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Learning curve for A-Star pupils

‘Education never stops and it’s time we put rail on the national curriculum,’ said Patricia Holgate of London Underground speaking at the start of the RailStaff Awards 2013.

The party this year revolved around a Back to School theme with raucous partygoers interrupting speeches with raspberry-blowing balloons and party poppers. ‘I must say these events were very different under British Rail,’ said one startled rail chief.

Colin Flack, genial head of the Rail Alliance, hosted the evening calling on every ounce of his experience as an army officer to control proceedings. Martin Frobisher of Network Rail managed to state in two sentences what the RailStaff Awards is about. ‘Today is a big day in the railway calendar,’ Martin said. ‘It’s the day that we recognise all the efforts of the real people who do the work operating, maintaining and building the railway.’

Trumpet Blowing

The RailStaff Awards was set up to celebrate the hard work and courage of the ordinary men and women who make up the industry. ‘We don’t do enough to recognise good practice and it’s great to get a chance to do it,’ says Paul Moogan of Morson International.

Network Rail’s, Jo Kaye, representing the Institution of Railway Operators agrees. ‘People are naturally reluctant to blow their own trumpet so we should provide an opportunity to do it for them.’

Read through the nominations and talk to the winners and most railway staff will say, ‘I was just doing my job,’ or ‘It’s the people I work with, this is their award really.’ Railway people are self deprecating and modest but recognition is important.

Says Chris Godbold from the Transport Benevolent Fund, ‘We feel it’s important to recognise those staff who have not only fulfilled expectations but go that little bit further and provide exceptional service.’

Outstanding achievements of individual staff and their teams testify to an exceptional and confident industry. For instance Toni Goulden of Navartis, acknowledged the role of 100s of project managers,

‘We deal with project managers all the time but there are always some who stand out more.’

It is this need for recognition that makes the RailStaff Awards popular with the 35,000 people who nominated colleagues.

Joined up thinking

The RailStaff Awards sees people from all across the industry coming together from driver to track worker and cleaner to chief executive. Unity, joined up thinking, call it what you will. One cheerful engineer called it Personal Integration. It is a picture of the railway as it should be.

Says Patricia Holgate, from London Underground, ‘We got involved with the awards because we wanted to celebrate the contribution of teams and the value of working together across the industry.’

It’s a theme reflected by Phil Mounter of Westermo. ‘I think it’s important to celebrate individual initiative…(but) the reason we wanted to support the awards was that we wanted to support the rail industry. We wanted to put something back into the industry.’

Interestingly several companies involved in backing the RailStaff Awards have an industry-wide reach. Says Kamal Basra of Bodyguard Workwear, ‘The rail industry is a very challenging place and there are so many people who work very, very hard behind the scenes and are quite often unaccounted for.

‘As a service provider, we also understand how difficult it can be managing people’s expectations. By sponsoring this award we are able to recognise the achievements of special people in this industry.’

Phil Whittingham of Virgin Trains, summed up the underlying logic behind the RailStaff Awards. ‘Team work in the industry is massively important,’ he said.

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