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The rail sector

Simon Murray, Railtrack's major projects and investment director, outlines the opportunities for civil engineers in the rail industry.

For civil engineers the variety and scope offered by the new rail industry as a whole, with its drive for innovative engineering solutions in a commercial environment, would, I hope, prove attractive. At Railtrack there will always be a place for the best core engineering skills, but we also actively encourage quality engineers to think outside of their own discipline.

I am a civil engineer as is our commercial director, Richard Middleton, and there are many civils among our colleagues, from engineering and project management to general management.

There are many opportunities here for those with talent, an open mind and the capacity for hard work.

I joined Railtrack eighteen months ago and I can honestly say I look forward to going to work every morning. It is exciting, not to say challenging, to work in an industry that is growing strongly after years of stagnation. And it is rewarding to know that the effort that we put in to developing our infrastructure will, in the end, improve railway services and get millions of people to their destinations safely, quickly, punctually and smoothly.

When it comes to diversity of work, the railway industry has no equal. We are the custodians of much of the nation's industrial heritage from the Forth Bridge to Brunel's Great Western Railway. At the same time we are at the cutting edge of technology managing the development of advanced electronic systems for signalling, controls and telecommunications. All these systems have to work together seamlessly to deliver the service.

We also have to deal with great complexity in our work. Our major investment programmes are made up of many hundreds of discrete projects, most of which have to be carried out in possessions on the operating railway. It is a considerable challenge to get all the materials and construction equipment to a remote location in the middle of the night to renew a length of track. On the West Coast Route Modernisation we have to do this 3,500 times a year to keep the project on programme on what is Europe's busiest railway line, carrying over 2,000 passenger and freight trains a day. When maintenance work is added there are some 12,000 possessions a year on the whole line to be managed.

The challenge we face is not only to deliver the best engineering solutions to improve the infrastructure, but to get the maximum benefit for passengers out of every pound we invest in the network. That means managing our supply chain in new and enlightened ways, working collaboratively to provide the goods and services we need efficiently, predictably and with continuous improvement in quality, cost and speed of delivery.

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