MEED rail report highlights industry challenges

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This week MEED have published a report that shows the challenges and opportunties facing the railway industry as the region seeks to expand its rail services. For the cities of the GCC automated metros are set to revolutionise urban transport, and between countries freight lines are up and running with high speed rail on the horizon. I was fortunate enough to talk with rail heavyweights such as Thales Group, Siemens, Talgo, Mott MacDonald, Atkins and not to mention a rolling stock guru by the name of Paul Lawson who advises Saudi Railways Organisation on its expanding train fleet.

Read the report here

As I move on to look at regional groundwater abstraction I realise that today (23rd June) is National Women in Engineering Day. To celebrate I have been looking at some of the biggest engineering stories that I have covered since switching from life as a civil engineer to becoming a journalist. This was my first big story. A car park collapsed killing four people on site and I was sent to find out why. Immediately it was clear that the shear wall at the end was very thin and bowing outwards. After three days of being denied site access an investigator finally relented and told me that he was looking into this very issue. I came back with a great story – and my first grey hair. Thanks NCE!

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City Living

Do you live in a city? Probably. Over 50 percent of the world’s population does and every week this number swells by a further 1 million so that by 2050, 70 percent of the world’s inhabitants will be city dwellers. So of course these cities are under an inordinate amount of pressure to cope with the strain on resources, while at the same time maintaining their position as the engines of the economy. Furthermore they must be resilient to the pressures of climate change which as New York found in October 2012 can cause devastating damage.

The event was at the Siemens Crystal building at Royal Victoria, accessible by cable car
The event was at the Siemens Crystal building at Royal Victoria, accessible by cable car

So it was reassuring this week to attend an event which was designed to bring together the world’s largest cities and highlight the great planning underway to ensure that they are fit for the pressures of the future. And even more importantly that these cities are doing it in a sustainable way, a way that improves the environment instead of continuing to bleed dry the few valuable resources that the the world has left. As a journalist I get invited to lots of awards and events, some of which are nothing but a PR exercise designed to raise cash for events organisers, but I am pleased to say that this one has the potential to really make a difference to the world that we are living in. The C40 global cities initiative has combined forces with technology giant Siemens to establish the award event for cities that are showing leadership in managing climate change. Mayor’s from cities all over the world came together and talked about their initiatives, shared their ideas and learned from each other. This was kicked off by London Mayor Boris Johnson who welcomed the guests with the words “We will shamelessly steal your ideas, and lengthen London’s lead as the cleanest, greenest capital – with the possible exception of some of the cities here today.”

But the idea of intellectual theft persisted with several presenters and Mayor’s joking about where they had “stolen” their initiatives from. For example Melbourne has an award winning sustainable buildings programme inspired by New York’s Empire State Building retrofit project. I was lucky enough to interview the Lord Mayor of Melbourne Robert Doyle for New Civil Engineer (NCE) magazine and find out more about how his innovative project works and critically has harnessed private investment.  This and a host of other projects from the awards will be highlighted in NCE’s next Future Cities report, due for publication on 12th September.

After participating in the event for 2 days I left with a clear message which I have unsuccessfully tried to impart to my 4 year old son who started school this week.  “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail,” said former US President Benjamin Franklin. Whether you are a 4 year old writing your name, a journalist readying for an interview or a Mayor considering the future needs of your city, preparation is everything.

Footnote: Benjamin Franklin was rather wise. Here are a few other words of wisdom from him:

“Any fool can condemn, criticise and complain – and most fools do”

“Well done is better than well said”

“Do not fear mistakes, you will know failure. Continue to reach out”

“Wine is constant proof that God loves us”

“I wake up every morning and grab for the morning paper. Then I look  at the obituary page. If my name is not on it I get up”