Railtrack's London director Janet Goodland left Cambridge in 1977 with a maths degree in one hand and a sackful of enthusiasm in the other. Her entire career since has been managing the complex interactions of Britain's railway.
Enough to knock the smile off anyone's face you might think. But Goodland is still smiling and looking forward to drawing on her 22 years of experience to deliver what must be the most complex set of separate railway developments in one city anywhere in the world.
The £800M Thameslink 2000 is at the top of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's in-tray this morning as he mulls over the latest Transport & Works Act submission (see News). But it is just one of the bewildering array of major rail schemes planned for London.
Others include section two of the Channel Tunnel Rail Link, the £170M Railtrack/ BAA/BA Heathrow Airtrack scheme, the East London Line extension, Crossrail and the partial privatisation of London Underground. If not properly managed, the shear bulk of work threatens to cause transport chaos in the capital.
'It's a great challenge,' says Goodland. 'The major complexity is making sure each project is sustainable in its own right. They all interact and need to be managed to ensure all stakeholder considerations are addressed.
'The issue is about making sure the overall programme can be delivered without them becoming a competing series of projects that have an ill effect on each other.'
Goodland joined British Rail as an operational research analyst. After eight years in London working on mathematical planning systems she moved to the British Railways Board where she spent four years as an investment analyst.
Her first experience of private sector contracting came in her next job as new works manager for BR's Anglia region just as external contractors were being brought on to the railway. She sees the lessons learnt here as vital training for her current job.
Privatisation beckoned as Goodland joined the newly formed Railtrack in 1993 as head of business, and at the start of this year she took the helm at Thameslink 2000. Just two months later she became London director.
She says lessons still have to be learnt in the industry - people who have spent a lifetime in the railways need to change their ways. 'We have to work hard to make sure the companies coming in realise we have a business to run, she explains. 'Contractors need to be more disciplined and plan what they have to do better.'