Railway humour was out in force at this year’s RailStaff Awards.
Staged at the International Convention Centre in Birmingham the evening had a Halloween theme. ‘Come straight from work have you, Julie?’ said a railway manager to a colleague who was sipping a beer with a knife slicing through her head. ‘Yeah, another of those financial compliance meetings – you know how tough they can be?’
As Colin Flack, master of ceremonies swirled by in a cloak, a blood soaked vampire strolled past. A woman from a north country train company said, ‘I’m sure I know you – you’re from the Department for Transport aren’t you?’
The RailStaff Awards mixes railway staff from all over the industry. People from London Underground, ScotRail, London Midland mingle with track workers and signallers from infrastructure firms like Bridgeway Consulting, Amey and Network Rail.
Many of the men dressed up in dinner jackets and bow ties, several sported full highland regalia. Ladies tripped out in ball gowns and frocks sparkling in an explosive display of railway elegance unequalled this side of Donatella Versace’s best efforts on the catwalks of New York.
600 railway staff, families and friends dressed to impress and celebrated Britain’s recession defying industry with gusto. The swirling smoke, cobwebbed tombstones and gallows formed a fitting backdrop as guests saluted the industry that refused to die.
It is hard to imagine only 15 years ago railways in Britain were doomed to managed decline. Closure and weeds in the ballast have given way to new stations, white concrete, trams and tracks and the promise of still greater developments to come.
Many of the people who stayed the course and turned the industry around were kicking their heels up at the RailStaff Awards. Top psychic and mind reader, Paul Stockman, provided an intriguing show that mixed Psychology and Intuition to give the illusion of real psychic abilities. You don’t have to be psychic to guess at the future for railways. Passenger volumes continue to grow and rail freight operations are continually asking for more paths, better capacity. Major new projects like Crossrail and High Speed Two look like further increasing the scope of the new rail industry.
Later people danced the night away to appropriately dressed top band Fully FunKtional. The band has become a firm fixture at the RailStaff Awards.
Humour apart railways in the main are serious affairs. A travelling passenger is entrusting her safety to a group of people she would probably not recognise if she passed them in the street.
Behind the dry ice, rock music and stroboscope the focus is on the courage and professionalism of the driver, track worker, cleaner, signaller, guard and many more staff. Amidst the fog and thunder the RailStaff Awards sets out to recognise them all.
Newcomer / Graduate of the Year
Shauni O’Neill, London Underground
Rail Team of the Year
CCTV Team, First Capital Connect
Train Driver of the Year
Paul Trigwell, East Midlands Trains
Rail Engineer of the Year
Lee Johnson, Amey
Trainer of the Year
Alison Walters, Network Rail
Signaller of the Year
Michael Lane, Network Rail
Station Staff of the Year
Richard Millbank, East Coast
Rail Safety Person of the Year
Steve Wiskin, Atkins
Recruiter / HR Person of the Year
Kris Parkin, London Underground
Rail Infrastructure Person of the Year
Paul Eggett, Bridgeway Consulting
Outstanding Customer Service
Paddy Fitzsimons, Virgin Trains
Depot Staff of the Year
Heather Neely, Southern
Rail Manager of the Year
Stephen Green, Northern Rail
Lifetime Achievement Award
Jacques Goodall, First Capital Connect
Rail Person of the Year
Jenny Calvert, Merseyrail