My role is to maintain the highway structures of Northamptonshire in a safe and usable condition. This is a challenging and interesting position as there are around 1600 such structures consisting of bridges, retaining walls, subways and culverts. These date from medieval stone arches through to a varied range of structure types from the canal, railway and modern highway building eras.
It is important to prioritise maintenance woks and this is undertaken by regular three yearly inspections of all structures. To do this we have a team of inspectors. The work of an inspector is also extremely varied. It can involve trekking through deep ‘jungle like’ undergrowth to reach a remote culvert or standing thigh deep in water to inspect a river arch.
Once an inspection has been undertaken any defect found is recorded and prioritised and placed in a programme of maintenance works. All defects that have an immediate impact on public safety are repaired as a matter of urgency.
Preparation of maintenance works can involve considerable project management skills, because as well as design preparation, there is often a need to liaise with bodies such as The Environment Agency, English Heritage, Network Rail and British Waterways. It is also extremely important to ensure that members of the public and local councilors are aware of any works that are likely to affect them.
Environmental awareness is a key skill as it is important that protected species such as bat, badgers and great created newts are identified before any maintenance work is undertaken.
To enable me to progress to this position I have a Bsc(Hons) in Civil Engineering, have become a Chartered Engineer and also have an MSc in Geotechnical Enginering. This combined with some 30 odd years in civil engineering, primarily highways related, enables me to have good overview of what is required and how it relates to other parts of the highways service. Having said all that there are still bits I am still learning.
What I like most about the job is its varied nature. I enjoy the part office/part outdoor aspect of the work and helping communities when problems arise.
The main attributes that I believe people need are to have a technical ‘bent’ but like being outdoors, be flexible, be able to deal with short timescale projects and people.