HomePeopleKirow team and lifelong rail engineer scoop 2016 honours

Kirow team and lifelong rail engineer scoop 2016 honours

VolkerRail’s Kirow Team, winners of the Rail Plant and Equipment Team of the Year award, are used to scaling dizzying heights.

With over 1,500 days without a RIDDOR, VolkerRail’s Kirow Team prides itself on being one of the most reputable plant teams in the sector.

Since acquiring the UK’s first Kirow crane 15 years ago, VolkerRail has expanded its fleet substantially. The company now employs 30 delivery staff to operate its fleet of five cranes.

‘It’s recognition of 15 years achievement,’ said Steve Shields, business manager, VolkerRail. ’We often go into projects that are, shall we say, out of scope, that need a different slant on how you’re going to deliver them; and we’re always there to give our clients and our customers a top level service.’

The sponsors of the Rail Plant and Equipment Team of the Year category, Amey, know the challenges of operating and maintaining large equipment fleets. Amey’s rail business is currently delivering Network Rail signalling, electrification and track framework contracts and in the South West it is working with Network Rail on the electrification of the Great Western Main Line.

Says Simon Rhoden, Amey’s business director, ‘We were delighted to sponsor the Rail Plant and Equipment Person or Team of the Year Award because at Amey we recognise the skills required for this work and that teams and individuals work tirelessly to ensure our railways operate smoothly.

‘We were impressed by all the nominations and are proud to have been able to celebrate the hard work and dedicated attitude of our colleagues in the rail industry.’

As well as its design and consultancy services division, Amey looks after more than 100,000 Network Rail assets as part of its civils examination framework contract. Earlier this year, the company was also named as a member of the construction alliance which is building Manchester’s Ordsall Chord.

VolkerRail Kirow Team.

Shortly before the mid-session break, Keltbray’s Les Blake, who has worked in the rail industry for 54 years, won the Lifetime Achievement Award. Now 73 years old, Les began his career in the freight department of British Rail before moving over to rail electrification. Since, then he has worked on practically every major electrification project in the country. He remains at the sharp end, working most recently on the electrification of the Great Western through the Severn Tunnel.

During his time at Keltbray, Les has been dedicated to training and mentoring apprentices and junior linemen, but his crowning achievement came recently, working with Keltbray to bring a brand new road/rail full tensioning wiring unit to the UK.

But Les said he feels the industry has given as much back to him as he has contributed throughout his long career. Following the death of his wife three years ago, work has given Les a comforting degree of normality. ‘When you get up in the morning it’s all about sadness,’ said Les. ‘When you head off to work you’re back to what you’ve always done.’

As long as he feels he has something to contribute, Les will continue to get out on track. ‘My family say it’s about time I did slow down, take a bit more time off, and maybe I will do that but at the moment likewise when you get things like this Severn Tunnel coming up you can’t not want to be involved with it. It’s another challenge.’

Specialist video production services provider High Viz Media sponsored the Lifetime Achievement category in 2016. Says managing director Nick Collier, ‘Presenting the award for lifetime achievement was an immense privilege; it serves as a great reminder that whilst the industry is increasingly becoming segmented, the railway family still exists and the drive and passion to remain part of it is very much alive.’


  • Van Elle Rail
  • Keltbray Electrification Plant Wiring Team, Keltbray Rail


  • JohnSkinner, AECOM
  • Nigel Stockdale, Bridgeway Consulting Limited