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IWD: Q&A with Rhian Lane, geotech engineer

Rhian Lane loved exploring the outdoors growing up so pursued a career where she could do just that.

Find out why Rhian loves her job looking after the land the railway runs on – and how we’re helping combat climate change.

This International Women’s Day, Rhian, an asset engineer who specialises in geotechnology, took part in a new flagship film telling young people all over Britain that the railway is changing for the better. Watch the full film we made in partnership with train operator Southeastern.

Film: All Change – IWD2020#


Read about Britain’s first all-female passenger train

Careers at Network Rail

Did you always want to be an engineer?

I didn’t know I wanted to be an engineer, I just liked science and maths, I loved the environment and being outdoors. It kind of just led me into the path of engineering.

Science – and maths – was my favourite thing. I also really liked geography and I liked going on field trips, being outdoors, I liked problem solving, which is a good thing when you’re an engineer ‘cause you have to solve lots of problems and fix things.

Is it an exciting place to work?

Network Rail is so exciting, you get to see new places every day, every day is different, you have to solve new problems every day, meet new people, it’s a really exciting place to work.

What’s your favourite thing you’ve done?

I think just learning about the railway and how it works, I like investigating the ground and seeing why things are moving… at the moment, we have tech where we can remotely monitor slopes and the movement of slopes, you can detect landslips before trains pass through the area.

We need to let girls know there are women doing roles you typically associate with men… You need to get out and let them know there are so many different opportunities out there. We need to go into schools and tell them about how the railway works and what jobs are out there.

What’s your proudest moment?

I think being involved with women in engineering and trying to recruit people into these roles. I think it’s so important to show people why it’s important to do these jobs. If I can leave the railway and say a woman or a girl has chosen to be an engineer or work for the railway I think I’d be really proud of that.

Women bring different ways of working, different ideas… we need to keep doing more to recruit women to roles like this.

What changes are you looking forward to?

I really like the fact you can try and adapt to climate change. I really love the idea you can make a carbon-neutral railway in the next 20, 30 years, we’ve got electrification projects that are doing that and it would be good to know passengers will be able to take the train and know they are combating climate change.

We’re using more renewable energy

What surprised you about the railway?

The amount of jobs that are available on the railway. There are so many different jobs you can do. You’ve got track maintenance technicians, looking after the signals, live engineering jobs, you’ve also got lawyers, finance and we’ve even got a medical team. I don’t think many people know that about the railway.

In 20 or 30 years, what are you going to be most proud of?

I think the things we’re building at the moment. We’re coming up with new technologies. I’d love to get on a train in 30 years and pass something I’ve built and be proud that I’ve helped the railway.

Planting trees near the railway

What would you tell children who like being outside?

I think engineering is a great job for being outdoors. I’m outside a lot of the time. I’m exploring the railway environment, I’m trying to investigate why things are failing, how we can make things better. If you like that stuff, keep doing it and there are jobs where you can keep doing that.

The environment is so important, we need to look after it. We manage the environment around us and we’re trying to make the environment better. We’re replanting trees, we look after the animals that might be living on the railway and if you’re interested in a lot of that, a job in geotech engineering is definitely for you.

Did you go to university?

I went to university, I did a degree in geology and geotechnical engineering but you don’t have to go to university to become an engineer. The railways have an apprenticeship scheme, an engineering apprenticeship scheme, which teaches about engineering on the railway and you can come straight from A Levels to do that.

Is there a lot of engineering work on the railway?

There’s so much engineering work. The railway is really old, it was built a long time ago and we constantly have to rebuild things, rebuild bridges, new structures, we have electrification projects on the railway, there’s so much out there for an engineer to do and we always need them.

Are there enough girl engineers?

No, there aren’t enough girl engineers. It’s a very typically male-dominated industry but I think it’s important more and more girls are seeing these opportunities and are being recruited into these roles. Network Rail have a women 20 20 scheme… trying to get 20% [female workforce] into Network Rail by 2020.

Is it important which subjects you study at school to become an engineer?

You have to think about your options but you have to enjoy the subjects you do first and foremost. Science and maths, geography, history, English, you need all these skills to become an engineer so just keep your options open and enjoy what you do.

Read more:

International Women in Engineering Day: Just Like Me

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

Graduate schemes


Summer placements

Year in industry placements

Gender equality

Life at Network Rail

Gender pay gap report

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