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TRAINING & STAFF DEVELOPMENT


“There are also issues with linking to the other modes of transport; good rail access to our airports, buses, car parking spaces at our railway stations, to end up with that integrated network.”


Step-change


And this wasn’t just a requirement from Government, Oldham said, but something that would involve a ‘step-change’ in society’s attitude towards travel.


“People need to start thinking about their mobility and how they’re moving, to make sure they’re not always looking for just one solution. They might have to get a train then walk or get a train and a bus rather than stay in their cars. It’s the whole low-carbon agenda; getting people to think about the way they’re travelling and the mode they’re using.


“It’s an education of society; we’re all so used to having the freedom of mobility, with our cars, that we can just jump into and get anywhere we want to at any time.”


She explained that this is where increasing capacity on the rail network must “make public transport more intelligent so people can look at it as a viable option”.


Oldham described one of the main issues with rail as reaching the capacity limit on the existing network. The new investment will be used to increase capacity, which is “great news for rail passengers and freight”.


This demonstrated a surprisingly positive approach to the longer-term vision for the rail network, she suggested, with suppliers able to work with their own supply chains and organise jobs and apprenticeships accordingly, for example, as they will know what projects they will be working on.


While this is all good news, she warned that investment, collaboration and training must be sustained to be successful.


Oldham said: “One of the issues we’ve had with previous upgrades is a stop-start approach; bits have been upgraded and then that has stopped, and that means you don’t have that continuous flow of work, which means apprenticeships and skills and training of different people on


This includes knowing exact times for arrival and departure, what other forms of transport can be used at different points on a journey and alternative routes in case of disruption.


Stop-start


the jobs doesn’t happen. In today’s situation, with skills shortages, that’s a key area.”


A two-way street


Another issue with new projects is ensuring the right skills are highlighted for investment and train operating companies must work with organisations such as NSARE to help provide people with the right qualifications.


Once skills are secured for certain big projects, they must be supported through the industry to start work on other projects and remain within the country.


“It’s important to make sure there is that transfer of skills across large infrastructure projects. For example, Crossrail is developing tunnelling expertise, with a lot of apprentices going through that programme at the moment. Those sorts of skills will need to be transferred to, say, HS2 when that’s put into action, so the skills are carried forward and we keep them in the UK,” she said.


The industry itself also has a responsibility in creating and maintaining skills, Oldham highlighted: “It’s very much a two-way thing. I think a lot of people point a finger at government and say ‘they’re not doing enough’; but it’s also got to be through things like NSARE, working with both industry and government to see the areas that need investment in particular skills.


“It needs [the] industry to say we’re looking for particular jobs, for example skills in electrification: to make sure they’re getting the apprentices and graduates trained, with the right skills.”


Engaging apprentices


As a way to make the industry more appealing to recent graduates, the Institution launched the Railway Challenge this year to encourage interest in a career on the railway (there is full coverage and photos from the day on page 42- 43).


Oldham said: “What really surprised us was the amount of other apprentices who have heard about the scheme through the grapevine and are saying they want to be involved and engaged in this next year.


“Things like that, working with academia and apprentices, is how we can make railway engineering sexy.”


FOR MORE INFORMATION Visit www.imeche.org


rail technology magazine Aug/Sep 12 | 39


Philippa Oldham


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