When it comes to a vote of confidence in railways it doesn’t get much bigger than the RailStaff Awards 2015. Over 40,000 rail staff voted in the RailStaff Awards this year, choosing the industry’s winners in 20 separate categories. 1,200 nominations were received. On the night itself, over 1,000 railway staff, friends and family piled into the Ricoh Arena in Coventry for what is a unique celebration of a prosperous yet caring industry.
Help! might be a cry of desperation in any other industry but not in railways. Almost all the winners at the RailStaff Awards 2015 can be defined as having helped members of the public, fellow workers, new recruits or second careerists in some way. It would be facetious to suggest railway people are kinder and warmer than their counterparts in aviation, the motor trade or the ships and ferries that ply our seas. Make no mistake, railway companies are as dynamic and commercially hard headed as the most ruthless dot.com buccaneers. Marketing specialists go to enormous lengths to load trains off peak.
Contractors certainly drive a hard bargain. Trade unionists and senior management lock horns in bull- goring discussions about wage demands and jobs. All of this is faithfully reported in the conventional media. Fare hikes and strikes seem to be the backbone of public perceptions of railways.
That said, a brief look through the pages that follow this one shows a more concerned and caring side of an industry forged in steel and struggle, coal and cold, showers and… well all sorts of weather. These are stories of kindness and compassion, encouragement and support. Pro-active helpfulness defines the award winners: how better to drive up customer care, recruit new staff, save that life, improve safety?
How many lives have been saved by the intervention of concerned staff? How many injuries prevented by staff safety feedback and the spread of best practice? This is also an industry that specialises in second chances. We see young apprentices joining up, often after a few years in jobs that offer little future and no sense of adventure or achievement.
Rail rehabilitates offenders, takes on ex-servicemen and actively recruits former teachers, drivers and retail staff – anyone, in fact, keen to join the greatest growth phenomenon of our time. That’s in addition to a growing phalanx of graduates and school leavers. For the truth is railways need more people to build the infrastructure of tomorrow – needed now with an urgency passengers and freight forwarders are only too ready to affirm.
Watchword of success
The main catalyst behind the success of the rail industry is the helpfulness and ingenuity of railway people, the ability to go beyond the initial requirements of the job description or contract. Needs and situations are anticipated, not just suffered with a siege mentality.
This is what distinguishes an industry actively answering the challenges of its time. It is this basic ethos that informs the diligence of planners and engineers driving forward projects designed to increase capacity, reduce costs and make transport safe and efficient throughout the UK. It is nowhere more apparent than in the kindness and compassion of frontline staff.
Help transcends questions of ownership or political identity. The railway’s idea of helpfulness, of initiative, imagination and vision goes far beyond the routine customer care guff we hear in other industries. It is a tenet of belief that sits right at the heart of the railway industry. Help is not a despairing doomsday scream, no, in the railway industry it is a reasoned statement of intent. It’s the watchword of success.
This ethos finds its recognition and affirmation at the RailStaff Awards. Congratulations to all our winners, their supporters, families and friends. That celebration was your night; recognition for your hard work.
Let’s hope it’s a help.