Three-time RailSport football winner Chris Henry explains why he’s returning to defend LOROL’s title in 2017.
One word sticks in the mind of London Overground worker Chris Henry when you speak to him about the trackside fire near South Hampstead in April: stress.
The 32-year-old customer host didn’t tackle any fires or organise diversions but the knock-on effect from the blaze meant that passengers were still experiencing disruptions the following day.
London’s Euston station was evacuated and signalling equipment was damaged in the fire on April 19, causing problems across the capital’s rail network.
Working for London Overground Rail Operations Limited (LOROL) in his customer-facing role at Shepherd’s Bush station, Chris was one of a number of front line workers tasked with guiding the public through the travel chaos.
It is a job he loves – in July he will celebrate 10 years at the station – but after a busy day dealing with a barrage of customer enquiries there’s nothing he enjoys more than unwinding with a game of football.
A semi-professional footballer with Non-League side Chalfont St Peter FC, Chris trains twice a week, plays every Saturday in the Southern Football League and has combined this passion with his work on the railway, to great success.
In 2016, he was a member of a nine-man squad that triumphed in the five-a-side competition at the RailSport Games, a huge nationwide competition that sees hundreds compete in the industry’s equivalent of the Olympic Games.
Chris is no stranger to the competition having entered every games for the past seven years and 2017 is no different, as LOROL returns to add to its haul of silverware.
‘To be honest, the competition has got better. We have had to up our game,’ says Chris, talking about the five-a-side competition he has won on three occasions.
‘Some of the staff from LOROL play in the Underground Football League, of which I’m the manager and captain, and the players from that team enter RailSport together with one or two that haven’t experienced it before. Some of us are semi-pro too.
‘Last year our team was the best – we did win it after all – so for this year people know to bring a better team, but I think we’ll win it again.’
In 2016, the competition was organised into four groups of four teams with LOROL ultimately snatching the title from defending champions Lucchini Unipart Rail in a 5-3 victory.
A left-sided winger in 11-a-side football, Chris was LOROL’s main goal scoring threat and scored a beautifully lofted goal from behind the halfway line in the final.
This year will mark the first time RailMedia has organised RailSport, which is supported by Hitachi Rail, HS2, Network Rail, Public Health England’s One You and the Transport Benevolent Fund (TBF).
In addition to the five-a-side team, LOROL will be entering a six-a-side and a darts team in 2017.
But, whatever you do, don’t ask Chris about the RailSport cricket team he was a part of a few years back.
‘It didn’t go well. Overall it was a good year because I was in the cricket and football teams, but there were only two in the cricket team that knew what they were doing. I was absolutely pants.
‘Don’t get me wrong though, we take football very seriously.’
Chris followed his grandad into the transport industry and is now working towards becoming a train driver. He says that, aside from any sporting achievements, the event is great for networking.
‘I enjoy meeting other people from the train industry, talking about trains, industry changes, cracking jokes and competing with each other.
‘I’ve met a number of friends through it too, everyone is always so friendly. That is one of the things I always look forward to every year.
‘It is a good little weekend away and we all go out afterwards to find out more about each other. It is a bit of team bonding and you get to know your work pals better. You don’t always get to go out all the time at work.
‘All rail workers should go and experience it.’