20 Dec, 2021 By Claire Smith
Using high-tech solutions to take care of some of the UK’s oldest rail assets creates great opportunities for career development within Aecom.
What do the Forth Rail Bridge, the Tay Bridge and the Royal Albert Bridge all have in common, apart from vying for the title of the UK’s most iconic railway structure? The answer is that they all fall under the remit of the Aecom team delivering Network Rail’s Civils Assessment Framework Agreement (Cafa) during Control Period 6 (CP6).
Aecom engineers working on the framework undertake assessment of structures all over the country each year. These quite often date back to Victorian times and are made from a wide variety of materials – iron, steel, masonry, prestressed and reinforced concrete, timber and everything in between.
As well as covering structural assessments, the five year framework, which runs until 2024, also includes the design and delivery of remedial work.
According to Aecom head of major projects for civil infrastructure John Longthorne, the framework is not only benefiting the safety and reliability of the UK rail network, it has also boosted team members’ career development.
“The profile of asset management may not be as high as new build projects, such as High Speed 2, but it is very interesting and challenging and provides a fantastic career path,” explains Longthorne.
“There are lots of opportunities to adopt innovative solutions in the sector which add to the interest.”
Network Rail technical head for structures Ben Wilkinson agrees and says that much of the UK’s infrastructure is already built, so there will be a growing need for engineers skilled in asset management.
“The challenge for engineers working on our structures is how we maintain and modernise them to ensure they deliver day in, day out,” he adds.
According to Wilkinson, the average age of Network Rail’s structures is 150 years and he describes work demonstrating the capacity of such assets as often needing a “forensic engineering” approach.
“Our assets are not getting any younger, so there is a steady stream of work,” he adds. “We need to make sure our historic structures, ranging from small arch spans to the spectacular Forth Rail Bridge, remain fit to support the modern railway.”
Longthorne says that Aecom brings around 50 new recruits into the civil engineering industry through the framework each year in addition to more experienced engineers who move onto the framework.
“The work offers a mix of site and office-based work and Aecom has a programme called Freedom to Grow to add further flexibility to working patterns,” he explains. “The early careers recruits come through the apprenticeship and graduate route and the framework is a great vehicle for many of our staff to achieve EngTech, IEng or Chartered status with professional institutions.”
Longthorne adds that there is a large number of experienced senior staff working on Cafa too and younger engineers tap into their knowledge through Aecom’s mentoring approach to staff development.
Although the current framework is set to end in 2024, Wilkinson predicts that the next five year Control Period (CP7) will place
even greater emphasis on asset management, creating a long term career path for anyone moving into the sector.
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