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Video | Engineer explains consultant methodology behind viral video stunt

A viral video star has told NCE how he approached the stunt that gave him internet fame with an engineering methodology.

Peter Brett Associates senior environmental consultant James Heptonstall appears in the YouTube video Race the Tube, racing a London Underground Circle Line train on foot from Mansion House to Cannon Street.

NCE met with Heptonstall this week and heard how his engineering training stood him in good stead for the challenge.

The months of planning for the stunt involved scouring the internet for information on the depths of Tube stations, distances between stations and accessibility of stations so that the most viable option of two shallow stations – Cannon Street and Mansion House emerged as the ones to race between.

“We originally planned for me to go from Cannon Street to Mansion House but we did a site assessment and found that there was a slight uphill gradient between the two, so we switched the direction,” said Heptonstall.

From the moment Heptonstall left the train on the morning of Saturday 12 July, he had 80secs to get back on the same train at Cannon Street.

Peter Brett Associates senior environmental consultant James Heptonstall races the Circle Line between Mansion House and Cannon Street

“We tried to mitigate the risks, so we did a risk assessment,” he added. “My biggest worry was at street level because I knew I needed to take the corners at speed.”

So Heptonstall called on his brother and girlfriend to wear high vis vests at street level at the intersections and would signal whether it was safe for him to run across the intersections. So as not to crash into any people, his brother went so far as to hold back pedestrians until the challenge had been completed.

Which it was on the first attempt. After a month or so of editing the footage shot on a head camera, the video was posted online and has this week passed 4M views.

While working on nationally significant infrastructure projects at Peter Brett, Heptonstall is looking to the next challenge with his partner in the planning, Noel Carroll, who can also be seen on the train in the video.


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