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Waterloo engineer leads youth charge

It is easy to forget that the work undertaken this summer to upgrade Waterloo station and increase capacity on the South Western route represented the culmination of years of detailed design and planning.

Once completed, the Waterloo upgrade will increase the station’s peak-time capacity by 30 per cent. The works carried out in August now allow new 10-car trains to serve the station. The achievements of those involved was celebrated at the RailStaff Awards, as one of the engineers at the heart of the scheme was named Rail Engineer of the Year.

A civil engineer by trade, AECOM’s Ana Walpole was recognised as an integral part of the team that has been supporting the design and construction work which is bringing the former Waterloo International platforms back into use. She was one of several younger engineers up for this year’s Rail Engineer of the Year title.

For the past couple of years, Ana has been supporting major packages of work for the structural design and assessment of the former Waterloo International Terminal to allow it to be brought back into use for domestic services. The terminal, which had been served by Eurostar services until 2007, reopened temporarily in August and will be fully reopened at the end of 2018.

Wake up message

Ana, who joined AECOM’s structures business in 2013 before moving over to rail, was nominated for the award by her director. Ana was unable to collect the award on the night as she was on holiday, but she didn’t have to wait too long to find out she’d won.

‘I actually woke up to a WhatsApp message the next morning,’ said Ana. ‘I was absolutely gutted to miss the awards ceremony.’

As well as her work at Waterloo, Ana has been heavily involved in a £1.5 million ‘Access for All’ project covering eight stations in the South East. The project has involved assessing the accessibility requirements of the stations and presenting various engineering solutions to Network Rail.

‘I absolutely loved it,’ said Ana. ‘I really like doing early stage design, looking at the whole picture and coming up with different solutions.’


Asked what drew her to a career in engineering, Ana said, ‘It’s down to my dad to be honest with you. He’s an engineer and without him I probably wouldn’t have thought about engineering.’

Ana has already received an ICE award for civil engineering, the regional Chartered Institute of Highways and Transportation papers competition presenting on rail bridge assessments, and she also featured in the Women in Rail’s Top 20 Rising Stars of Rail.

Ana wanted to thank her director for the nomination and AECOM for arming her with the skills and giving her the opportunities that have led to the award win. ‘It was a great feeling,’ said Ana. ‘Initially I could not believe it.’

Second successive female winner

Ana is only the second woman to have won the Rail Engineer of the Year category since the first RailStaff Awards in 2007.

It is, however, the second year in succession that the honour has gone to a female nominee.

Ana, who sits on an equality and diversity board within AECOM’s rail business, said, ‘I’m definitely passionate about increasing the number of women in the industry, and I think we can probably do that in many different ways.’

Colleague Mihai Solomon, who picked up the award in her absence, praised Ana’s ‘inquisitive’ and ‘hard-working’ attitude.

Category sponsors Primat Recruitment said the talent and dedication of people in the sector had been the real driving force behind change over the decades and that, as a proud people-company, it was delighted to sponsor the award.

Highly commended: James Gatley, Linbrooke Servicesand Richard Errington, Stobart Rail.