Schoolchildren from Aston University Engineering Academy have been crowned the grand champions of iRail, Rail Forum Midlands’ schools outreach programme.
Across two heats in 2018, teams of budding engineers from 30 schools battled it out to qualify for the final, with four teams – two from the East Midlands and two from the West Midlands – making it through.
Following on from the previous bridge-building exercise, finalists were tasked in October with preparing a franchise bid.
From types of rolling stock, trainset configurations and timetables, it all had to be considered to assess how best to serve the challenge’s diverse mix of passengers. Safety, innovation and customer service were important factors in the scoring criteria.
On December 13 at Pride Park Stadium, Derby, a judging panel made up of industry experts and senior government officials had the difficult task of deciding which school’s entry was the best.
Following a tough judging process, which saw each team present and answer questions for half an hour, the judges selected Aston University Engineering Academy as the overall winner, securing them the £1,000 cash prize for school equipment. Derby Manufacturing UTC and Loughborough High School were runners up. The final entry was from Holte School.
iRail has been held in the East Midlands for nine years but in 2018 it was possible to extend the programme into the West Midlands thanks to the support of sponsor Porterbrook.
The rolling stock leasing company’s CEO Mary Grant (pictured above with the winners), who sat on the judging panel, said: “Enthusing young people about our industry is key to attracting the very best people onto the railway of tomorrow.
“I congratulate all those who took part and in particular the iRail champion-of-champions – Aston University Engineering Academy.”