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Prize winning presentations in Glasgow

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Writes David Shirres

In Glasgow on 21st November six young railway professionals captivated their large audience at a presentation competition run by the Railway Engineers Forum (REF) Scotland whose members are from the IMechE, PWI, IRSE, IRO and CILT.

This event was the first of its kind in Scotland and required each speaker to describe a project or initiative and their contribution to it. Bill Reeve, Transport Scotland’s Commercial Director hosted the event.

First to speak was Motsi Madangombe, a Commercial Manager with Network Rail’s Infrastructure Projects Division. Motsi’s topic was collaborative procurement strategy.

In his presentation he drew commercial lessons from the Paisley Corridor Improvement Project and stressed the importance of aligning Client and Contractor interests. He compared collaboration to marriage and reminded his audience that marriages either end in divorce or death.

Running class 66 locomotives only 40mm below OLE was only one aspect of the presentation on the Paisley Canal Electrification project. This was given by Brian Sweeney, a Network Rail Electrification Asset Engineer.

With the line energised only two days previously, his presentation included a “breaking news” slide of a class 380 EMU under the wires. He explained that the project had been delivered for £12 million against the original cost estimate of £28 million due to a lower than normal wire height. This required a unique method of operation to ensure that the line was de-energised for stock above the height of ScotRail’s EMUs.

Significant enhancements

Many of the points and crossovers at Carstairs are not now required resulting in unnecessary maintenance costs and speed constraints through the junction. The presentation by Sean Malone, a Graduate Mechanical Engineer with Network Rail, explained how the Motherwell North Signalling Renewals project provided an opportunity to rationalise the layout.

Sean explained his involvement in the Particular Requirements Specification (PRS) to define available options. These were not just about the removal of redundant facilities as they included significant enhancements.

These are proposals to extend the down freight loop and close a station platform, making the other bi-directional, to increase speed on the Up Main to 105 mph.

PMSM drives, Supercapacitors and 4Q motor controllers were amongst the terms explained in Rowan Bell’s presentation.

Rowan, a Graduate Electrical Engineer with Interfleet, was responsible for the electrical design of the 101⁄4 inch gauge locomotive that won the IMechE Railway Challenge.

This, albeit diminutive, locomotive was also the first one to be built at Derby locomotive works for 40 years. In his presentation Rowan explained how the design had to meet the challenge’s requirements, including the particularly difficult specification for energy storage during braking.

£1 million project

Freight traffic has to be diverted to electrify the line between Liverpool and Manchester. For one diversionary route this required a £1 million project to clear lines around Northwich to W8 gauge to divert freight traffic.

William Storey, Graduate Civil Engineer with Babcock, explained that this required five track lowers at four bridges. His presentation included animated slides that showed the complexity of this work for which he not only developed the engineering plan with associated documentation but worked as Engineer during the works.

Black boxes are actually yellow and should be called OTMRs (On Train Monitoring Recorder). This much and more was explained by Jamie Adamson in his presentation. Jamie, an Engineering Graduate with First ScotRail, had been tasked with saving time verifying the OTMR channels and getting Vehicle Acceptance Body (VAB) approval for his proposal.

With the ScotRail fleet having 584 cabs, even small time savings are of great benefit. Jamie’s presentation also highlighted that OTMRs are not just for recording information in the event of an incident as their use for remote condition monitoring provides valuable maintenance data.

Expert presentations

Thus in just less than 2 hours, the six young presenters had delivered expert presentations on a diverse range of subjects within their allowed 10 minutes. It was clear from the questions generated that the audience was impressed. No-one envied those with the difficult task of selecting the three prize winners.

The three judges were Steve Whitmore, President of the PWI, Stewart Stevenson MSP, former Scottish Minister of Transport and Stephen McConnon, chairman of IMechE’s Railway Division’s Scottish Centre.

Whilst the judges deliberated, the audience and speakers mingled at a wine reception where there were further discussions about their topics. After 30 minutes the judges appeared to announce the results. Before doing so Steve Whitmore, speaking on behalf of the judges, advised that all the presentations had been judged to be excellent.

However, the judges had to pick the winners and so after much deliberation they concluded that first, second and third prizes should be awarded to Brian Sweeney, Rowan Bell and William Storey.

Prizes, donated by First ScotRail and Network Rail, were a ScotRail driver simulator experience, two 1st class sleeper tickets and a visit to the top of the Forth Bridge. Kenny Scott, ScotRail’s Engineering Director presented the prizes.

Perhaps the real prize for all the speakers was the opportunity to deliver presentations to a large high-powered audience. Acquiring such presentation skills is a key aspect of the development of young professionals. However competent they may be, they are unlikely to be effective unless they can sell their ideas.


Magnus Conn of Interfleet, who sponsored the event, emphasised the importance of training and developing the new generation of railway professionals. He noted that for some time after privatisation, there had been no such training due to short-term considerations. He was glad this had changed as, for example, with the speaker’s employers.

Network Rail, First ScotRail, Babcock and Interfleet all have graduate and apprentice schemes. However with privatisation’s missing generation it was essential to develop and encourage aspiring professionals as indeed REF Scotland has done through this event.

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