My father, Mike Kewell, who has died aged 83, was a weather forecaster turned transport economist who worked for many years for British Rail, including on planning for the building of the Channel Tunnel.
Mike was born in Danbury, Essex, to Margaret (nee Tonkin), a machinist, and Frederick Kewell, a roofing consultant. He attended King Edward VI grammar school in Chelmsford, then worked briefly for Barclays Bank before two years of national service with the RAF as a progress clerk, rising to corporal. In 1958 he spent nine months as a purser serving on the SS Nevasa and SS Dunera, troop ships that also carried civilian passengers.
He then had a two year period with the Meteorological Office as a weather forecaster, based in various parts of south-west England. From 1961 to 1963 he worked for British Rail as a goods correspondence clerk in Exeter, where he joined the International Friendship League and started folk dancing, an activity that led him to meet Pamela Hampson, whom he married in 1963. He returned to work at the Met Office for a further three years.
In 1966 Mike became a mature student at Keele University, where he gained a degree in economics and geography, and in 1970 he rejoined British Rail, firstly as a computer programmer in Crewe and then on passenger train surveys based in York.
In 1975 he became an economist at British Rail’s headquarters in Marylebone, London, and in 1978 he joined its strategic planning unit as a transport economist. In 1983 he moved to Freightliner, British Rail’s container-carrying subsidiary, working on forward planning for the Channel Tunnel project until retirement in 1992.
Mike was a charismatic man who wrote and read prodigiously. He was a keen reader of the Guardian and Observer: rarely did a letter to family members arrive without a handful of interesting articles clipped out of them.
In retirement in Cumbria, he campaigned for better facilities at his local railway station, Dalton-in-Furness, and was, with others, able to bring about the installation of a raised platform and a new public information system. He also worked as an interviewer for the National Centre for Social Research – a job that suited him well as he enjoyed good conversation – and volunteered with Age UK Barrow to help out with their intergenerational project, Building Bridges.
He was a classical music fan, bridge and badminton player, Scrabble aficionado and an allotment gardener, writing a gardening advice column for the local newspaper. He also kept up his folk dancing and was a regular caller at Crook Folk Dance Group in Cumbria.
He is survived by Pamela, from whom he was separated, their children, Stephen, me and Simon, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild, and his siblings, Julia, Ben and Andrew.