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Viaduct vocation

Working lives Nick Tedston

Bridge engineer Nick Tedston is one of the rail sector's rising stars. John McKenna spoke to him.

Nick Tedston is mad about bridges. The 32 year old is Network Rail's structures assessment engineer for the south east.

He is responsible for the upkeep and development of the operator's 10,000 bridges within Kent, Wessex, Anglia and Sussex.

'Working alongside bridges built by the great pioneers of engineering like Brunel, Locke and Stephenson is fascinating, ' he says.

'No one bridge on a route such as London to Brighton is the same. They are all different, they are all bespoke.'

Tedston's job involves looking at problems on individual bridges and station's roofs which may have implications for structures across the region.

Running a team of eight engineers, he also liaises with clients like freight operators to find out how the region's structures can be modied or even rebuilt to meet their rapidly changing needs.

He consults with the public on any structures being altered or replaced and is currently working on a review of the way Network Rail explains the capability of its network.

'One of the things I like about my role is that we are right at the start of the [construction] process, ' says Tedston.

'In order to decide what the design solution should be, the assessment needs to be carried out and exploited fully.'

He is often out and about, but the managerial side of the job means Tedston is unable to indulge his passion for bridges as rampantly as he did while rising through Network Rail's ranks.

Tedston joined Railtrack's graduate training scheme in 1995 immediately after completing an engineering degree at Southampton.

'When I joined I was keen on the whole aspect of the vast size of the network and the Victorian nature of the infrastructure, ' he says.

'It was supporting vehicles that it was never designed to and the interest for me was 'how do you make that work and manage that?'' The three-year programme, which Network Rail still runs and recently relaunched with the 'You're Hired' branding was an excellent grounding, he claims.

'Looking at my friends who went into consultancy and contracting, I think the Network Rail programme is one of the best'.

'It allows us the ability to work in all aspects - the consulting end, the design end, the contracting end. Because we are a big client organisation we can facilitate so many different and varied projects that the doors open everywhere.'

Tedston finished the training course in 1998 and moved brifley into railway and track renewals before landing a job in bridge maintenance and examination in 1999.

'It was really fun, the maintenance side was great, ' he says.

'I spent a lot of the time out of the office with probably three or four days a week looking at bridges. I thought 'Blimey!

Someone actually pays me to do this!' That was a great time.'

From there he moved into the assessment team and then last year swapped roles with his predecessor to head the operation.

Looking forward, Tedston can only see his job becoming bigger and busier.

'One of the things we have got in the South East is a lot of interfaces with major projects such as the Thameslink 2000 project, ' he says.

He is charged with looking at the impact on the South East's region's infrastructure of new works. This will inevitably include the London 2012 Olympics which is starting to appear on the horizon.

'I can see increasingly that we're going to be working closely with the teams on these major projects in the London area to advise them of our infrastructure capability, ' he concludes.

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