The Beale Lecture Series is a programme introduced this year by the School of Civil Engineering aimed at enriching the Civil-Engineering experience by giving students (you) an insight into life in the working world and into what you might be doing once you leave university. The programme involves a collection of lectures given by experienced “engineers working in the civil-engineering (or other, related) industry and the series will prove interesting, informative and an opportunity to meet potential employers as well as giving students an insight into what they might be doing themselves in the not-to-distant-future” (from the school’s webpage).

Neil Kelsall, Rail Project Manager at Arup at their offices in Solihull, kicked off this series on Tuesday 15th October with a talk about the many, engineering disciplines involved in rail projects, to a packed room G36. Taking the London-based Thameslink project as an example, he described how a team of specialist engineers, with Carillion as the main contractor and Arup as the lead consultant, designed and are now installing a new section of the line and the junction which links Thameslink to the East Coast Main Line running out of Kings Cross Station through pre-existing tunnels.

Nothing is ever as simple as it seems, however, and the project manager’s job is never boring: there were a multitude of partners involved in the project, fitting the rail track and all the associated services into the tunnels and working together to design signalling, overhead, power lines, communications and passenger fire-safety, not to mention the challenges in creating the junction on an already-busy, railway line. Neil went on to describe some of the usual, civil-engineering issues involved, such as drainage, and rail-specific challenges -e.g. setting out to a tolerance of 1mm, ensuring a concrete design life of 120 years and managing the interface where track materials change. At the end of the day they were a bit worried they wouldn’t be able to fit the train into the tunnel as it was full of services and equipment. Luckily, the 3D-animated model showed the train passing, but with just enough space!

Neil finally welcomed questions and spoke to a few of the student attendees after the lecture. Arup Rail is now hoping to join their colleagues in the Highways Team at this year’s Respect placement recruitment event on Wednesday 4th December.

If you attended Neil’s lecture and have any comments on his speech, feel free to share them with me at, especially if you have thoughts on how to improve the lectures as a whole. I would also like to point out that the lectures are open to anyone, so if you are interested in the topic, you are more than welcome to join us.