If you listen to speeches from industry figureheads, we are often reminded that passenger journeys on the railways have more than doubled in the past 20 years, and for good reason. Higher demands on a railway that was largely built during the Victorian era has led to the need for big capacity-enhancing projects to alleviate some of the network’s stresses and strains.
However, capacity isn’t the only issue for the crowded network, as Land Sheriffs managing director Tyler LeMay explains.
“A general increase in people using the railway unfortunately brings with it more trouble. More efforts are needed so that it is policed not only by the BTP but via companies like us that bring an element of safeguarding for employees and customers.”
The professional security firm works with the rail industry in the south east to provide a reassuring presence on-board trains and on station platforms, to deal with anti-social behaviour and enforce railway bylaws.
Over the course of the last year, the company has experienced a surge in the demand for its services. In September, Greater Anglia announced the introduction of extra Land Sheriffs to improve safety and security for passengers on trains. The train company’s head of customer service Neil Grabham said the Land Sheriffs, of which 30 now patrol East Anglia, “do a great job of deterring crime”.
The latest deployment of security personnel on intercity trains, predominantly from Norwich into London, is the first such dedicated on-board force, rather than on an ad-hoc basis. Crucially these are not employed to fulfil the role of conductors or train guards but to carry out safeguarding duties.
Life-saving interventions are another big part of Land Sheriffs’ work. So far this year, specially trained personnel have made 34 potentially life-saving interventions across the company.
LeMay said: “We’ve been more actively involved in a safeguarding role around wellbeing and the safety of our customers’ frontline staff. Workplace violence and problems with antisocial behaviour seem to be on the increase.
“There seems to be a general trend across all crime statistics at the moment. We’ve been much more focused and relied upon to deal with helping with the safeguarding of passengers, commuters and frontline staff, gateline staff, station staff and obviously staff on trains as well.”
The type of work Land Sheriffs are tasked with means that it can often be a stressful job, and the company has systems in place to ensure staff are monitored and have access to support should they need it.
Part of the wider support includes recognising hard work and when staff do something extraordinary. Every month, Land Sheriffs, which is a living wage employer, issues an Employee of the Month award. In addition, for the last two years, LeMay and the management team have handed out Life Saver Awards every time a member of staff undertakes a potentially life-saving intervention. Recipients of both awards have their photo taken which is posted online to celebrate their achievements.
Last year, security officers Tek Malla and Purna Gurung achieved what LeMay described as “the next level of recognition” when they took home the Samaritans Lifesaver Award at the RailStaff Awards. The duo dedicated the win to the whole Land Sheriffs team and have since proudly put their awards on display at home.
“It was great for the whole team, from management who deliver the training right through the organisation to the teams that Tek and Purna work with. I think it was nice for them to feel recognised,” said LeMay.
“Across the industry there are lots and lots of people each day saving lives, so to be recognised by industry and by the judging panel as the two that they see as the best of the best was really big for them.”
Less than two months to go
For this year’s RailStaff Awards, Land Sheriffs will not only be taking members of its 150-strong workforce to the ceremony on 29 November, but it is also sponsoring the Charitable Person or Team of the Year category.
LeMay said: “It’s not about the size of the project or the amount of money they have raised, it’s what effort the individual person has put in in order to achieve whatever they’ve set out to do. We’re quite big on charitable giving and community engagement, so it was nice to be able to choose an award that we believe is very important and to help give something back to the community.”
He added: “The great thing about these awards, hence the name, is it brings the staff to the fore. There are lots of big business and corporate ones, and it’s great for businesses to be recognised, but every big business is built on good people and it’s important they are recognised.
“The RailStaff Awards does a fantastic job of bringing people from all over the country together for a celebration right across the industry.”
Picture caption: Paula Hilliard, last year’s winner of the Charitable Person or Team of the Year Award.