SYSTRA Celebrates International Women’s Day 2019

Their inspirational messages highlight the importance of the day as an opportunity not only to reflect on the past, but to think about how we can inspire future generations of women to enter the STEM industries, breaking down the barriers in what are perceived to be male dominated professions. Even more important is how, after today, we continue to engage in the debate around gender balance and aim to lead by example in our industry by creating a gender-balanced business.


RON: (Graduate Transport Modeller): To me International Women’s Day is a day to celebrate every woman out there. Women started fighting for equal opportunities over 100 years ago, and I feel that fight has helped me become what I am today, hence this day should be celebrated.

ROSARIO (Project Director): I have mixed feelings about the day. On one hand is the realisation that we are still fighting for gender balance. But on the other hand, is a great day to discover and celebrate the achievements made by women.

ESHA (Assistant Consultant): To me, International Women’s Day is about breaking down the socially constructed barriers which lead women to feel inferior to their male counterparts. It is about being yourself, thinking that ‘I can do this,’ and overriding the typical ‘Barbie girl’ image of what is seen as ‘ideal’ and ‘preferred’ in society. It is about celebrating our differences, and putting aside our divisions, to unite and create progressive and equal opportunities.

CATHERINE (Civil Engineer): This is a day a certain quote below resonates most to me: “Here’s to strong women. May we know them. May we raise them, and most importantly, may we be them.”


SHARON: The main reason I joined this industry is because of my interest in the Transportation field. Being in a male dominated industry came second to that, I have always been of the opinion that if a man can do it, then why can’t I? That spirit and perseverance has allowed me to become a member of the SYSTRA Ltd Family.

ROSARIO: I always loved architecture but was not very artistic. I also loved building things and I was good at maths, physics and chemistry so it was a no brainer for me to go into engineering. The thought of going into a male dominated industry never crossed my mind.

ESHA: I wanted to work in Transport Planning because of its relevance in society. I don’t believe that working in a male dominated industry should prevent women from reaching their aspirations and paving out a successful career pathway. For me, working in this industry was about my passion, resilience and determination, despite it being male dominated.

CATHERINE: Right from childhood, I have always had a passion for the built environment. But most of all, I was greatly encouraged and supported by my family and teachers to not be afraid to pursue my dream career.


SHARON: The main reason I joined this industry is because of my interest in the Transportation field. Being in a male dominated industry came second to that, I have always been of the opinion that if a man can do it, then why can’t I? That spirit and perseverance has allowed me to become a member of the SYSTRA Ltd Family.

ROSARIO: I always loved architecture but was not very artistic. I also loved building things and I was good at maths, physics and chemistry so it was a no brainer for me to go into engineering. The thought of going into a male dominated industry never crossed my mind.

ESHA: I wanted to work in Transport Planning because of its relevance in society. I don’t believe that working in a male dominated industry should prevent women from reaching their aspirations and paving out a successful career pathway. For me, working in this industry was about my passion, resilience and determination, despite it being male dominated.

CATHERINE: Right from childhood, I have always had a passion for the built environment. But most of all, I was greatly encouraged and supported by my family and teachers to not be afraid to pursue my dream career.


SHARON: I deeply relate to this question as I started out less than 6 months back. These past few months has taught me more than I could ever learn from books or lectures.

ROSARIO: Just be yourself, focus on your talent and don’t allow anyone to say that you don’t belong.

ESHA: I think for women starting out in this industry, it is important to be pro-active and get stuck in with the projects that you have been assigned, asking for help when you need it, while not being afraid to challenge the status quo. Furthermore, get to know and speak to senior women in the company you work for and wider through networking events.

CATHERINE: 1. Say yes to every opportunity that comes your way, even if you do not know the ‘how’, the process will be your teacher. 2. At the start, it will seem intimidating, but keep going it gets easier. Focus on your growth. 3. Do not get caught up in the ‘achieving your professional qualification in a certain time limit’, it is a process, you will eventually get there.


SHARON: Honestly, I feel like there will always be barriers while working in such fields, but if you are confident enough and have a good support system such as good team mates, project manager’s, colleagues etc., that could make a world of a difference.

ROSARIO: While we are making progress, I think there is still a long way to go. The society is slowly getting educated to appreciate STEM and those barriers are slowly disappearing. Working with schools (including children, parents and teachers) is fundamental to change their perception and to encourage girls to consider engineering as a career path. Also with the arrival of new technology, the way we see and do engineering is changing rapidly. This is getting the attention of younger generations, so we must find ways to maximise this opportunity and encourage them to get more involved.

ESHA: I think perceptions about overcoming gender norms should be instilled from a young age, for example, LEGO’s are not just for boys, while dolls are not just for girls. It is important that STEM subjects and knowledge of future career paths is actively promoted to women in schools- there needs to be a ‘can do,’ positive attitude about women in STEM. More importantly, I think it is important that young women considering opportunities in STEM can talk women who are working in the industry, to help overcome any fears or misconceptions,

CATHERINE: I think one of the most important things we need is more mentorship, encouragement and support especially for the younger generation in the industry. At times we need to hear and echo the experiences of those who have excelled before us, in order to know that excellence in this male


SHARON: There are various reasons why working for SYSTRA is great, The work culture here is extremely friendly and light, my colleagues never treated me as a ‘New starter’ who was also an International student, they made me feel very welcomed from Day 1. Further a lot of the senior positions at SYSTRA are held by women, which makes you think that that could be you one day if you work hard enough and not give up on your dreams.

ROSARIO: I am valued as a professional who can contribute to the growth of the business. I also feel that SYSTRA promotes the development of talent and allows you to thrive. Just look at the number of women and the average age of our workforce.

ESHA: The people at SYSTRA make it such a great place to work, for everyone. Importantly, at SYSTRA there is an equal respect for everyone, no matter what gender, race or grade; you are valued. There are a number of successful women in the office who inspire me, through their commitment, knowledge and morals. The best thing is, they are always willing to offer you advice or just have a general chat with you, whether about technical skills or about the latest BBC drama. And yes- I have found myself saying, ‘I want to be like her,’ when working with my line manager and others in the office.

CATHERINE: SYSTRA has taken great initiative in supporting women including a notable number of women being recruited in STEM job opportunities and offering quite good incentives that support women including flexible working


SHARON: I think a better balance could be developed by providing equal opportunity to all and having a diverse group of employees as that would definitely make an organisation more innovative and competitive.


Existing role models in the industry and at SYSTRA have a massive role to play in breaking potential barriers. They have the option to influence people to brake any existing barriers, but also to motivate people to thrive and develop their talent to achieve gender-balanced boardrooms for example.

The use of social media can be very powerful to raise awareness, to encourage younger generations to take action but also allows them to find organisations (like SYSTRA) and people (like me!) that share their views and values.

ESHA:  I think the first step for this industry is to not be afraid to talk about the issues relating to the lack of number of women in transport planning and engineering. The industry needs to promote diversity through focusing on the best talent, no matter what gender. The industry needs to show its openness to achieve #BalanceforBetter through collaboration of different companies, and acknowledging the amazing women we have in the industry today. It’s also very important that it is recognised that attitudes towards gender equality vary around the globe. As SYSTRA has a global presence, #BalanceforBetter needs to be a key movement in giving more women the confidence to pursue such a career.

CATHERINE: For starters, we could try and have gender balance in all sectors for instance in the different committee boards in the industry, a gender-balance of employees at work and within leadership roles.

Safe by Design Young Engineers Forum

Can you tell us a bit more about this forum and why it is/should be of interest to young engineers in the company?

This is a fantastic opportunity for IPD/CPD and provides a platform to present to peers at a similar stage in their careers. It also helps build a network of young engineers across the country from consultants, contractors, temporary works specialists and the client organisation.

The Young Engineer’s Forum is intended to support the Network Rail Building and Civils Safe by Design Working Group by:

  • Generating a consistent input to the Safe by Design collaboration website, including examples of:
  • Innovation in safe by design
  • Safe by design best practices and lessons learned
  • Sharing knowledge and experience between organisations and industry sectors
  • Developing our Young Engineers and offering CPD opportunities
  • Building a positive Safe by Design Culture.

What other companies are usually involved? How does networking in this forum help you work with these companies on live projects?

A range of companies from across the industry are involved, including Client, Contractor, Designer, Supplier and Regulatory organisations . Attendees may be at any level from Apprentice / Graduate Level to Senior Engineer / Recently Chartered Level.

Interacting and engaging at these forums is a great chance to gain and understanding of the perspective of both individuals and the culture of the companies they are a part of. The YEF feeds into Network Rail’s SbD Buildings and Civils Working Group, but is not limited to Civil Engineers – shared case studies and lessons learned are welcome from across the engineering disciplines.

What’s something that you’ve learned from attending this forum that you wouldn’t have otherwise known? What benefits are there to being part of this forum?

The huge benefit for me, is that I have gained a better knowledge and understanding of areas of engineering I wouldn’t have normally come across in my day to day job. Its given me a better understanding of the wider area as well and bringing out a few deeper interests in engineering I didn’t know I had! As well as all that and developing my approach to safe by design, its great for bringing on my presentation skills and personal development.

Finally, how do you become part of the forum if you’re interested?

Anyone from Apprentice / Graduate Level to Senior Engineer / Recently Chartered Level can become part of this forum. The YEF is also open to engineering students on year in industry schemes and work placements. Invites go out on social media as well as email invites that are sent around companies that have participated in the past and are happy to hear from us about future events.

EGIP – Edinburgh Glasgow Electrification Project

This programme of work will deliver a 20% reduction in journey times and 30% more capacity, as well as more comfortable, efficient, quieter, greener and reliable trains.

Challenges include the introduction of new technology – Network Rail’s new Series 2 (v6) Overhead Line Equipment (OLE), a very challenging project timescale and incorporating OLE equipment onto 150 year old rail infrastructure.

We’re sometimes working up against perimeter walls. Working out how you put foundations in next to them – and then install the steelwork – this requires clever engineering.

SYSTRA is focussed on the electrification work. Major rebuilding work has been undertaken at Queen Street station, with platform lengthening and major track re-alignment. Queen Street tunnel has been re-laid with slab track and has been electrified with the introduction of conductor beam equipment. SYSTRA’s detailed design scope introduced overhead line equipment throughout the station and tunnel areas with all seven platforms at the station being wired.


SYSTRA undertook an initial phase to assess the previously produced GRIP4. This was followed by the production of the GRIP5 detailed design from Glasgow Queen Street through to Edinburgh Waverley including the core intermediate stations and the entire Glasgow to Edinburgh route via Falkirk High. The Costain team are responsible for the installation of the electrification including overhead line electrification (OLE), foundations, structure, catenary, feeder stations and SCADA.

3rd Metro Line for the Greater Toulouse Region: SYSTRA and ARCADIS Win a New Contract

SYSTRA and ARCADIS have been awarded a systems project management assistance (PMA) contract on the third metro line for the Greater Toulouse region by Tisséo Collectivités and Tisséo Ingénierie. This is a strategically important project for Toulouse and the wider region.

This new line is approximately 27km long and will transport more than 200,000 people per day in both directions, serving a total of 20 stations. It will connect with metro Lines A and B, two tram lines and several Linéo bus lines. It will also improve the connection between Blagnac airport and Matabiau station. The new line will serve an urban population of 1.3 million inhabitants and three main employment centres in the region.

SYSTRA is leading the consortium, which includes ARCADIS. The contract will involve defining all systems for the line, stations and the maintenance and stabling site. This includes rolling stock, automated and nonautomated control systems, centralised control systems and platform screen doors, as well as track, power and maintenance equipment.

Following our project management assistance assignment for three lines on the Grand Paris Express, as well as our role automating Line B of Lyon Metro, SYSTRA is once again at the centre of a major automated metro project in France. This new contract for the Line 3 project in Toulouse confirms SYSTRA’s position as the signature team for automated metro systems.

Jean-Yves Reynaud, SYSTRA’s Commercial Director for France

Lionel Barin, ARCADIS Development Director said : “Our continued involvement with Tisséo-Collectivités and Tisséo-Ingénierie in emblematic transport projects for the city of Toulouse and recognition of our expertise are reflected in this latest success. Following our project management for the extension of three ‘short’ stations as part of the capacity doubling for Toulouse Metro Line A, ARCADIS experts, who are very close to our clients, will once again benefit from a flagship infrastructure project for a city and its wider region.”


SYSTRA has been working with Toulouse’s transportation authorities since 1985. The company was involved in Line A, the first automated metro line in Toulouse, initially as design engineer then as project manager assistant for the civil engineering phases.

From 1991, SYSTRA led the project management for the preliminary design and then, from 1998 to June 2007, for the infrastructure on Line B of the automated metro. Between 2016 and 2017, SYSTRA carried out preliminary designs for the 3rd line, for which the teams received the ‘BIM d’Argent’ award in the ‘Infrastructure Project’ category in 2017. Earlier this year, SYSTRA Group’s subsidiary SYSTRA Foncier won a major land acquisition assistance contract for this project


Since 1972, ARCADIS has been present in the Greater Toulouse region, providing continuity for its local clients. The company has demonstrated its expertise, developing its specialised metro skills locally, through preliminary designs and working with companies on Lines A and B of Toulouse Metro.

More recently, in 2015 ARCADIS was entrusted with project management for the ‘Linéo 3’ bus rapid transit (BRT) and the extension of three ‘short’ stations to double the capacity of Line A of the Toulouse Metro – projects that are ongoing.

ARCADIS is also working on the 3rd line of Toulouse Metro with Tisséo-Collectivités via a framework agreement that has led it to identify certain technical solutions and/or route alternatives, and with Tisséo-Ingénierie via an environment PMC contract to carry out studies and compile regulatory documentation related to this iconic project.


For the Grand Paris Express, SYSTRA is also carrying out a systems PMC assignment for Lines 15, 16 and 17, as well as several project management assignments for the Line 15 project. SYSTRA is also project manager for the extensions of Lines 4, 11, 12 and 14 of the Paris Metro, as well as for the extension of Line B of Lyon Metro.

ARCADIS is also involved in the Grand Paris Express, having won a global project management assistance contract as part of the Artémis partnership (comprising Artelia, Arcadis and BG) for lines 15, 16 and 17, as well as an infrastructure PMC assignment for the whole project and the project management for line 18.

ARCADIS is also working as project manager on Rennes Metro.

Train Protection Overlay System for Ashford International

SYSTRA and Scott Lister are currently developing options for a train protection system for Ashford International Station. This is an essential upgrade to enable the new Class 374 (e320) trains for the Eurostar service to stop at the station, with effect from 2018. Launched in 2015, the project is funded by Kent County Council and Network Rail with a grant from the European Commission.

SYSTRA has a long history of supporting HS1 and Eurostar with their infrastructure engineering requirements and have the knowledge and experience to extend this system to other parts of the network.

Ashford International is half-way between London and Folkestone. The construction of the high-speed line, HS1, led to the station being rebuilt in 1990 to accommodate international services. Today, Class 373 (e300) Eurostar trains stop on platforms 3 and 4, while other regional lines use platforms 1 and 2. The “Ashford International Spurs” line connects the high speed line with the station and conventional rail lines and the section forms part of the Network Rail network.

HS1 rolling stock currently use a TVM 430 (track-to-train transmission) cab signalling system, a form of in-cab system originally deployed in France and used on high-speed railway lines). The Ashford Spurs lines are adapted to Eurostar Class 373 trains, which are equipped with Automatic Warning System (AWS)/Train Protection Warning System (TPWS), which allows them to safely operate on the conventional rail network. The new Class 374 trains have an embedded system working with KVB system (Beacon to Vehicle Control) and European Train Control System (ETCS) and so are currently unable to stop at Ashford International Station, consequently are currently restricted to the high-speed network.

The purpose of the project is to maintain the Eurostar service at Ashford International following the introduction of the new Eurostar Class 374 trains. The key challenge is to develop a safe and effective train protection system that does not impact on the current timetable, minimises the impact on the existing signalling systems whilst delivering a safe and cost effective solution to the functional requirements.

This will ultimately give Eurostar more flexibility with their operational planning, and provide all future Eurostar services the ability to stop at Ashford International.

HS2 Balfour Beatty VINCI JV announce Mott MacDonald & SYSTRA as design partners

Mott MacDonald, a British, global management, engineering and development consultancy company, and SYSTRA, a French, global consulting and engineering group have a successful, long-standing relationship in working together and perfectly mirror the cross-channel, long-standing relationship between British Balfour Beatty and French VINCI.

With a wealth of in-house design knowledge and expertise, Mott MacDonald SYSTRA has also pledged to utilise a local supply chain the length and breadth of the Midlands on all work undertaken. This reflects Balfour Beatty VINCI’s stance on using smaller, local companies to bring social and economic value to the local economies in which they operate.

SYSTRA’s flair and expertise on high speed rail systems, combined with Mott MacDonald’s engineering skills offer complementary knowledge to deliver all of the design requirements for Balfour Beatty VINCI’s HS2 bid.

Mott MacDonald has a long association with high speed rail projects around the world. The company has been involved in HS2 for over six years, providing a broad range of planning, engineering and environmental services as well as having played a key role on High Speed 1 as the government’s representative.

Internationally Mott MacDonald has been managing the engineering, environmental and public consultation activity on the Palmdale to Los Angeles section of the California High Speed Train Project and is undertaking engineering design on the Fresno to Palmdale section. The company has also been involved in Taiwan’s Taipei to Kaohsiung system; China’s expanding network and HSL Zuid in the Netherlands. It has also undertaken feasibility studies for a high speed network in India and a line that will connect Dresden in Germany with Ústí nad Labem and Litoměřice in the Czech Republic.

SYSTRA is recognised as the world’s expert in designing high speed rail systems with over 60 years’ experience in public transportation and involvement in every high speed rail line in France and 50% of those worldwide. With a growing portfolio of UK rail infrastructure projects including Crossrail and the Edinburgh Glasgow Improvement Programme, SYSTRA was one of the original shareholders of London and Continental Railways and a member of Rail Link Engineering – the organisation responsible for the design and engineering of High Speed 1. SYSTRA is part of the design consortium with VINCI for the South East Atlantic High Speed line currently being constructed between Tour and Bordeaux.

In March 2016, Balfour Beatty VINCI was shortlisted for four civil engineering packages of work for HS2 worth a combined total of £3.3 billion to £5.4 billion; including Lot N1, the Long Itchington Wood Green Tunnel to Delta Junction/Birmingham Spur; Lot N2 the Delta Junction to West Coast Main Line Tie-in; Lot C1, the Chiltern Tunnels and Colne Valley Viaduct; and Lot C2, the North Portal Chiltern Tunnels to Brackley. In December 2015, Balfour Beatty VINCI was also shortlisted as one of the enabling works contractors in the running to win a share of High Speed 2’s £900m preparatory works, and was invited to tender in March 2016.

The successful contractors for the main civil engineering packages are due to be announced later this year with the enabling works expected to commence in 2017 ahead of the start of major civil engineering works on the first stage of the project between London and the West Midlands.