"The only way to embrace the new technology is to become proficient through hands-on experience."
No matter where you are in the world, public transportation is important to all. From Washington to Shanghai, and Bordeaux to Melbourne we all use rail and road to travel, a fact that global rail operator Keolis knows very well. What else is important? Safety. Rail safety is important to all, and particularly in the USA it has been a subject of many debates, legal action and mandates as well as constant technical changes. How does the industry keep up with this issue? With over twenty years of experience in the industry, who better to ask about these challenges than Keolis’ (@KeolisNA) latest Chief Safety officer, Robert T. McCarthy. Ahead of joining SmartTransit in New Jersey this October, McCarthy takes the time to talk with SmartRail World reporter, Sarah Wright about his role and the issues faced by a safety officer.
Sarah Wright (SW): How did you get into the rail industry?
Robert T. McCarthy (RTM): My father before me was a career railroader. By the time I was five, I knew I wanted to be a locomotive engineer like my father. I was recruited into the Management Development Program (MDP) by Southern Pacific in 1985 and began my career just three days after I graduated from college. By the June of 1985 I had begun in Transportation at “Network Control” in San Francisco.
SW: What do like most about your job?
RTM: Working in an industry that is constantly evolving. PTC, AC locomotives, Distributed Power, Remote Control Locomotives, Computer Aided Dispatching… it’s all so different from when I began my railroad career.
SW: What’s the biggest challenge in your role?
RTM: Staying current on all of the new technology! The only way to embrace the new technology is to become proficient through hands-on experience, and I try to qualify on all new technology that is released.
SW: What will be some of the biggest differences between rail now and in 10 years’ time?
RTM: Locomotive fuel efficiency and propulsion will evolve along with adhesion. Network capacity will increase due to evolution of GPS, as will Positive train separation and “smart” dispatching, which will add capacity by spacing. Perhaps we will even see the development of “autopilot”.
SW: What’s your favourite rail journey?
RTM: You know, I’m fortunate enough to have gotten a seniority date as a locomotive engineer. My seniority district is from San Francisco to Santa Barbara on the old SP (now Union Pacific) Coast Route. Running a train from to Santa Barbara was always a dream come true for me. I really miss running out there!
SW: Thanks for your time Robert, we look forward to hearing more from you at SmartTransit!
5 minutes with… You? Each Friday the team here at SmartRail World will bring you a great new 5 minutes with... interview. This fun, fast-paced feature will help you get to know more about personalities across the industry, their ideas and experiences and of course their own favourite rail journey! Want to take part? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
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