These are exciting times for transport north of the border and Transport Scotland, with a £3bn capital investment programme to 2010, is rmly at the centre of things.
Jim Barton has been there since the beginning, initially as director of trunk road network management, before adding the title of chief engineer. Now head of profession, Barton runs all graduate training and recruitment. And he has big ideas for the future.
'To be honest we used to cherry-pick engineers from industry. But the market is difcult to recruit in and as a client organisation - we are by a mile the biggest client in Scotland - we have got a real responsibility to train.' Barton is recruiting a dozen engineers and is hoping to have set up an ICE-approved graduate training programme by the summer. 'We are responsible for trunk roads and rail in Scotland and that gives us a fantastic opportunity to develop staff who can truly work across modes.
'A graduate training programme will give us the opportunity to grow our own staff, gaining experience of network operators and the project delivery of both road and rail, which, I think, is unique.' Barton's enthusiasm for the jobs he has on offer is a reection on his passion for his own job. 'I am proud of the way we deliver across our three core functions: asset management, network operator and maintenance provider. We are at the forefront of thinking in each of these areas.' But he admits there is room for improvement.
'We need to get smarter at how we define our maintenance needs and, importantly, the consequences of not investing in maintaining our biggest asset.
'For too long we have taken the motherhood and apple pie approach to road maintenance - you know it makes sense but not why. And as traffic increases, we need to become more efcient at network operations so the network runs smoothly.'
Q&A Jim Barton
Favourite food: I love all food, unfortunately, but I do love the relaxed atmosphere of an Italian restaurant.
Next holiday: A big family holiday in a villa in the Dordogne with our three girls and their partners Interesting fact: I cycled from Land's End to John O'Groats last summer with my brother. We managed to get north of Inverness without getting really wet - then got soaked.
Career highlight: The early days of the Scottish Office's Accident Investigation Unit take some beating, but setting up the Agency and seeing what we have achieved has probably been the best yet.
Career lowlight: When things don't turn out as well as I expect - I'm a bit of a perfectionist.
Favourite video: Probably still The Office Christmas Special - humour and pathos in equal measure. Brilliant.