Dr. Siv Bhamra has helped our customers build rail systems that have connected communities all over the world. Throughout his 30-year career, Siv’s expertise has helped build safe, clean, and rapid rail transportation for passengers and provided efficient transit of goods.
Siv joins communications specialist Jennifer Whitfield to discuss:
- How he began his journey in the rail industry
- Landmark rail projects he has partnered with our customers to build
- Insights into new technologies that will improve the way people travel
Interviewee: Siv Bhamra (SB)
Interviewer: Jennifer Whitfield (JW)
JW: Thank you for tuning into the BechTech Podcast, a podcast where we highlight technical specialists at Bechtel. I'm Jennifer Whitfield, and I'm joined today by Bechtel Rail lead, Dr. Siv Bhamra. Siv has over 30 years of international experience in the development, design, and execution of the full range of rail projects from light rails to heavy city metros and dedicated high-speed lines connecting major cities. Thank you for joining me today, Siv. I'm looking forward to our discussion.
SB: Good to be here, Jennifer.
JW: To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about your career and how you've progressed to where you are today?
SB: OK, thank you, I've been in the rail transportation sector just over 30 years, [22 years of which] have been with Bechtel, all in rail projects. I have been privileged to work for our company on some truly iconic projects such as the Jubilee Line Extension, where I started in 1999, through Tube Lines, High Speed 1 and Crossrail, in the UK, then through to Texas High-Speed Rail. So, it's been a fairly progressive time.
JW: What is your technical specialty, and can you explain the importance of that specialty as it relates to the EPC industry?
SB: Sure, my specialty is in rail. This specialty is critical for our current rail projects and also for winning and executing future projects. This specialty includes a full range of rail assets from rolling stock—or trains—to track signaling, [communications] and control systems, power supplies, equipment and stations, civil infrastructure, mechanical and electrical plant, fare collection equipment, and specialist maintenance plants as well. So effectively, everything that forms a fully built and fully integrated railway system.
JW: What accomplishments are you most proud of during your career with Bechtel?
SB: I have had the opportunity to work on some landmark projects for our customers, which I know will benefit local communities and travelers for generations to come. You get to feel that you have contributed something very significant to the wider society of people. Above all, I am very proud to have had the opportunity to work alongside many fantastic and inspirational clients and colleagues. For example, [I worked on] two projects […] for [a] London customer, Tube Lines and Crossrail, which totally transformed a major city like London [by] generating work for people, improving the quality and range of destination options for travel, providing a sustainable future for local communities, and contributing to the wider economic benefit to the region and to the country.
JW: So, I'm curious, how did you develop an interest in your field, and what type of training was involved in becoming a rail system specialist?
SB: Right from the outset, I had a heart in engineering and a heart in creating something that would be [of] value to people, something that you could point out later as a bit of a legacy that you contributed to. Rail, by its nature, provides transportation for hundreds of thousands of people. So, I pursued a career in rail from the outset and completed a master's degree in engineering design, an MBA in project management, and then subsequently a doctorate in the specialty of railway systems. I also served in several key roles for both public and private sector rail companies in the initial stages of my career. Additionally, I have benefited from being coached and being mentored by senior established leaders in the rail industry, who serve today as our senior customers.
JW: What would you say are the most challenging parts of working within your specialty?
SB: Rail is a safety-critical industry. The projects you develop and execute have to be done so carefully and responsibly with safety in mind. The output of our projects are operational railways which must transport millions of people safely and reliably for many decades to come, so it's critical to keep challenging ourselves on how we develop a safe and high-quality output but also to time and cost effectively.
JW: How will new technology in your field impact the EPC industry and Bechtel in particular?
SB: I'd say new technologies are bringing about greater efficiencies in design and execution of rail projects. For instance, digital platforms are being increasingly specified for improved data exchange, and these provide for greater predictability and reliability. Another example is the advent of new materials, which provide for more sustainable solutions and better environmental compliance.
JW: Siv, how would you say you specifically have made an influence in the rail systems field, and what contributions have you made externally to Bechtel?
SB: I have contributed in building a systems engineering approach and mindset to the development and execution of our rail projects. I have substantially contributed also to the knowledge on how to integrate fairly complex technologies from a wide range of suppliers.
JW: That's great. And how are you helping or mentoring up-and-coming technical specialists?
SB: Oh, this is an area that I am deeply proud [of], and I am honored to be mentoring a group of younger colleagues from diverse backgrounds and with a particular focus on developing our female colleagues. I make sure I get to connect with them on a regular basis to encourage and to support them. Each of my mentees has the opportunity to reach out. It warms my heart to know how these colleagues will contribute to the future success of our company and become very successful and satisfied professionals in their working lives. The EPC industry really provides a superb platform for technical specialists to develop their careers and gain much satisfaction from their achievements.
JW: Thank you so much for joining me today, Siv. It's been a pleasure talking to you.
SB: Thank you, Jennifer, likewise.
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Our people, and their expertise, are essential to executing our work. The BechTech Podcast celebrates technical excellence at Bechtel through insightful conversations with technical specialists. Our technical specialists’ contributions both internally and externally help distinguish us as a premier partner to our customers.