After ten years as Bridgemaster at Clifton Suspension Bridge, David Anderson retires from the post on September 30th. His safety boots and hard hat will be filled by Chartered Civil Engineer and former Regional Director at the Institution of Civil Engineers, Trish Johnson. With several years’ experience as Head of Maintenance at the Severn Bridge, Trish is no stranger to iconic structures. We asked her what excites her most about this new role.
“It’s a unique position to be in – just understanding the intricacies of the bridge. I’ve already been up the towers, into the vaults and on the gantry under the bridge and I’m just starting to get my head around the structure and what must be done to preserve it for the future. There are plans to paint the bridge, refurbish the toll houses and improve access to vaults – so there’s a lot to think about already!”
What is unique about this role?
“The role is so varied and covers all manner of things from the maintenance of the structures, major projects to engaging with the public and promoting engineering. No two days are the same – which is what I like. I enjoy being able to get to places not many other people can go so I have seen the saddles in the tops of the towers and seeing how they have been designed and operate was really special. I have also been on the roof of the tower: there’s an incredible view of the city and it’s like being on top of the world! I could imagine Brunel standing up there surveying the gorge!”
What drew you to the role?
“I have lived in Bristol for over 30 years and the bridge has always been one of the key places that we visited on family days out or when friends came to stay. As everyone says, it’s an iconic structure and it’s a real privilege to be here looking after it.”
How does this project differ to others you have worked on?
“I was Head of Maintenance at the Seven Crossing, which is a larger-scale suspension bridge. The role there was more about ensuring the traffic was not unduly affected with the maintenance work and managing one large contractor – here it’s more about heritage and preservation of the structure. I’ve also worked on a lot of motorway bridges – mostly inspection and maintenance – as well as running big offices and working with the ICE (Institution of Civil Engineers) to promote engineering in schools and colleges and encouraging young people to train as civil engineers.”
What advice would you give to young people interested in becoming engineers?
“Get your subjects right: make sure that you study maths and science – and, if you can, try to visit construction sites open days or volunteer on projects which will help you to understand what it’s all about. Above all, remember that engineering is a multi-faceted industry so don’t be put off if you don’t like one career option: there are plenty of others!”
What would be your dream engineering project?
“Another bridge! Actually, I really enjoy skiing and I am fascinated by the process of installing ski lifts across mountains in remote resorts: it’s a real engineering challenge to build such huge structures n such a remote place. Volunteering abroad is also on my bucket list: Brunel designed and built portable hospitals and I think going out to another country and helping them to improve their facilities would be an important contribution.”