Melvyn Bolus

FIEAust CPEng NER APEC Engineer IntPE(Aus)

Test and Commissioning Manager

Downer

Melvyn is a mechanical engineer with almost 20 years’ experience in rail projects across Australia, Asia, Europe and North America. He is Downer’s Test and Commissioning Manager of the 24 Waratah Series 2 trains now in passenger service. Melvyn is also project managing the Automatic Train Protection System implementation for the Fleet and leading the engineering design of a more energy efficient climate control system for trains.

Melvyn completed his Mechanical Engineering degree at the University of Technology Sydney and a Master of Business Administration at Chifley Business School. He is a JP for NSW, a Chartered Engineer and was recently elected a Fellow of Engineers Australia.

How long have you been a member of Engineers Australia?
I have been a member of Engineers Australia for 20 years. I joined as a student, served as an Executive Committee Member from 2014 to 2017 and as Treasurer in 2017 for the Hong Kong Chapter. I am a mentor in the EA Mentoring Programme and an Office Bearer of the Mechanical College Board.

Why did you pursue a career in engineering?
I am a second generation engineer, so you could say that it was in my blood. As a child, my participation in STEM activities was different than most kids because I spent so much time helping my Father in his workshop and on construction sites. A curiosity for the built environment drew me to engineering subjects at school and I progressed into studying mechanical engineering at University.

Early in my career, it was the thrill of turning an idea into a reality. Now it is all about what a Project does for the community and witnessing the growth of members in my team.

How can Australian communities/people/society benefit from your work now and in the future?
I am involved in introducing new fleets of passenger trains which provide a cost effective, safe and reliable, energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly alternative to connecting communities and cities. The trains I helped introduce will contribute to the reduction of Sydney’s emissions for the next 25 years. This is because a Waratah train is capable of taking 2000 cars off the roads. Furthermore, when decommissioned, 95% of their material will be recycled and recovered to benefit the community once again.

Engineers are in a position to provide strategic direction on processes, products and services that promote green, connected and inclusive environments. Recently, Willoughby City released its 10-year Green City Plan and I am excited to be working with the Mayor on change and improvements that align with the Paris COP21 agreement and the United Nations Sustainable Development goals. Engineers have a wealth of project planning experience, implementation insights and a global network that can be leveraged to benefit the community.

What is the most challenging or interesting project you’ve ever worked on?
The pace of delivering 24 trains in 10 months was the most challenging project for me to date and gained industry recognition as ‘One of the fastest rollouts in the world’ – Andrew Constance.

The project with the greatest wow factor for me was Hong Kong’s driverless metro, as an MTR Rolling Stock Construction Engineering Manager. The collection of information to allow integration of a driverless train into its Fully Automatic Operation rail network and depot was staggering. You could wake the train up in the morning to perform its own self checks and the gate would open once completed successfully. The train would then roll out automatically onto the mainline, pick up passengers for the entire day, and return back to the depot late in the evening with the gate closing behind it, where it performed a shutdown and finally went to sleep. All of this happened at the push of a button from its command centre located suburbs away.

What do you see as one of the biggest issues facing the engineering profession?
Engineering may be at risk of losing new recruits to the profession. Therefore, influencing young people to gain an interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and providing them with a higher quality education is paramount.

Ensuring that the profession is inclusive and welcoming to people who have not traditionally been drawn to it will also be beneficial. Diversity is crucial for maintaining a dynamic culture. From my experience, STEM activities are a great way of engaging young people in engineering as it catches the attention of a wide cross-section of the community. I have been encouraged to see the number of girls displaying a natural interest in robotics and coding.

What excites you about the future of the profession or what opportunities do you see for the future?
I am inspired by the number of volunteers that support Engineers Australia. This shows that the profession is embraced by people willing to take time out to give back. Volunteering is a selfless and often unsung endeavour. However, it is incredibly rewarding and beneficial in advancing the science and practice of Engineering. Being part of a profession that attracts the support of so many is a healthy sign for our future.

In the transportation space, the future looks exciting. Technological developments are not only improving efficiencies from point A to B, they also enhance the customer’s experience during the journey. In NSW there is a lot to be excited about with new light rail, driverless metro development, increased availability of suburban trains, new intercity trains being introduced, a regional rail fleet on order and the possibility of a higher speed rail link.

Who is your engineering hero?
My Father. I still remember when I first saw his name on a hardcover edition of a ‘Who’s who of the Institution of Engineers Australia’, almost 30 years ago. His engineering passion helped other immigrants settle into their new life in Sydney by providing employment and upskilling. His altruistic approach taught me that engineering was more than just a job but that it is an opportunity to improve my community and humankind.

Image courtesy: Melvyn Bolus.