How Kamlah keeps London's traffic moving

Green for go: it's not just a traffic light on a London street. It's the result of hours of work from Kamlah Kew (and her team), who have to get dozens of people, companies, authorities, utilities - even taxi drivers - on board before designing the system, ordering it, getting it installed and switching it on.

Name: Kamlah Kew

Age: 30

Job: Principal traffic control engineer

Employer: Transport for London

What’s that, then?

Modifying and installing new traffic systems (see panel, right, for the full picture)

Degree: electronic engineering, UCL

What’s a typical day like?

There’s not really a typical day. There’s a lot of things we get involved in, obviously, as engineers, lots of people to talk to, we have to go on site, do audits, lots of meetings, different stakeholders to talk to, so there’s never a typical day
We have a lot of people who are our clients: the people of London – drivers, buses, cyclists, pedestrians, there’s a lot of different people you have to engage with.

There’s a lot of liaising and coordinating with the different contractors we work with and there are the different utilities and companies involved, such as BT.

Like it?

I really, really enjoy what I do. It’s good to get to meet people, especially because the work we do directly affects the public and because I live in London it affects me – I am my own client.

Anything not so great?

I don’t particularly relish days when it’s freezing and I have to go on to sites – when it’s pouring down with rain and we have to go out there. But we’ve got to do what we have to do.

What’s next?

What I am really interested in doing is running larger projects or programmes with lots of work going on in the town centre; regional projects, not just individual traffic schemes, that’s where I’d like to go.

There are lots of options. The field I am in can transfer into any major city in the world. They all need transport systems to survive; there’s a lot of options out there.

Any advice for other engineers just starting out?

Try to learn as much as you can. At the beginning it can be a little repetitive – you need to seek out and focus on the bigger picture. If you’re working on a small part of the project, think of the whole project and think: in a couple of years’ time I could be the lead engineer.

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