. This contract was for a four-year period to have an engineer and section manager embedded into the organisation.
Don’t give up. Try and find someone to talk to. There are lots of us within the business and within the industry who are more than happy to take time out to sit down, go through what you think are the challenges and help you find the solutions to or be able to create those opportunities that maybe you can go and experience a different part of the business.
I think look at the railway as being a huge family where whatever your passion is, whatever you’re interested in, you’ll find a home on the railway.
Graduate Electrical Engineer, Warwick
I’m an electrical engineer on the graduate scheme at Network Rail. The graduate scheme consists of rotational placements within different departments, and I’m currently working in asset management after having previously worked in maintenance.
Network Rail offers lots of employee benefits such as employee networks, a generous leave package and support towards achieving relevant qualifications. As well as the chance to work on exciting large scale infrastructure projects and the chance to gain new technical skills. It was a no-brainer.
Meeting new people with a breadth of experiences and different outlooks! Everyone is really friendly and is willing to help you as long as you’re willing to learn. In my first year I’ve had the opportunity to manage a great project and win an award for it. It’s really helped grow my confidence!
Be enthusiastic. As long as you’re willing to learn and bring your best self to work every day, there’s a job for you at Network Rail.
I’ve found that most people at Network Rail have a good work-life balance and the company encourages this. I feel really supported by both my managers and my scheme team.
Claire’s photo is from early in her career. PPE and track safety requirements have changed since then.
Senior Route Asset Manager (S&T)
I was really interested to use my engineering skills in an industry where I saw real time benefit to the public, and the fact that it was not the defence sector was a big plus for me. The railway has so much variety of equipment, from mechanical Victorian signalling, through to 1960s and 70s electrical equipment, and the very latest electronics and computer based systems, so whatever interests you, you can find something that aligns with your passion.
The variety of careers is huge as well, and there’s lots of support for career development, and secondment opportunities, so you can branch out, and have a go at something, secure in the knowledge that you have a guaranteed job to return to.
In my job there is the equipment to consider, but also the people that look after it. Equipment is interesting, but generally if you provide the same input and it is working, you expect the same output. People are very different, and you can provide the same input to two people and you’ll get a completely different output from each.
So although I came into the railway with a passion for equipment, how it works, how to maintain it and how to fix it, now I’m really interested in the people I work with and manage and getting the best out of them by understanding their different personalities.
I always had an idea of where I wanted to aim for in my career, and set a rough plan in place that would step me towards that. There are lots of really supportive managers and directors, that I’ve been inspired by, and have given me the odd piece of encouragement, or suggested direction, and that has been helpful.
I’ve found managers equally supportive, so gathering stakeholders around you that can help you on your journey, or a mentor to bounce ideas off has worked for me. I’ve always tried to have positive relationships with colleagues too, so that if I ever need to return to someone for help, it will be a benefit to both of us. Being a female on the railway is helpful, in that with fewer numbers of us, people remember who you are, but that means I want to look after that reputation too.
I’ve been a primary school governor for about 10 years, and Network Rail supports me in that, It’s especially helpful as I can influence school policies around the STEM subjects, and encourage children to think about engineering as a career.
Network Rail gives us 5 days charity leave a year, so I’ve used some of that towards working on children’s camp each year for 7-11 year olds. All these sorts of activities enhance the skills we bring back to the workplace.
I’m the church treasurer, and a Sunday school teacher, and I’ve even had some of my work professional development objectives around developing myself in those areas. Competence in spreadsheet management, attention to detail, preparing reports for an auditor, and presenting to 20 children and their parents each week all give me skills that I can use in my daily job.
I’ve also done lots of STEM activities and careers events supporting girls and boys to consider engineering - talking to students at university, supporting or judging engineering competitions, doing railway safety talks in schools, supporting my engineering institutions with events that they run for professional development.
I’m a Maintenance Engineer for Electrification and Plant equipment. I lead a team that maintains equipment that provides electric power for electric traction and signalling systems.
I joined Network Rail as an apprentice. I was attracted by the breath of opportunity available. I am currently focused on my current maintenance role but I am looking forward to exploring more of the industry in the future.
The moments of chaos when a fault comes through. I enjoy the challenge that comes with dealing with emergency situations and working with others to resolve it.
Make yourself standout from the crowd. I am seeing more women and men applying to join Network Rail, so do all that you can to stand out from the rest.
Yes, I have a 5 month old daughter and love the fact that I get to be with her at home often. If things change, I have the option to take on flexible working to allow me and my wife to look after her and be available when needed.
Senior Asset Engineer (Track)
Working as an experienced Engineer in the manufacturing sector which was moving abroad, I was looking for an industry where I could be an Engineer and have a long-term career in the UK. I looked at the railway firstly through the PWI (Permanent Way Institute) and started reading about railway track, I was hooked from that moment on. I applied to the network rail conversion programme and was selected in 2003 and have never looked back. This has been the best decision of my career so far.
Within the railway industry the opportunity to grow in one discipling is great with the wealth of experience. The industry has something special about it and it’s difficult to quantify. I think it’s a railway culture and pride of being part of something which is national treasure, a national pride as such but being able to make a difference leaving your own legacy of the railway.
The diversity of the role and the people I work with.
I’m a Track Engineer but no two days are the same so the “buzz” of the day to day operational pressures can be quite exciting. On the quiet days I’m looking at strategy & the next 10-year plan, but being flexible is a must!
The railway industry across the entire track disciple has an amazing talent pool, anyone joining the industry will benefit from this. I’m an example of coming from a different industry how you can be successful. I’m a mechanical / manufacturing Engineer by education, a process Engineer and manufacturing Engineer by experience of 11 years and I took the leap into the Railway. You could too!
The industry has a diversity of disciplines which allows you to grow as an individual not only in track but all others. The unique selling point for the industry is the ability to move from discipline and geography due to it being a national industry. Like education selecting a subject, if it’s not working you can change subject, it’s the same in our industry as it’s all railway and gaining a skill in one discipline helps you develop your individual skill sets. But to be clear Track Engineering for me is the best discipline in the railway and to understand all the other disciplines helps you understand the “Track System” and to be a better Track Engineer.
Over the last several years I have used the 5 charity days NR provides us to support Emmaus charity which helps to end homelessness. I had never done anything like this in the past and was a little apprehensive. The day was fantastic working alongside different disciplines and senior managers helping refurbish several flats. It was very rewarding giving back to the community, and we had a great deal of fun as a team.
In my various roles I have helped numerous young Engineers develop from apprentices, graduates, junior engineers, engineers joining the industry and year in industry students. It fills me with great pride to see these individuals progress thru the industry and to have helped the individuals in their development.
With 17 years of track experience I support a larger network from engineers across the various route to engineers globally sharing our experiences with engineers as far reaching as Australia setting up new freight routes.
The Regional and Route Buildings and Civils Engineering Teams manage all the structures, earthworks and operational building assets that contribute to making the railway an efficient and safe transport system to support the UK economy and provide the service passengers and freight hauliers expect.
This is a challenging and rewarding environment for engineers where you will contribute to a successful modern and complex railway system by maintaining and enhancing embankments, cuttings, bridges, tunnels, sea defences, retaining walls, stations and depots. Balancing the needs of the modern complex railway alongside our heritage responsibilities and stakeholder constraints. This requires innovation as well as an understanding of traditional engineering and building materials. Critical to success is enhancing resilience of the assets to the impacts of climate change, and ensuring a long term sustainable approach.
They will be the guiding mind involved in developing all activities associated with the maintenance, renewal and enhancement of over 14,000 bridge spans, 200 tunnels, 10,000 culverts and retaining walls, and 30 miles of sea defences, 2280 miles of earthworks, 562 stations and 2200-line side buildings.
We will be looking for high quality civil, structural, geotechnical and building services engineers as well as geologists and building surveyors to add value to our business and ensure the railway remains safe and develops to meet the demands of the future. With an emphasis on applying Engineering judgement and the technical application of Engineering, the role will require all the attributes of Chartered status or those aspiring to that status’
The signalling system is designed to facilitate safe passage of trains, keeping following trains a safe distance apart and providing assurance that all the equipment in the route ahead is providing the correct indications to the driver of the train as well as the signaller observing operations remotely. Out on the track there are signals to maintain, and point machines, which move the rails to the correct position at junctions, as well as level crossing barrier machines and lights to protect the public. Hidden from public view is the “brains” of the signalling system the interlocking which ensures once a route is selected for a train there will be no conflicting train paths, and the signalling control centres from where the signallers direct operations. Holding everything together are the telecommunications networks and transmission systems for transmission of data and signals to permit all the equipment to “talk” securely. The first mechanical semaphore signalling was installed in the 1840s, and we’ve plenty of mechanical equipment still used on the beautiful Settle to Carlisle line or magnificent Cumbrian Coast with lever operated mechanical signalboxes, as well as the most modern computer based electronic signalling, and telecommunications systems. Right now we are in development to use the latest European Train Control Systems with in-cab signalling for the West Coast Mainline, so there’s equipment to manage spanning almost 200 years, and a call for engineers to manage the equipment through its complete life-cycle.
Electrification and Plant (E&P) engineering is key component of the overall railway system, designed to safely supply, control and distribute power to the railway signalling and overhead line traction power systems to enable the safe movements of trains, transporting passenger and goods around the country. To enable traction and signalling power to be distributed from the utility companies to where required on the railway network, the E&P engineers are responsible for the life cycle management of two asset portfolio groups, Distribution and Plant and Over-headline Equipment. Out on track this involves the maintenance, renewal and enhancement of all elements of our High Voltage, Low Voltage and Over-headline Equipment network including: controlling the interface with utility companies, switchgear, transformers, sub-stations, protection control, cables and over-headline wires, and our telecoms system (SCADA) enabling remote control of our network of assets. The culmination of these systems working in sync enables us to provide the required 25kV traction supply to electric trains through approx. 4000 miles of our over-headline transmission network and 650V low voltage for the railway signalling systems to enable safe control and movement of trains. The engineering decisions and interventions made throughout the life cycle of these E&P assets ultimately govern the reliability, resilience and performance delivered to achieve the required train service levels.
NW&C Region accounts for 25% of the UK rail network. The regional track engineering team is responsible for the long term strategy and planning, to provide the UK with a safe and reliable railway. NW&C region includes 4500 miles of track, 530 sets of switches and crossings and around 2000 miles of lineside fencing and vegetation. The track asset is the backbone of the railway, safely guiding passengers at speeds up to 125MPH and moving millions of tonnes of essential freight around the country each year. The track system is made up of concrete or timber sleepers, steel rails and fasteners holding it down, with granite ballast providing the ballast to provide a firm base and hold it down. The track engineering team use asset data collected by measurement trains to help predict when maintenance and renewals should take place. The regional track engineering team set the strategy and create plans enabling government to fund the long term sustainability of the UKs railways.
We give every employee the chance to build a successful career with us. We encourage all our employees to be ambitious, and offer great training and career development opportunities. As the railway becomes bigger and more technologically advanced, it’s crucial that our employees have the right skills to develop their careers and meet the challenges ahead.
We’re proactive in empowering employees with the knowledge to help them progress. We believe that investing in our people is one of the most effective ways of improving the safety, reliability and efficiency of the railway.