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Working lives

John Campbell, 38, is a contract director at First Engineering, with responsibility for the maintenance of the rail network in the Manchester area, working alongside client Railtrack.

Route to job I had several short term jobs before college, including setting out on the Victoria dam in Sri Lanka. I worked on three summer jobs during my thin sandwich degree course at Paisley College of Technology, mainly on road contracts. I graduated with a first class honours degree in civil engineering in 1986. After college I worked for Balfour Beatty on the THORP project at Sellafield. I then joined British Rail Eastern Region on the graduate training programme.

This four year route to becoming chartered also gave me an excellent knowledge of the railway system. Afterwards, I worked my way through bridge design, permanent way management, infrastructure management and then into contract management.

Expectations In the privatised world of the railways, winning the Manchester contract was at the forefront of tenders resulting in the transfer of an incumbent workforce - some 300 in this case. It was also in the first tranche of the new IMC2000 contracts. I expected there would be a wide range of problems in taking on these staff, particularly as Manchester is known to be a 'difficult' area. It also meant working a long way from the Glasgow head office.

The reality As it happened my fears were illfounded. The staff welcomed the new management style, along with the new contract form. The real problems have been in the condition of the asset and the state of flux of the industry. Recent events mean that everything needs to be done now and not just 'at some time in the future'.

Advice There is no doubt the railway industry is extremely exciting.

Recruitment and training has not been high on the agenda recently, but I believe that the industry as a whole has woken up to the need for a steady flow of good engineers. It is now more true than ever to say that engineering managers are needed more than financial managers.

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