Meet the team - Landscape, Planning and Environment
6 October 2020

Meet the team - Landscape, Planning and Environment

Day 2 of RailWeek features an insight into the work within the Landscape and Environment teams of SYSTRA Ltd. We chat to Marcus Grundy-Wakelin, Emily Simpson, Thomas Bode, Henry Casement and Jenny Jefferies (left to right) to find out more about their roles in the company and how they relate to rail.

What’s your name, location and an outline of your role with example projects?

MARCUS GRUNDY-WAKELIN (MGB) Environment & Sustainability Team Leader, York
A whole range of activities and a huge variety of projects works; we are currently undertaking an archaeological dig on one of our sites and are providing training on behalf of RSSB to clients including Network Rail. I am responsible for engaging the experts required on any project which includes ecologists, landscape architects, hydrologists, land contamination experts, mechanical and electrical engineers (for BREEAM), Consents Managers, Noise etc.; and all of the listed work within SYSTRA, which makes it easier.

My daily activities are centred around providing suitable environmental assessment and management through various means such as Design and Construction Environment Management Plans, Sustainability & Resource Workshops and Sustainability Action Plans.
The most important thing to do is to engage with the designers to ensure that environmental and sustainability elements are integrated into design at the earliest opportunity.

Examples of projects include Power Supply Upgrade East Coast Mainline, Oxford Corridor Environmental management plans, Middlesbrough Station Refurbishment, Plumstead Depot, West Coast Mainline, Rail Safety and Standards Board Rail Carbon Tool, HS2 Ecological and Consents.

EMILY SIMPSON (ES), Ecologist, York
My role sees me undertake a wide range of activities, from desk-based risk assessments and co-ordination with design disciplines, to site surveys and ecological clerk of works supervision activities. Most recently I helped undertake an ancient woodland optimisation study to attempt to reduce the impacts on ancient woodland sites impacted by the HS2 scheme. In the coming months I am looking into the implementation of bat hop-overs as mitigation for severance of flight paths and hope to develop a strategy to monitor the effectiveness of these mitigation techniques.

At the moment, HS2 is my main project; the size and complexity of the scheme means this is where most of my time is spent, however from time to time I am involved in other projects such as PSU2 (Power Supply Upgrade Phase 2 – East Coast Mainline), and small scale private homeowner development projects.

THOMAS BODE (TB), Principal Town Planner, Birmingham
I am SYSTRA’s technical lead for the production of Schedule 17 application packs – submissions made to local planning authorities seeking approval for plans and specifications detailing proposed building and construction works associated with HS2 in the West Midlands area.

I work with design engineers, environmental specialists, town planners and the construction contractor to secure approval for the detailed design of the railway, and ancillary development such as items that mitigate impacts associated with the railway’s construction or operation, in this area.

Previous projects include: East West Rail, HS2, Project NUCLE (Coventry Arena and Birmingham Parkway). Current projects: HS2: Phase 1

HENRY CASEMENT (HC), Landscape Lead, Birmingham
The Landscape Discipline within SYSTRA Ltd. was established in November 2019. Landscape/Landscape Architecture within the Rail Sector involves the planning and design of the physical environment associated with any new or existing rail link and the associated infrastructure.

The team now comprises of four Landscape Architects within permanent roles. Currently everyone is fully engaged with HS2 Main Works, Lots N1 and N2 in Design Joint Venture supporting Balfour Beatty Vinci. The current commission is due to last until 2022. In addition, we are involved in other HS2 related projects such as Old Oak Common Station. We have ambitious plans for growth over the next 5 years including expanding the team and the extent of our project involvement.

JENNY JEFFERIES (JJ), Principal Consents Manager, Birmingham
As the consents manager, I ensure that all contracted works that are within the Act limits are undertaken under the appropriate consenting schedule and advise on the consenting strategy required.

I also work on other projects providing advice on consents and the EIA regulations, working across lots of different environmental and design disciplines.

How did you get into rail?

TB - I have worked for large multidisciplinary consultancies that offer services associated with the planning, design and implementation of major infrastructure projects. The UK Government has invested heavily in a range of rail schemes, including new and improved routes. Where the delivery of this new infrastructure requires ‘development’, planning permission is required. Such permission may follow a number of consent pathways, including The Town and Country Planning Act 1990, The Planning Act 2008 (Development Consent Orders), or the Transport and Works Act 1992. Planners must consider the potential benefits of proposed development, the potential impacts that the development may have on local communities and the environment, and consider how proposals accord with planning policy.

MGB - I was previously in the Highways sector and at the time (1999) railways were lagging in environmental management. I had an opportunity to get involved and help the development raising the importance of environmental and sustainability issues within the rail sector through working closely with a fantastic set of multi-disciplinary designers in a Railway Engineering company. It’s been an interesting journey and an unrecognisable industry in terms of environmental and sustainability requirements from when I started.

JJ - My first rail project was Great Western Mainline Electrification project. I worked on the environmental statement and the flood risk assessment that was produced for the project. From there I went on to coordinate and manage EIAs on other infrastructure projects.

HC - I got my first graduate job working for a large infrastructure consultancy. This trend has continued through the duration of my career and with each career move, I have had the opportunity to work with increasingly larger rail projects; culminating with HS2.

ES - By chance! I applied for a job as a Graduate Environmental Consultant for a multidisciplinary design consultancy… little did I know this would lead me into the world of rail! Having just finished my masters I had worried what my next challenge would be and I certainly found that, it was a whole new world for me and I was hooked from the start.

What do you like most about your job?

TB - I enjoy working on prestigious projects that are likely to bring benefits to communities for years, or even generations to come. I love working with specialists from diverse backgrounds and a range of skill sets.

MGB - The interaction with other environmental experts, my team and working alongside designers and contractors to get the job done.

JJ - I get to work with lots of different people every day. I also get to work across a lot of disciplines which means that I am always learning something new.

HC - The variety of the work and the people I am lucky enough to work with.

ES - It has to be the people. You meet a wide variety of people in this role, which sometimes has its challenges, but there is nothing more rewarding than educating non-environmentally trained colleagues on the potential implications of their design or construction works and how we can work together to not only reduce the impacts but to improve on what was there before.

What do you think the future holds for the environmental / landscape side of rail?

TB - I hope that the future holds continued investment in rail infrastructure, including the construction of rail improvements that will increase rail capacity for both freight and passenger journeys. I would like to see increased rail usage and a shift away from road usage, particularly in city centres and other areas where poor air quality affects people’s health. Major projects will offer opportunities as a vehicle for the delivery of net gains in biodiversity.

MGB - The future is huge in terms of environmental and sustainability; we’re in a world where rail has a huge part to play in de-carbonisation and the impacts on the environment are under increasing pressure. Engineers, Clients and environmental experts must all work more closely to deliver sustainability within the railways.

JJ - A greener side to rail with a focus on ecology and biodiversity. I also think climate change will have a bigger focus; it was included in the 2017 EIA guidelines and with more extreme weather events, the effects on this environmental factor will get a bigger emphasis.

HC – HS2 is setting new standards and benchmarks for Landscape and Environmental side of rail. The project puts Landscape and Environmental Disciplines right at the forefront of everything to lead, influence mould the whole design process. This approach will hopefully transcend onto other schemes and through the whole of the Rail Sector.

JJ - I think the future is bright. It has been a long time coming but environment, ecology, landscape, and sustainability are more prevalent in the mainstream news and that’s now cascading down into projects and contractors’ requirements. With the development of the Network Rail Biodiversity Toolkit, (now superseded by the Biodiversity Metric 2.0, and the RRSB Rail Carbon Tool) the rail industry is at the forefront of innovation and development, and it is an exciting time to involved in such a sector.

What advice would you give to someone looking to get into rail landscaping or environmental?

TB - While small scale, local, rail projects exist; in my experience the majority of rail delivery requires the involvement of large organisations, either from the public sector (e.g. Network Rail) or the private/consultancy sector. I would target larger employers who may offer a range of graduate or apprentice programmes.

MGB - There is a great deal of opportunity within rail and the variety within the sector is huge; so once you have identified an area of expertise that interests you most, you will be able to apply it in the rail sector.

JJ - It’s a lot more environmental than you think so don’t let the engineering put you off! Rail projects involve, environmental surveys, assessments, licenses and consents and these aspects also have a big impact on the programme.

HC - I would highly recommend a career as a Landscape Architect in general but in particular a career as a Landscape Architect working on rail projects. My advice would be to offer help and support to all other disciplines and don’t be afraid to be proactive and influence the design process. Landscape Architects have a unique set of wholistic design skills where we can add immense value to any rail project.

ES - At first it can be overwhelming; there is so much to learn but keep at it and you will reap the rewards! There are so many opportunities within the rail industry, not least the variety of projects and people you work with. You are always learning and developing and that’s what I love.

Any final comments?

MGB – On my first two jobs on the railway, Project Managers were given the responsibility to complete an ‘environmental appraisal’ for each project at design stage. I remembered that on review; I was told by the PM that there were no environmental impacts as one was in a tunnel and the other near Doncaster.

It didn’t take long to realise that this wasn’t the case as the project in the tunnel required access from above through one of the biggest Great Crested Newt colonies in West Yorkshire and the second was in the middle of a Site of Special Scientific Interest.
JJ - Always remember to speak to the environment/consents team first, you don’t want to push your programme back 12 months because you didn’t survey your newts on time!

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