- Course: MSc (Eng) Transport Planning and Engineering
- Year of graduation: 1971
- Nationality: British
- Job title: Divisional Director
- Company: Mott Macdonald
I write these words at the end of a career, for which ITS provided the starting blocks 40 years ago. At the end of my career, my main responsibilities included: development of consultant Mott MacDonald's transport consultancy business, in the UK and South-East Asia, recruitment and staff management, budget management strategic advice on individual projects, staff training and mentoring.
After ITS, I spent 6 years with consultants Scott Wilson and 34 years with consultants Mott MacDonald. During my career with Mott MacDonald, I was instrumental in developing the company's transport planning business from a team size of 4 in one UK location to a team size of 250, spread over the UK and in selected hubs overseas. In particular, I developed the company's transport planning business in North-West England from scratch and one of my final assignments was to develop a plan for the (further) development of the company's transport planning business in South-East Asia. It has been a most fulfilling, stimulating and satisfying career.
Technical highlights included working overseas in Africa, Middle East, South America and South-East Asia; giving evidence as a professional witness at planning inquiries in the UK; managing the South London Assessment Study which was one of the first studies to comprehensively link land-use and economic development to transport needs; research into methods of transport assessment; development of the Leigh Guided Busway (Greater Manchester) from concept to gaining a Transport and Works Order - and much else!
At the outset, my MSc from ITS (or its predecessor department) enabled me to get exactly the job I wanted in transport planning consultancy. I had done a first degree at Cambridge in Engineering Sciences, but my MSc at ITS allowed me to focus on my particular interest in transport and, for the first time, to see and appreciate transport from a professional perspective. In the early years, the technical knowledge I gained at Leeds stood me in good stead in my day-to-day work and enabled me to quickly advance up the project management ladder.
In later years, ITS provided the basis of a widespread network of business contacts. In the first instance, my own contemporaries from the course were a useful source of information and support, but ITS subsequently created many bonds between me and others who had studied there at a later stage.I also met lecturers and others who had joined ITS after I left, and on several occasions, I facilitated links between Mott MacDonald and ITS when we needed our joint skills to bid for work. While I subsequently got to know academicians at other transport schools, ITS remained my "school of choice" when seeking links with academia.
Throughout my career, I continued to have a high regard for ITS students and was involved, at one period, in directly recruiting students from the Masters course for graduate employment with Matt MacDonald. I greatly enjoyed returning to ITS for the interview process. While our recruitment process had to be fair and open, I always looked favourably on ITS graduates because I knew their background well.
You may smile at this but it shows the strength of human contact. I was recommended (by a senior transport consultant I knew) to apply to both Leeds and Southampton to do a transport MSc, which I duly did. Immediately, I received a most welcoming letter from Professor Colm O'Flaherty, who had established ITS (or its predecessor). He was effusive in his wish for me to call in and see him, and it suited me to do just that two weeks later.
He was friendliness personified - a fellow Irishman, he had had a Cambridge graduate before me who had been very successful at ITS, he could arrange a room in Bodington Hall for me etc. He could not have been more welcoming. I went on my way but I quickly thought - how could I possibly turn down an offer of a place from such a nice guy? And I wrote back and accepted his offer of a place on the MSc course.
Two months later, I received a card from the Academic Registrar at Southampton advising that my application had been received. There was no competition!
I had a great year in Leeds, Bodington was a most convivial place to live, the course was endlessly interesting, I loved Leeds as a city - and my love life blossomed! So no regrets whatsoever about choosing ITS.
To prospective students, I would say firstly that transport planning is a fascinating subject and a growing business (current setbacks excepted). If you want to work in transport planning, it is really worthwhile studying it properly first. Yes, you might eventually pick it up on the job, but a Master's degree will accelerate your progress. 12 months of study gives you an opportunity to understand, question and identify the areas that you are most interested in. You will find it a great preparation for the workplace. You will also start to develop a network of professional contacts that will stand you in good stead throughout your career.
And if you are doing a Masters in transport, lTS has the highest reputation. Its staff and its course are widely recognised and ITS graduates have proved themselves to be first-rate. ITS has contributed some of the best transport research and has good links with the government. You will gain a real insight into the world of transport- technically, politically and business-wise. And Leeds and its university are great places to be. You are bound to enjoy yourself as well as learn.