Graham Neil

Graham NeilI work for London Underground in the Head of Engineering Team.

This is the part of the London Underground where the professional heads of each engineering discipline reside and my role is that of the Professional Head of Rolling Stock.

I run a small team of rolling stock engineers and I am responsible for ensuring that all of the trains that operate on the London Underground system are safe, reliable, meet statutory requirements and are fit for their intended purpose – getting our passengers quickly and efficiently to their destinations.

I started my engineering career with London Underground in 1971 with a four year electrical engineering apprenticeship involving one year off-the-job training in our Apprentice Training Centre at Acton Works followed by three years of short placements in various London Underground departments mixed with day release and block release at various London Technical Colleges.  I finished my apprenticeship in 1975 winning the Agnew Trophy Apprentice of the Year Award.

On completion of my apprenticeship I spent five years working in our rolling stock maintenance department in Acton Works initially on rotating machines but moving very swiftly into our centralised electronics repair workshop - a facility for the diagnosis, repair and modification of all electronic equipment found on London Underground rolling stock, including Automatic Train Operation, train monitoring systems, public address, destination displays and speed sensing systems.

Following my spell in maintenance I moved into our rolling stock engineering design department and joined our Auxiliary Equipment Section – a section where I was responsible for all manner of electrical and electronic equipment used on rolling stock – including communications equipment, interior and exterior lighting, speed sensing, train telemetry and various smaller electrical components.  In those days London Underground was responsible for the design of their own trains, using separate contracts to procure all of the components and subsystems and then free-issuing them to a carbody builder to assemble the final trains.  We were also responsible for completing the type testing and commissioning of our trains and many of the components and subsystems that I procured were key to these activities.  Working in this section required working closely with all of the other sections in the department and often meant close working with other departments and this gave me a very broad understanding of the many mechanical and electrical systems that make up a modern train. I also restarted my academic learning by completing two BTEC HNCs in Electrical Power and Electronic Engineering with additional endorsements in Computer Programming.

After five years in the Auxiliary Equipment section I moved to our Electronic Development section and shortly afterwards became the head of that section working at the forefront of rolling stock technology in the development of new electronic systems and specialist maintenance tools and test equipment.  I was also responsible for writing and developing new standards for electronic equipment and was an active member of various LUL/BRB/RIA Technical Specification committees (RIA 12, RIA 13, RIA 18, RIA 21 and RIA23/24).

In 1989 after an internal re-organisation I found myself in the Chief Engineer’s department responsible for developing a suite of performance based rolling stock standards covering all aspects of rolling stock design.  After getting this project well underway I was tasked additionally with providing assurance directly to the Chief Rolling Stock Engineer for the introduction of the new Central Line 1992 Tube Stock trains – and thereby began my career as a New Stock Engineer.  This role meant broadening my knowledge of rolling stock design to cover a wider range of topics whilst working very closely within the delivery team but remaining independent enough to act as the Chief Engineer’s representative.  I became involved in a number of IEE and IMechE activities at about this time and as a result became a member of the IEEIE (later renamed IIE).

I continued my role as New Stock Engineer into the mid 1990s with the introduction of a new fleet of Jubilee Line trains – the 1996 Tube Stock – being built for the Jubilee Line Extension and was responsible for the development of the risk based staged assurance process used to introduce that fleet.  At about this time all of the London Underground engineering departments were amalgamated into delivery groups and brought together to a single site at Canary Wharf and I became a team coordinator in our Trains Delivery Group responsible for a team of 33 specialist engineers located at eight sites all over London. Shortly thereafter I also inherited a team of 12 engineers specialising in noise and vibration management and in automated visual inspection – a process originally developed by London Underground to dynamically inspect track condition using high speed video at full line speed. By this time my New Stock Engineer role had expanded to include the new trains for the Northern Line – the 1995 Tube Stock – being leased under a PFI deal agreed and underwritten by the government.

In 1997 I became a Fellow of the IIE being registered as an Incorporated Engineer (IEng) in 1998 and actively involved in carrying out professional reviews for IIE membership.

In 1998 with the Northern Line rolling stock delivery just beginning, with 5 trains delivered and operating in trial operations, I was asked to take over the role of the project engineer when the previous engineer resigned.  The trains were in their early delivery phase and were extremely unreliable and it fell to me to develop and implement a reliability growth plan working very closely with the train builder/maintainer Alstom and their subsystem suppliers to drive up the reliability of the fleet as quickly as possible.

With the delivery of the 1995TS almost complete and the reliability of the fleet approaching acceptable levels came the part privatisation of the London Underground – The PPP Contract.  As the engineering teams were divided and I was still with the Northern Line Project I became part of InfraCo JNP being appointed to the role of Rolling Stock Asset Engineer – effectively the Chief Rolling Stock Engineer for InfraCo JNP.  However this was very short lived as I swiftly moved into the London Underground Chief Engineers Department to become the Control Systems Engineer responsible in part for the introduction of ATO on the Central Line 1992TS and as systems engineer for all rolling stock depots. In 2001 I became an Associate Member of the IEE and in 2003 applied to become a Chartered Engineer via the mature candidate scheme. I was accepted onto the scheme in 2004 and given two years to write a dissertation in support of my application for chartership.

I continued in this role until 2004 when I became the Chief Rolling Stock Engineer with a small team of engineers responsible for the safety of all trains on the London Underground as well as briefing the Board on all matters related to rolling stock, assurance of new and modified trains, setting of standards for rolling stock, audit of compliance to statutory regulations and standards and for research and development associated with rolling stock. As part of this role I also became the London Underground representative on the UITP Metros Division Rolling Stock Subcommittee involved in receiving and sharing of information, knowledge and experience between metros all over the world.

In 2006 my dissertation was accepted and I became registered as a Chartered Engineer (CEng) and was also successful in becoming a Fellow member of the IET.

When Metronet ceased to exist and was assimilated back into London Underground I inherited the remnants of their rolling stock asset engineering team to become directly responsible for the rolling stock assurance activities previously undertaken by the two Metronet InfraCos. As part of this new role I also became professionally responsible for all of the rolling stock engineers within London Underground – acknowledged by my current title of Professional Head of Rolling Stock.

I continued my professional development by also becoming a Fellow member of the IMechE in 2009 and now a member of the Railway Division Board.

Since completing my apprenticeship I have endeavored to provide support to apprentices, graduate trainees and newly appointed and inexperienced engineers at every opportunity by providing on the job training, guidance, presentations and lectures.  I currently mentor a London Underground graduate trainee and through these and other activities I have tried to pass on my specialist knowledge and wide experience so that my example will encourage others to recognise that with a willingness to continuously learn, the right attitude and the ability to work as part of a team and support others in your career anything is possible.

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