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Working lives

Martin Griffiths, 37, is area maintenance manager for Balfour Beatty Rail Maintenance in Salisbury.

Route to the job I went to Portsmouth Polytechnic where I obtained a BEng with commendation in civil engineering.

My working life started on the resident engineer's team on the Dorchester bypass as a site engineer for MRM Partnership (now part of the RUST Group). This was my first exposure to a large project and it whetted my appetite to work for a large civil engineering contractor.

In August 1998 I left the consulting side and joined Balfour Beatty Civil Engineering on the Purbeck peninsula in Dorset. Here I gained plenty of experience in the everyday life of a large civils project. After that, I worked at many diverse locations, mainly in the south of England including AWE Aldermaston, Docklands Light Railway and Bovington tank range.

This led to three years on the Heathrow Express Rail Link, working exclusively on the station civils, including the 60m diameter cofferdam at the central terminal area. This was one of the highlights in my working career so far.

Working relationships on the project were excellent and levels of trust were high with all grades of personnel on the project.

More recently I worked on the A30/A35 Exeter to Bere Regis road scheme. Here the impact of the scheme on our environment was a very high priority. Close liaison with the Environment Agency won us ISO14001 accreditation and an award as a model scheme.

Expectations of the job In 1999 I decided that I wanted a change of direction and the opportunity arose for me to transfer from the civils side to rail.

My expectations were that I could lead the maintenance team in my area to make a real difference to improving Railtrack's assets.

Reality It has been a very steep but rewarding learning curve - I have no regrets over making this change. The public perception of the industry does not reflect the level of dedication I have found.

Recently, we have been through some very challenging times, but we have now agreed a new contractual framework with Railtrack, which involves engineers in decisions about what work is undertaken and where and when it is done. This new collaborative approach should improve the asset's performance and help deliver an improved service to the end user.

Advice My broad experience has shown me that certain aspects of civils work translate across all sectors of the industry.

In particular, I have seen that good team work and trust is the best way to bring a project to a successful conclusion. Translating good practice from one area of the industry to another is very satisfying and I would recommend anyone to do this if they have the chance.

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