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Insights Why a career in Human Factors? It’s all about the people.

Amy Clouston is a Principal Consultant in our Derby office. She started with Atkins, a member of the AtkinsRéalis Group, in 2017 as a Senior Human Factors Consultant, working on high-profile clients across the rail industry. We’re proud to say she’s recently progressed to Principal Human Factors Consultant.

"The rail industry is a fascinating place, full of even more fascinating people, and I'm lucky that part of my job description is to get to know them, what they do and what makes them tick!”

Photo of Arndash smiling towards the camera

Amy, what does your current role involve?

I love Human Factors as the work is so varied, and we get involved in all sorts of different projects for a wide range of clients.
I enjoy interacting with people, so Human Factors is great. The work involves getting hands-on with end users—be they rain drivers and other operational staff, maintainers or passengers. My role in the Human Factors team is based mainly around Rolling Stock, with our projects spanning the driving cab, design for maintenance, and passenger experience. We also have experience working on control centre and depot design.

Tell us about a great project you've worked on here at Atkins?

Most of my current work is focused on European Train Control System (ETCS) fitment to rail vehicles. Over the years, it has taken me all over Europe and the UK, but the project I am working on now is extra special. In the UK, we have a large number of Steam and Heritage Diesel locomotives running around on both the main line and preserved lines. If we want to keep these Heritage and Charter Locos running on our main lines, they'll need to have ETCS fitted to remain compatible with our increasingly digital railway.

Network Rail has employed a multi-functional team within the Rolling Stock Delivery Practice on their Pathfinder Heritage and Charter ETCS project. This project is essentially a research and development project to design and install ETCS on the Tornado, Black Five loco 44932 and a Heritage Deltic to prove it can be done and will set a precedent for all future heritage ETCS designs. As you can imagine, the challenges for both Engineering and Human Factors are huge and often novel compared to our usual ETCS design and fit projects on more modern locos.

"To my delight, we're overcoming these challenges through observations and tests on the footplate of a range of locos."

Over the past few months, I've been observing the current steam loco driving tasks on both preserved and main lines. We've tested the usability of the ETCS Driver Machine Interface within the steam environment and taken noise measurements to begin baselining ETCS and Train Protection and Warning System (TPWS) mark 4 alert volumes.

On these trips, I've even had the chance to shovel coal and operate the whistle, which has been the most unbelievable and exhilarating experience. This and the opportunity to work with the passionate people who maintain and operate these beautiful pieces of engineering history have been the highlight of my career so far!

Photo of Arndash smiling towards the camera

What is the environment like in the Derby office?

The Derby office is a real community. Working in a building with so much knowledge and expertise and an atmosphere of comradery is a privilege. Everyone is willing to help and advise when needed, but they are also willing to listen and learn from others at all team levels.

"On top of that, we have a laugh—which I think is just as important. The people are not only my colleagues, but my friends and those relationships are what keep our projects running smoothly."

What do you find most rewarding about your job?

Getting out on site and working closely with so many interesting, intelligent and friendly people, from colleagues at AtkinsRéalis and Atkins, our clients, end-users involved in our Human Factors assessments, or the rail enthusiasts I meet out and about in the course of my work! The rail industry is a fascinating place, full of even more fascinating people, and I'm lucky that part of my job description is to get to know them, what they do and what makes them tick.

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