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Opportunities

Peter Twelftree, managing director of Steer Davies Gleeve.

Peter Twelftree was a very prescient young man back in 1965 when he set out to study civil engineering. Right from day one, the now 55 year old managing director of transport planning specialist Steer Davies Gleeve, wanted to be a transport planner.

Nearly 40 years on, transport planners are among the most sought after professionals. And Twelftree and SDG are enjoying boom times.

Multi modal studies for local authorities, development work with rail operators and schemes to expand bus use are pouring in the company's door. So are feasibility studies for private finance consortia keen to develop high speed rail and toll roads around the globe.

Twelftree has seen SDG grow from an eight man team when he joined founder Jim Steer in 1982 to over 220 employees now.

The job is about ideas and imagination, he says. A good transport planner has to visualise the effect his plan will have on its environment in terms of associated development, quality of life and the economy.

'A lot of people can't visualise what things will be like if you build a new road or railway. Some can, ' Twelftree says. And those people can transport plan. Twelftree selected Nottingham University for his civils studies in the 1960s because it was one of the few courses that had transportation as part of the course. 'Now you can do a whole degree in the subject, ' he says.

Seeing Professor Colin Buchanan on television talking about traffic in towns had inspired him, and after his degree he opted to go on a self funded MSc year at Imperial College, London, to study under Buchanan.

He followed that with jobs at the Greater London Council and the London Borough of Harrow, before heading for Hong Kong.

'I was one of the hoards that went out in the 1970s, ' Twelftree says. 'I started with an incredibly boring job counting people on and off buses but then I got involved in the much more exciting Island Corridor study, where I first met Jim Steer.'

Twelftree stayed in Hong Kong for a few years, working on a container port study and the North East New Territories study among others.

'The great thing about Hong Kong is that the things you study do get built, in a remarkably short space of time, ' Twelftree says.

But he wanted to return to the UK and Steer Davies Gleeve was his destination, via a short term contract in Bombay.

Twelftree helped make the young company's reputation when, after it was approached by Canary Wharf to look at transport access to the development, he came up with idea to extend the Docklands Light Railway to Bank Underground.

Since then the Leeds Supertram and Dublin Luas light rail schemes have all begun in the SDG offices and the company has a healthy mix of private and public sector clients in the UK and overseas.

His career so far, he says, has been everything he hoped for and he revels in the fact that transport, after years at the bottom of the political agenda, is now at the top.

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