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Teams that form a strong bond often refer to themselves as a family. Hitachi’s Ashford train maintenance crew – the winners of the Depot Team of the Year category at last year’s RailStaff Awards – would agree.

Sometimes the term is completely accurate. It used to be common to follow members of your family on to the railway; it still happens today even if it is not as familiar a story. The railway relies on family ties and family-run businesses.

Branching out

Set up in 1995, Seaton Rail is managed by father-and-son team Shane and Matthew Seaton. The company, which is based in Bridlington, initially offered possession and works planning services, but in 2008 branched out, adding contingent labour supply, training and on track protection and warning services.

Seaton Rail, an approved Rail Training Accreditation Scheme provider (RTAS) through the National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR), is a member of the Association of Railway Training Providers (ARTP) and the British Safety Council. The business continues to add and expand its activities in the sector. In June, the company announced it had received its accreditation to provide drugs and alcohol screening services.

A former British Rail signalling and telecommunications engineer, Shane took voluntary redundancy in the mid-1990s to establish the company, which is sponsoring the Depot Team of the Year category for 2016.

Depot Team of the Year is the only category which specifically sets out to reward the hard-working teams that strive to ensure the reliability of the trains and maintenance vehicles that operate across Britain’s rail network.

As well as his role as managing director, Shane is also the company’s compliance manager, which involves doing the inductions for new staff, delivering training sessions, distributing safety bulletins and chairing safety meetings. His son, Matt, followed him into the industry and is now Seaton Rail’s director of operations – a role that involves managing the allocation of staff and working with clients to plan projects.

The family connection doesn’t stop there. Shane’s partner, Maggie, is the company’s accounts manager, his daughter Laura is the office manager and his youngest son, David, is the training and development manager.

Valuable assets

A significant chunk of Shane’s time is spent developing new and existing staff. He has recently trained three new trainers for the business who he hopes will soon gain their NSAR accreditation to deliver track safety training.

Seaton Rail initially specialised in planning projects and would use a third party labour supply agency to carry out the work. The company has now taken that element in-house – it currently employs around 100 sponsored staff as well as 27 full-time employees. Shane says this gives the company a better understanding of his workforce – what they are trained and equipped to do – and avoids scenarios in which works have to be cancelled because the technicians that have turned up on site aren’t able to carry out the required tasks.

‘Recognising and rewarding staff is essential’, says Shane. Seaton Rail won’t be using the evening to entertain clients, instead members of frontline staff have been invited to attend. ‘Our employees are a valuable asset to us and how they perform makes a big difference to our business,’ said Shane.