So much has been said about the future of engineering in recent times. Many industry leaders, including the likes of Sir James Dyson, have painted a bleak picture. However, there is some welcome good news for engineers, from within the rail industry.

With Britain’s railways currently undergoing the biggest programme of investment since the Victorian age, 2014 appears to be an exciting year for the rail industry.

In March, Network Rail unveiled plans to invest £38bn in the UK’s tracks and stations, while Transport for London and the Department for Transport also confirmed the extension of the Crossrail project west to Reading.

A little further into the future HS2, Crossrail 2 and an HS2 extension may also be on the cards.

All of the new projects will require new rolling stock so there’s plenty of work. Demand for staff is already being generated and recruitment of skilled rail engineers has been buoyant across the board. “There is a great deal of demand for every skill set,” said Phil Hodgson, department manager for rail and property at engineering recruitment specialist Matchtech in a recent article in The Engineer.

How many engineers does the rail industry need?

The National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering (NSARE) completed a sizeable skills forecasting project which estimated the workforce required to deliver personnel for all the track, signalling and telecoms, electrification and rolling stock build and refurbishment projects in the pipeline.

They believe that a total of up to 10,000 people would be needed over the next five years, taking into account retirements, natural wastage and growth driven by investment.

“As a percentage of the current workforce, the two areas with the largest gaps are traction and rolling stock, with the potential for a need of more than 4,000 new people in the next five years,’ said Elaine Clark, head of training and skills at the NSARE.

It is hoped the good news will encourage young engineers to give rail serious consideration. After all, the range of experience an engineer can gain from working within the rail industry is far greater than, say, in automotive engineering.

Moving forward, the prospects for those joining the industry look good.  “It is a very exciting time for graduates to be joining the industry,” added Martin Wilson, Bombardier’s chief engineer for Crossrail in a recent article in The Engineer.

What’s your view of the developments in the rail industry? Are you as optimistic about the year ahead?

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