He is in charge of spending £120 million a month, a long way from his humble beginnings in Abertillery. Terry Morgan, 64, explains how he rose from being an apprentice in Cwmbran to the chairman of Crossrail, in charge of building the east-west rail link in London. He talks to HAYLEY MILLS.

I WAS born in Abertillery, but moved when I was about three to Cwmbran because of my father’s work in Newport.

After failing my eleven-plus exams, I went to Croesyceiliog Comprehensive School, where I enjoyed numeracy. I loved school and ended up as head boy.

I had a go at everything during my school years, and like most boys I played rugby and kept on playing until I was 49.

I played for Cwmbran Brass Band in my teenage years, playing the E-flat horn and the euphonium.

I left school at 15, and if you were lucky you got an apprenticeship and that is the best that you could hope for.

I got an apprenticeship with Lucas Girling factory in Cwmbran, where they made car parts.

I spent my time doing both study and on release at the factory, where I was taught milling and grinding, and all the skills to get me prepared for shop-floor work.

I passed my exams and converted to a student apprentice, where I went on to learn engineering skills.

The company saw great potential in me and it turned into a six-year apprenticeship. I went to Newport College for an extra year to study professional engineering.

During this section of my life I had farming connections as my now wife, Ann, is a farmer’s daughter, and I started a tug-of-war team called Gwent Farmers. At the age of 20 I became the treasurer and my first job was to raise funding for our annual competition.

It happened to be the South Wales Argus who sponsored us. I can’t remember the amount, but at the time it meant a lot to me that I had found funds when others had been unable to.

Ann and I got married in 1970 in Llantarnam Church and we have two children, Rebecca and Rhys.

I stayed with Lucas Girling, and at the age of 22 I moved to Birmingham.

I recognise now that very few people ever did move away, but at the time it felt like a natural thing because I wanted to take the opportunity. So I moved with Ann.

For five years I was in charge of the company’s overseas operation, so I spent time travelling and working abroad. Most of my time was spent in Russia, installing a facility to make trucks.

Then Lucas Girling gave me the opportunity to go to university to do a Master’s in engineering and management.

I was keen to do it but they were uncertain as they had previously sent people on the course but had been unable to retain them.

When I completed the course they didn’t know what to do with me, and it was no benefit to me to stay with them in terms of my career, so they didn’t retain me, either. I left the company around the age of 30.

I went on to work for British Leyland, who made trucks and buses. First off I looked after the company in terms of robotics, before being promoted to operational management roles.

I was in my early thirties and running a plant of about 1,000 staff.

Then I transferred to the Rover Group, and moved to Solihull, where I still live.

I had three different jobs with them and ended up as the managing director of Land Rover.

I was responsible for design and manufacture and in charge of 12,000 people. I stayed with them for ten years.

Some of the things I’m proud of from my time there. I made the first Discovery and I achieved project approval for Freelander.

I then became managing director of Royal Ordnance, which was bought by British Aerospace, so I then moved to become group HR director for BAE Systems. I was then in charge of 100,000 people.

While I was there, I ran everything that didn’t fly within the company, so shipyards and Royal Ordnance.

I left in 2002/ 2003, and was then asked to work as chief executive of Tube Lines, a company which had secured funding to maintain and upgrade the infrastructure of the tube lines.

I did seven years with the company, and then when I was 60 I realised that I had done everything that I wanted to do in an executive role.

So I took up the non-executive role of chairman of Crossrail in 2009.

I have been here for four years, and my contract says 2015, and I have no idea what will happen after. But my wife says that she doesn’t want me to retire as I enjoy work and I like being busy.

The project spends £120m a month from a budget of £15bn, and when the project is running at full volume we will be in charge of 55,000 people.

Although the project is London based, the benefits will be across the UK and steel used has been sourced from a company in Neath.

The project will dramatically reduce the journey times across London.

I’m really enjoying what I am doing at the moment, and I also enjoyed my time with Land Rover and Tube Lines.

It was an honour to receive the CBE in 2009 for services to the railway sector. As a young man growing up in South Wales I never imagined that I’d end up at Buckingham Palace collecting an award like that.

I have had some luck over the years, but I have worked hard for it.

I’m the non-executive chairman of the Manufacturing Technology Centre and the National Skills Academy for Railway Engineering, as I want to give people the same opportunities that I had in my life.

I am also involved in the apprentice scheme with Crossrail.

I’m very proud of my background and of being Welsh, and anyone only has to look at my golf bag to see that.

I come back to Wales to see family but not as often as I would like.

I’m always busy and I’m mostly answering e-mails. Put it like this, as an apprentice I used to clock on at 7am and I don’t think I have lost that.