Paul Cooper

My Railway career started with Professor Rod Smith, now President of the IMechE.  As both a lecturer, and my head of department at Imperial College London, I was aware he had an interest in Japan, and with funding from the Royal Academy of Engineering, he arranged for me to attend the Tokyo Institute of Technology for 6 weeks.  During that time, I undertook technical tours to a number of companies, crucially including JR Central, the Japanese Railway Operator for routes between and around Tokyo and Osaka; and Hitachi Ltd, a Japanese train builder.  It was Professor Smith’s keen interest in rail that led me to these companies, and after witnessing the overhaul of the world famous 'Bullet Trains' or Shinkansen, I was inspired.  Professor Rod Smith opened the door for me to join Hitachi Rail Europe, just as they had signed their first rolling stock contract in Europe, building 29 High Speed Class 395 trains for Kent commuter services.

So my career started as a graduate engineer in the small European team supporting our Japanese design colleagues with the design reviews and customer and sub-supplier interfaces.  I headed to Japan again only three weeks after joining Hitachi as their first European railway graduate in November 2005.  It was an amazing experience, seeing trains being built before my eyes in a state of the art manufacturing and production facility on the other side of the world.

I progressed onto taking my first responsibility role as project engineer for the toilet system for the Class 395 trains, involved in inspection, testing, installation and commissioning.  The 395 passenger information system was next where as project manager I was exposed to more of the commercial and contractual aspects as well as engineering challenges in building a railway. 

As I grew as an engineer, in a small company with few peers, I got involved in the IMechE Railway Division’s Southeast Centre and joined their committee.  I enjoyed the diversity of the committee and the new roles I was able to try my hand at and once I was aware of the Railway Division’s Young Member committee, I joined that too.

The following year I took the position of Vice Chairman on that committee, followed by Chairman the following year, which afforded me the privilege of attending the senior Board’s normal and executive meetings, where the running of an organisation, budget and vision were key areas of discussion on each occasion.  It was not long after this that the YRP was founded and I took up a role on the founding committee.  As the YRP grew, I stepped down from Chairman of the IMechE Railway Division Young Members, to concentrate on the YRP, moving to Vice Chairman in 2010.  At a similar time, I was elected to the 'Young Member' position on the IMechE Railway Division Board, which further enabled me to build relationships with senior stakeholders in the industry, and represent young people in the railway industry at senior levels in the Institution.  Now I head into 2012 as Chairman of the Young Railway Professionals, and all the experiences that I have had through the IMechE and YRP are proving beneficial.

Stakeholder engagement and relationship building has greatly helped me grow in my current role at Hitachi Rail Europe as a commercial manager.  I am now responsible for the Class 395 and 465 contracts and customer relationship management, and have also been involved in IEP negotiations with the DfT.  This has been a good insight into the complexities of huge projects, and the difficulty in keeping all stakeholders engaged and supportive throughout.  There’s no doubt in my mind that the experience and relationships I have been able to build through my role in the YRP are of real value to both myself and my employer, and will, I’m sure continue to prepare me for my career ahead.

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