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Who’s Hoo: A new home for Amtrain

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Built at the turn of the millennium, the Hoo Junction training facility in Kent has seen some of the industry’s best and brightest come through its doors. Now its new custodian, Amtrain, plans to build on its previous success and bring its own brand of high-quality railway training to the South East.

Founded by husband and wife Andy and Sheila McKenna in 1997, Amtrain delivers a wide range of training courses for the rail sector, including track inductions and PTS, COSS, lookout/site warden, crane controller and engineering supervisor.

Initially run out of the family home, the company’s headquarters is now located off the A38 in Fradley. In 2017, Amtrain acquired Hoo Junction to expand its offering around the country and has now appointed an experienced manager to oversee the day-to-day running of the facility.

Under new management

Hoo Junction has five classrooms and a large outdoor practical training area. The centre can deliver small plant, machine crane controller/operator and all Sentinel safety-critical courses. It has a large car park and the capacity to accommodate up to 60 candidates daily.

The site will be managed by a career railwayman and passionate track safety advocate, Graham Ellis.

Graham began his career with British Rail as a second man in Stratford, East London, progressing through the grades to become train crew supervisor at London Liverpool Street. He briefly left the industry prior to privatisation before returning to the private sector under Railtrack, where he worked on numerous projects as a safety critical operative, eventually reaching the grade of senior PICOP.

In 1986, Graham set up his own railway training company in Somerset before joining McGinley in 1997 as a senior PICOP. He later became head of safety in 2001 and cites among his proudest achievements the creation of the ‘Safety IN Rail’ publication.

Graham is also a past board member of the Rail Industry Contractors Association (RICA), the Association of Railway Training Providers (ARTP) and was a member of the Network Rail training material review panel.

Following a tragic accident in 2000, he helped to introduce the ‘Blue Hat’ initiative through McGinley to enable clients to instantly recognise inexperienced track workers. This initiative was introduced by Balfour Beatty as a Wessex-specific solution to what was then an industry-wide problem and when Railtrack took control of the national infrastructure it became a norm for the entire industry.

In 2012, Graham became national training manager for McGinley’s in-house training division, successfully achieving an 86 per cent coverage of all internal training.

Glory days

Graham sees the reopening of Hoo Junction as the next chapter in Amtrain’s growth nationally. “This will be an exciting challenge to bring Hoo back to its former glory days,” said Graham. “The site offers excellent facilities to make a success in the continuing expansion of Amtrain as the go-to company for quality training and assessment in the South East and Midlands.”

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