A day in the life of a fleet engineer

Last updated: Monday, 24 July 2023

This month, we chatted to Emma Armstrong, our fleet engineer, who joined ScotRail in January 2019. Here's what she had to tell us about her role...

Emma Armstrong standing in a rail depot

As a fleet engineer I’m involved in project managing and providing technical support for many modifications, repairs, and performance improvements for each of ScotRail’s fleets. This includes fitment of CCTV, upgrade of the Driver Advisory System and trials for pantograph health monitoring equipment. I work closely with the depots to constantly improve the fleets and maintain their quality for our customers and stakeholders.

What’s your favourite thing about your role?

My favourite part of the job is the varied challenges that come with each day. There is a constant drive to improve the performance of the fleets to ensure they remain reliable and advanced to meet modern day demands. My projects can vary from an investigation into the cause of diesel engine failures, to a full fleet modification on the EMU (electric multiple unit) fleets. I’ve therefore got to be flexible in my knowledge of the fleets depending on which train I'm working on.

What does a typical working day (if there is such a thing?!) look like for you?

I’m sure you’ve heard this before but there is no typical day. I work on planning modifications, completing engineering change documentation, and reporting on performance but I’m also able to go to the depots regularly and visit contractors to monitor project progress. It’s important for me to physically see equipment fitment to fully understand its use and eventual benefit. I really enjoy travelling across Scotland for my role.

Can you tell us a bit about how you came to be a Fleet Engineer?

I joined ScotRail as an Engineering Graduate through the ScotRail Graduate Scheme. During this, I explored all the departments and learned how each of them feeds into another in maintaining safety and performance of the fleets. I was fortunate to secure my role as a Fleet Engineer during the pandemic. It’s a really varied role and I enjoy being challenged to constantly improve the fleets and in turn, myself.

What’s been your proudest achievement working for ScotRail?

My biggest project to date and subsequently my biggest achievement has been the successful repair of a Class 158 unit following a mainline tree strike. The project allowed me to explore many areas of engineering and the business. I presented how I managed the project and the lessons learnt at the IMechE Future of Rail competition. My presentation detailed the incident, recovery, subsequent repair and safe return of unit 158709 to service. All the while contending with Covid-19. I won the Scottish regional final and went onto place runner up in the national final. It was a great opportunity to grow as an engineer and I had fun!

If someone reading this fancied joining the engineering team in the future, what advice would you give them?

Engineering is essential to the railway and you would be challenged joining the department, but the rewards are worth it. The team need creative and proactive people to meet the targets of decarbonisation, as well as maintaining the fleets we currently have. We are constantly evolving to new technologies and learning every day. There are lots of opportunities within engineering and it’s an exciting time in the railway. So, if you have wondered how the trains operate or how they are maintained, we need curious people like you.

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