A 10-year-old schoolboy from Tamworth has been praised for entering an international competition held by Network Rail and the Royal Institute of British Architects to design a fully accessible railway footbridge of the future.

Budding young engineer and bridge enthusiast William Tonks put his timber and steel inspired design up against 120 entries from 19 countries, and while his entry did not win, it still impressed the judging panel with its imagination and innovation.

Last night William and his parents were invited to the winners’ exhibition at the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) in London, where his concept was showcased to around 100 guests, including Network Rail chair Sir Peter Hendy CBE.

Stuart Tonks, William’s father, said: “I’m really proud of William’s entry. Obviously we knew he was unlikely to win, but we wanted to encourage him to follow his passion for bridges and engineering.

“The feedback we’ve had from the judges has been really helpful and has only strengthened William’s desire to pursue a career in engineering in future.”

Sir Peter Hendy, Network Rail chair, said: “It’s wonderful to see somebody as young as William with the enthusiasm and ability to successfully enter the footbridge competition, and we are all delighted to see his design showcased at the exhibition. We hope he goes on to become a railway engineer – we need him and many others in the future.”

The competition – launched by Network Rail and RIBA last year – challenged entrants to design fully accessible footbridges that could be used across Britain’s rail network.

Gottlieb Paludan Architects’ winning design – which the panel described as a bold and elegant bridge with a resolved design aesthetic – has now been added to Network Rail’s new catalogue of improved station footbridge designs.

The winning entry is also now on show at a public exhibition at RIBA in London which runs until April 2019, before going on display at two of Network Rail’s managed stations – London Waterloo and Manchester Piccadilly.

Anthony Dewar, head of buildings and architecture at Network Rail, said: “I would like to thank all organisations, design professionals and students who submitted an entry into this competition. The judges were genuinely overwhelmed with the high quality of submissions and the interesting ideas presented.

“Footbridges are a key part of Britain’s rail infrastructure and can have a significant positive impact on their local environment.

“The competition has proven to be a huge success, helping us achieve our aim of ensuring design is at the heart of making Britain’s railway more inclusive and fit for today’s needs.”

Nusrat Ghani, transport accessibility minister, said: “I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in this competition and congratulate William for his innovative and imaginative design.

“This competition brings together a number of priorities for the Department and the level of interest demonstrates that others share our ambition to create a transport sector that is open to all.

“I am really looking forward to seeing, and using, some of these brilliant bridges in years to come.”