Not so long ago, in an enchanted land not so far away, a journey into a magical kingdom led to a fairytale ending for 12 men, three women and five teams.
The collective band of apprentices, engineers and train staff were among hundreds of industry workers who were this year nominated for a RailStaff Award. Following a five-month, multi-stage process in which 63,500 votes were cast – that’s 20,000 more than 2017 – and 691 nominations were whittled down by a judging panel of category sponsors and industry figureheads, 20 finalists were crowned at a dazzling ceremony on November 29.
This year the RailStaff Awards was held at the NEC in Birmingham which – by the power of magic – was transformed into an out of this world wonderland. Hidden among the centre’s mammoth exhibition halls was a cavernous woodland where acrobatic pixies, imps and goat men danced below a sky of mystical orbs.
Order was kept by the night’s keeper Richard Salkeld, who is, appropriately, the communications manager at Great Western Railway. He was also briefly joined on stage by newly instated Network Rail chief executive Andrew Haines for his very first RailStaff Awards ceremony, as well as a number of dynamic character performers who enthralled guests with their pyrotechnics and aerial stunts.
A massive thank you goes out to everyone who helps to make the RailStaff Awards happen. From our sponsors, without whom the awards would not be possible, to the 900 guests that attended, colleagues who have submitted nominations and the incredible people who are the reason we organise the country’s only national awards night for rail staff.
Thank you. We hope you enjoy reading about the 20 incredible winners in the following pages and can’t wait for you to see what we have in store for next year’s ceremony.
Information on all of the finalists, as well as pictures from the night, will be available by going to: www.railstaffawards.com/winners
Click below to jump to one of the 20 categories:
- Apprentice of the Year – Cameron O’Connell (Amey)
- Graduate of the Year – James Featherstone (Network Rail)
- Charitable Person of the Year – Neil Wightman (Network Rail)
- Samaritans Lifesaver Award – Rizwan Javed (MTR Crossrail)
- Control, Signalling & Telecoms Person or Team of the Year – Garry Andrews (telent)
- Marketing and Communications Person or Team of the Year – ScotRail
- Outstanding Customer Service Award – Paul Arnill (Land Sheriffs)
- Station Staff of the Year – Nigel Venneear (Govia Thameslink Railway)
- Project Manager of the Year – Kirsty Devlin (ScotRail)
- Rail Manager of the Year – Carys Thomas (Great Western Railway)
- Rail Infrastructure Person or Team of the Year – BTP Emergency Intervention Unit
- Rail Engineer of the Year – Scott McKavett (Network Rail)
- Train Driver of the Year – Jason Brooks (Greater Anglia)
- Depot Person of the Year – Encarna Huerta (Govia Thameslink Railway)
- Recruiter/HR Person or Team of the Year – Stephen Bulloch (AECOM)
- Trainer or Training Team of the Year – Virgin Trains’ Training Team
- Rail Safety Person or Team of the Year – The Milton Keynes Escalation Team (Network Rail, Samaritans, BTP, TVP, West Midlands Trains and Virgin)
- Lifetime Achievement Award – Graeme Brindle (Amey)
- Rail Person of the Year – Lee Woolcott-Ellis (Southeastern)
- Rail Team of the Year – Team Project SWIFT (Network Rail, ScotRail, CISCO, telent)
Rising stars of rail
When Cameron O’Connell, of Druids Heath, Birmingham, suffered a serious back injury and was forced to quit the British Army in 2015, he initially struggled with the transition to ‘civvy street’.
But through perseverance, and thanks to the transferable skills and experiences he had picked up as a communication systems operator, the 27-year-old landed an apprenticeship with Amey as an electrification and plant (E&P) engineer.
Despite knowing very little about the industry when he joined, Cameron’s hunger to learn and develop have since set him apart from his peers.
Starting with no qualifications, he has completed a BTEC, a Higher National Certificate and is now undertaking a foundation degree, all in electrical and electronics engineering. This was all while taking part in projects such as the East Midlands signalling power reliability and improvement works, where he has helped to survey a 50-mile stretch between St Pancras and Bedford as part of a major upgrade.
Cameron’s former mentor Abdul Rehman Savant, a senior E&P engineer at Amey who worked with Cameron on the project, said the ex-apprentice is “on the path to success”.
Cameron, who now works for consultancy TSP Projects as an assistant electrical engineer, said: “I am so grateful to Amey for helping me through everything. They gave me the opportunity and I seized it with both hands.
“I just want to keep going all the way to the top. I want to be the CEO of a major company one day.”
The Apprentice of the Year Award was sponsored by Adey Steel, a leading fabrication specialist of rail infrastructure steelwork.
Andrew Adey, Adey Steel Group managing director, said: “There were a number of worthy finalists but what’s exceptional about Cameron’s story is how well he has adapted to a professional career after a challenging period of military service.
“I’m very impressed with the immediate impact he has made and his career trajectory looks to be an exciting one. There’s no stopping him at the minute.”
On the fast track to success
Another of the rail industry’s rising stars who was celebrated at the RailStaff Awards was James Featherstone, of Solihull, who was named Graduate of the Year.
James, a first-year civil engineer on Network Rail’s graduate scheme, played a pivotal role in his employer’s largest outreach programme for its Year of Engineering campaign, a project called ‘FastTrackers’, which features on page 60 of this months issue of RailStaff.
Working with a number of industry partners, the 23-year-old and the delivery team arranged for 200 16-19 year-olds to experience university life and engineering careers through a five-day STEM learning programme in June.
The UK currently faces an annual shortfall of up to 59,000 engineering graduates and technicians and FastTrackers aims to showcase, to teenagers from areas that experience low higher education uptake, the wide range of opportunities available in engineering.
James’ strong leadership traits have already been identified by the University of Sheffield, which put him through its Engineering Leadership Academy during his studies there. The department aims to fast-track the development of high-potential engineering undergraduates into leaders.
Although he is still in the early stages of his career, James, whose award win comes just over a year after graduating, looks set to follow in his father’s footsteps to become a rail industry leader. James’ dad, Steve Featherstone, is currently the track programme director at Network Rail.
James said: “The calibre of people I was up against for this award was so high; a lot of the guys I was running against worked on the project with me on Fast Trackers. I’m really, really surprised because I didn’t expect it at all.
“As part of the Network Rail graduate scheme, we have the flexibility to go and do a lot of things because we have the flexibility to go to various teams and, while we’re in those teams, go and run other projects.
“I’m only a year into the actual grad scheme so I don’t know what I want to do yet. I’m a proud civil engineer but, whether I go into straight engineering or whether I look elsewhere, potentially at construction management, there are options for where I could make my mark.”
The Graduate of the Year Award was sponsored by train operator Govia Thameslink Railway, which runs the Thameslink, Southern, Great Northern and Gatwick Express services and is partly owned by the Go-Ahead Group.
Patrick Verwer, the chief executive of Govia Thameslink Railway, said: “We care about the future of this industry.
“To support this, we are working hard to attract and retain the next generation of talent with our own schemes, while supporting the industry drive to bring more young people into this fantastic sector through graduate programmes.
“Progress and development depends on young people joining and becoming the next leaders and this award gives us the opportunity to recognise the new graduates who will help to shape the future of rail in the UK.”
Raising money and saving lives
Relentless fundraiser Neil Wightman was named Charitable Person of the Year for conquering a colossal charity challenge.
Ever since his dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease several years ago, Neil, of Kirkintilloch, has tried to raise as much money as he can for research into the disease, which currently has no known cure.
Across the UK, 145,000 people have Parkinson’s and every hour, two more are told they have the degenerative neurological condition.
Neil, a Network Rail track quality supervisor, was already taking part in tough cross-country events, raising money for various charities in the process, but about 18 months ago decided to “go bigger” for 2018.
By the end of the year, the 38-year-old will have taken on nine Tough Mudders, two Tartan Warriors, two MacTuffs, a Badass Mucker and a Winter Wolf run, as well as several other walking and running events – one of which was the Glencoe Challenge, a 26-mile walk through the Scottish mountains.
Neil’s first target was to raise £1,000 for Parkinson’s UK. However, he’s now reached £4,600 and the figure is still climbing.
Neil said: “I’ve just been blown away with the amount of support I’ve had. It’s just been phenomenal.
“Originally, I was just going to do the ‘Tough Mudder’ series, which lasts about six months, but, when I started looking at it, I decided to go a bit more, so I’m now at 20 events.”
Tyler LeMay, managing director of category sponsor Land Sheriffs, presented Neil with his trophy.
He said: “I think it’s important that people choose something close to their heart, something they believe in and something they can make a difference with.
“Lots of our staff do lots of charitable things through the year. We chose this award to sponsor because of that. To be able to recognise people like Neil, who do the things they do, I think it’s commendable.”
The nomination for Neil came from Parkinson’s UK regional fundraiser Jan Mattison. She said: “Neil’s been a star for Parkinson’s UK this year. Not only has he raised so much money but his exploits have really helped raise awareness of the charity too.
“Big thanks to Neil and to all his family and friends who have been so supportive and got involved in the huge number of events he’s taken part in.”
If you would like to support Neil Wightman in his fundraising efforts, you can do so by visiting: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/neil-wightman
Recognition for good Samaritan
Elsewhere, a good Samaritan whose small talk has led to 25 life-saving interventions in three years was also honoured.
Rizwan Javed, a 28-year-old duty customer service experience manager for MTR Crossrail, attended a Samaritans managing suicidal contacts training course on identifying and coping with potential suicides in his first week working on the railway in 2015.
The following week, he was alone on a platform when he noticed a vulnerable passenger.
Rizwan, of East London, said: “If it wasn’t for me going on that Samaritans course, I wouldn’t have had the confidence to approach that passenger and help him deal with his issues and, I would like to think, give him the help that he deserved to get him back on track. And I would like to think that he did get back on track and has made progress in his life.
“There are some people that look lost on the platforms, other people like to hide themselves away until they are approached, and some people you are fortunate enough to catch before they take that final step in front of a train.
“I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and to have the confidence to approach these people and build that small talk and potentially save many lives.
“If I see people missing trains, going backwards and forwards to the edge of the platform, weird sort of behaviours, facial expressions, I feel I need to go and challenge that. Being in charge of that station, it’s my duty to make sure everyone on that station is safe.”
The Lifesaver Award, which recognises those who have shown courage and compassion by helping someone in crisis, supporting them and keeping them safe, was sponsored by Samaritans.
Since 2010, as part of its partnership with the rail industry, Samaritans has trained nearly 18,000 rail staff and BTP officers with the skills to help someone at risk of suicide on the railway.
Jason Alexandre, training officer at Samaritans, said: “Samaritans are so proud to sponsor this award, and we’re so proud of Rizwan.
“He said he noticed somebody, he made an approach and he had the skills, in him, to actually make that conversation. Those conversations can be challenging – he said it was small talk – it’s a natural conversation that can get that person talking, break those suicidal thoughts and feelings, and then he got that person away from that place of danger to a place of safety and handed them on to someone that could help.
“It’s often only a short conversation, but, as he said, everyone’s different. He’s noticed, and he’s acted, and he’s done brilliantly.”
Communication is key
Telecoms engineers and media officers have little in common when it comes to their daily duties but both play an essential role in communications in the rail industry.
Since joining British Rail in Reading as a trainee technician some 30 years ago, telecoms engineer Garry Andrews has risen through the ranks to become the engineering manager of operational communications at tech firm telent.
Garry has been involved in many of the rail industry’s major signalling projects of recent years, working on such high-profile projects as Crossrail, Thameslink and the Channel Tunnel Rail Link. In November, he added another major achievement to his CV when he was named the Control, Signalling & Telecoms Person of the Year.
Garry stood out from 14 other finalists for his work in developing the rail industry’s workforce in the specialist field of telecoms.
He has trained and mentored 10 of only around 30 persons in charge of testing (PICOTs), who are responsible for putting telecoms systems into service in the UK. Many of them put forward nominations for Garry in this awards category, and spoke of him highly.
“It’s been fun passing on my knowledge and training people up,” said Garry. “There’s such a small family of people working in railway telecoms. If you mention a telecoms person, I probably know of them.
“From my point of view, a lot of the telecoms we do on the railway is still quite old-fashioned. We’ve only just started to move into IP networking. A lot of it is still two bits of wire down the train track. It’s not sexy and I think telecoms often gets missed off when people talk about projects.”
The Control, Signalling and Telecoms Person or Team of the Year Award was sponsored by industrial communications specialist Westermo, a long-standing supporter of the awards.
Phil Mounter, business development manager at Westermo, said: “We support the RailStaff Awards every year because we work with the rail industry and we just want to give a bit back.
“The work of mentoring and training for the telecoms community is vital to provide the industry with the next generation of people who are needed as Network Rail goes from legacy to digital signalling. People like Garry are instrumental in that.”
Beast from the East
In the Marketing and Communications Person or Team of the Year category, the ScotRail team won widespread plaudits for its work during the Beast from the East, which caused significant transport disruption across Scotland.
The team worked tirelessly throughout the winter storm in February and March 2018 to communicate effectively with customers during a very challenging situation.
During five days of the storm, the ScotRail Twitter team dealt with 26,000 incoming messages – more than four times the average figure.
Media relations officer Graeme Bulloch explained that the nomination was “a bit of a surprise”. He said: “The work was done during the Beast from the East, which was earlier in the year. It’s such a fast-paced environment that we’d rather moved on from that, but it’s nice to be recognised for the work that we did.”
At busy times like that, the whole team had to pull together. Social media officer Ciaran McGilp said: “It was essentially top of the news for days on end, so we just got the job done, keeping people moving.”
Part of the ScotRail team’s success that led to the award was its alliance with Network Rail, but internal communications officer Chloe Moore thought it was down to more than that.
“Speaking with other comms teams throughout the railway, one thing that’s unusual about us is that we have media and internal and social all in the one team. I think quite a lot of other TOCs (train operating companies) don’t have that, they have social sat with control and internal sat with HR, whereas we have everyone together in the one area and that really works with us.”
The Marketing and Communications Team of the Year Award was sponsored by Heathrow Airport to Paddington rail operator Heathrow Express.
Dan Edwards, commercial customer service manager at Heathrow Express, said: “The ScotRail Communications team dealt with multiple challenges in the face of the unprecedented disruption caused by the Beast from the East. The way in which they collaborated with internal and external stakeholders and ensured customers were updated on multiple channels was very impressive.
“This, coupled with the sheer customer focus demonstrated by the team, make them worthy winners of this award. Congratulations should also go to the two entries who were highly commended.”
Abylaw enforcement officer and a station assistant were among the creme de la creme of frontline staff recognised at this year’s ceremony.
Paul Arnill, whose role with employer Land Sheriffs is to deal with anti-social behaviour, fare evaders and enforce railway bylaws, has been praised by passengers in East Anglia for small gestures that have made a big difference to their day.
Paul’s credentials were bolstered by a number of testimonials. One person said the 50-year-old, who is based at Cambridge station, “really went the extra mile” when they left a rucksack onboard a train, describing him as a credit to his employer. While another heaped praise on Paul for “a very kind deed” when he came to the aid of a woman who was left stranded one night when her phone ran out of battery.
For remaining so positive despite the difficult situations he is often placed in, Paul, of Essex, was given the Outstanding Customer Service Award.
Paul said: “If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from the job, it’s how you approach someone, how you talk to someone, very often is how they come back at you. If you talk to people nicely, nine times out of 10 it tends to work.
“It can be quite – for want of a better word – frightening when they see us, and if you can be approachable, smile and explain why you’re here and what we’re doing – and the fact we’re there to make their day safer – I think it just goes a little way to making people feel a little bit more confident about travelling.”
Paul has worked for security company Land Sheriffs for the past 20 months and was previously a bodyguard for “A-List celebrities and music artists” – not that he is one for name dropping.
The Outstanding Customer Service Award was sponsored by Genesee & Wyoming (G&W) subsidiary Freightliner, the UK’s largest rail maritime intermodal operator and second largest freight rail provider.
Glynis Appelbe, HR director at G&W UK, Europe & Middle East, said: “Sponsoring the customer service award was a natural decision for us given our aim of delivering best in class service to our customers at all times.
“The category of Outstanding Customer Service was a highly contested one and a tough decision to make. However, the feedback from colleagues and, most importantly, customers and the general public demonstrated clearly to me Paul Arnill’s unwavering dedication to first class customer service. Customer service for Paul is clearly a way of life and not just what he is employed to do. A very worthy winner.”
Above and beyond
For also going above and beyond expectations, Govia Thameslink Railway employee Nigel Venneear was named Station Staff of the Year.
The 62-year-old station assistant was nominated for the industry honour following an incident at Hitchin railway station in which he saved a customer’s life.
Nigel, who lives in Stotford, was on the last hour of his shift when he heard a thud and turned to see a man laid out flat on the platform.
After going over to investigate, Nigel discovered the man was now unconscious and bleeding from his head.
After calling the emergency services and trying to stem the bleeding, Nigel noticed the customer had stopped breathing.
Remaining on the phone to the call handler, he was advised to get a defibrillator but hesitated because there was no one to stop the blood flow. Instead, he was instructed to give the man a sharp and strong hit to the middle of his chest, which by doing so caused the man to cough and splutter back to consciousness.
The emergency services then arrived and took the man to hospital.
Nigel, whose colleague Cindy Morse picked up the award in his absence as he was unable to attend, said: “I was gobsmacked when I found out I’d won. I was just doing my job. I was previously a British Transport Police officer for 35 years, so my training from that just kicked in.”
The Station Staff of the Year Award category was sponsored by the Transport Benevolent Fund (TBF), a non-profit making membership charity offering a wide range of financial, health and welfare benefits to those working in public transport, should need, hardship or distress arise.
Christopher Sullivan, chair of TBF, said: “Nigel has clearly put himself out – and this is what we’re about, we support people that support the customers.
“This guy has gone that one step beyond, he’s done his level best to be a good employee – and that’s another thing, you can have the flashiest new trains in the world, but frontline staff are a company’s best advert.”
The true measure of a good manager lies in their end results, as epitomised in both the Project Manager and Rail Manager of the Year categories, which were won by ScotRail project manager Kirsty Devlin and Great Western Railway (GWR) compliance manager Carys Thomas, respectively.
Kirsty was recognised for introducing ten new Class 365 trains in record time while Carys Thomas for the impact she made during her previous role as duty station manager at Bristol Temple Meads.
Kirsty, of Glasgow, oversaw the launch of the new trains, which were acquired from Govia Thameslink Railway as a contingency due to delays in the delivery of the new Class 385 trains.
Within three months, Kirsty’s team had to get the new trains gauge cleared, ready for passenger service, and introduced to rail services in Scotland.
Kirsty’s skill as project manager may have bagged her an award, but she was quick to point out that bringing the new fleet into service so quickly wasn’t just down to her.
“It was a real team effort,” she said. “Between Eversholt Rail, Network Rail, Knorr-Bremse – SNC-Lavalin did a lot of the support work – everyone worked really well together as a team to deliver it.
“I tried to pull it all together but I’m not taking all the credit for doing all the work. Absolutely not. It was a big team effort.”
The Project Manager of the Year Award was sponsored by test and commissioning contractors WJ Project Services.
Ashley Jordan, test and commissioning manager at WJ Project Services, said: “As a company carrying out testing and commissioning, we work on a lot of the major projects on the rail infrastructure. We see a lot of the project managers engaged on the programmes and Project Manager of the Year was a good one for us to get involved with and sponsor.
“All the entries were outstanding to be fair, it was very difficult to choose, but Kirsty did an outstanding job.”
Determined to make a difference
Rail Manager of the Year, which, by coincidence – and it was really was, winners were picked by an independent judging panel – was sponsored by Carys’ employer GWR, and was also bursting full of worthy winners.
Ruth Busby, GWR human resources director, said: “It was a really strong category with lots of great managers who are clearly doing lots to engage and inspire their staff, to make sure that all of our passengers have a fantastic experience.”
In her nomination of Carys for the award, colleague Bella Cowler stated that the 27-year-old had a significant impact at Bristol Temple Meads, starting when staffing levels were at 67 per cent, with only two duty station managers in post and paperwork almost non-existent. Although there had been improvements, there were still large barriers between managers and front-line colleagues, with the result that staff felt unsupported and unheard.
Carys was determined to change this, working with colleagues to document the main issues and working tirelessly to influence change.
Having identified the problems, Carys demonstrated the large gaps in documentation that needed to be filled to be operationally and occupationally compliant. She arranged for regular staff meetings and briefings and arranged for training and workshops.
As a result of this close work with colleagues, staffing levels were increased to 96 per cent and sickness levels reduced to a level never reached before.
Carys said: “I wasn’t expecting to be nominated, let alone win, so it’s a bit of a shock. I’ve moved on to another role recently, so it means a lot that they put me in for it.”
Emergency interventions and cost-saving innovation
The British Transport Police’s (BTP) Emergency Intervention Unit (EIU) was named Rail Infrastructure Team of the Year. The EIUs are specialist blue-light vehicles that allow engineers, driven by and accompanied by BTP officers, to get to incidents using blue lights and sirens which helps to reduce response times and decreases the length of delays to passengers. Currently there are six EIUs operating in and around the London area.
The units operate on a response and proactive-patrol method, undertaking preventative patrols when not responding to incidents. During 2017-18, the teams responded to 1,429 incidents, which included dealing with trespassers, suicidal interventions and supporting police operations with providing safe access for searches.
BTP officer Jeremy Davies said: “We’re totally shocked and, to be honest with you, it’s a really proud moment to receive this.
“At the end of the day, it’s not for me, I’m just the supervisor, it’s all the officers, all the Network Rail mobile operation managers and mobile incident officers that partake in it. It is a joint effort between Network Rail and BTP that deals with a lot of stressful situations – high dynamic situations – to make it safer on the railway.
“This year we’ve dealt with numerous fatalities, we’ve saved lives in relation to people trying to commit suicide, caught trespassers and dealt with children on the line.”
One of the most high-profile incidents happened at Loughborough Junction, when three trespassers were killed by a train, an incident that attracted considerable public and media interest.
PC Jeremy said: “Two of our units were the first units there and, after that, they also maintained a presence at the scene. So, after dealing with a high level of trauma, they then put themselves into making sure it was a bit more comfortable for people out there but knowing, in the back of their head, what they’ve had to deal with, has been quite traumatic.”
Rail Infrastructure Team of the Year was sponsored by high performance apparel manufacturer Pulsar.
Stuart Jukes, managing director of Pulsar, said: “The work they do seems so incredibly difficult for any normal person. You really have to go above and beyond to put yourself in their position. Their placement is in harm’s way most of the time.
“The RailStaff Awards is a great way to recognise what people have done and how they’ve done it and they’re very much entitled to it.”
Money-saving on Merseyrail
Network Rail’s Scott McKavett was named Rail Engineer of the Year for a project that will potentially lead to savings of up to £4 million.
Scott, a senior project engineer within Network Rail’s delivery arm Infrastructure Projects, usually specialises in railway track. However, over the last 12 months, the 36-year-old has led the development and delivery of Merseytravel’s gauging and train lengthening schemes to enable the introduction of a new fleet of trains.
Scott has overseen the feasibility, option selection, design and now delivery of gauging and passenger train interface improvement works across the whole of the Merseyrail network, which includes 136 platforms and numerous other structures.
Recently Scott, with the support from colleagues, challenged the existing computer vehicle profiles for the Class 153, 155 and 323 trains and provided leadership to reassess and update the vehicle profiles, with support from specialist supplier DGauge.
Scott led the production of a paper which highlighted the challenges and inefficiencies created with the historic models. The updated profiles are now being utilised across the rail industry by gauging engineers, designers and contractors. Early estimates indicate savings could be in the region of £4 million across Infrastructure Projects, for an investment of just £26,000.
Scott, of Burnley, has been involved in railways since his teenage years when he volunteered on the East Lancashire Railway. He said: “It was just a surprise that someone had nominated me to start with but to win the Rail Engineer of the Year Award…
“I just see it as part of my job and I thought I was going about my business unnoticed.
“I work on a real mixed bag of projects; from small unglamorous stuff to the right big projects.
“We’ve done a lot of work with Merseyrail and Merseytravel to improve the relationship between train and infrastructure. It’s been tough, but we’re getting good results now.”
The Rail Engineer of the Year Award was sponsored by Jacobs, a diverse provider of technical, professional and construction services.
Susana Gozalo, director of operations at Jacobs, said: “The quality of the finalists was outstanding. Scott McKavett from Network Rail won the award for the exceptional work he does in Infrastructure Projects Northern Programmes as a railway track engineer where he continuously improves project delivery and innovation, and his work to challenge gauge profiling which has brought about £4 million savings. It is with these sorts of challenges that the industry will get better and be more innovative and sustainable.”
Not afraid to help
Nominating Jason Brooks, of Bury St Edmunds for the Train Driver of the Year Award, colleagues described him as an “ultimate professional” for reacting to an emergency medical situation and remaining calm, collected and a supportive force for fellow staff when the incident ended in tragedy.
In February, after pulling the Liverpool Street-King’s Lynn service into Ely station, Jason was forced to leap into action to perform CPR on a passenger who had collapsed.
After asking for the carriages to be detrained, he continued to perform CPR and mouth-to-mouth, and also used a defibrillator.
An ambulance was called but, unfortunately, by the time it arrived, the passenger had passed away. Many of the platform staff on duty that night were relatively inexperienced in their roles but Jason remained calm throughout and took complete control of the situation.
Jason said: “At the end of the day it was a team effort. I might have been the person pressing down on the chest but there were other people there doing equally important jobs, whether it be clearing the carriage or just making phone calls. The outcome wasn’t what we all wanted and that’s what I find difficult.”
The Train Driver of the Year Award was sponsored by Fenix Rail Systems, which provides a range of professional services for signalling projects.
Steve McLaren, managing director of Fenix Rail Systems, said: “All of the nominees had incredible reasons to be awarded this prize.
“I think in a lot of cases, maybe not in rail, but in the high street, a lot of people avoid doing what Jason did. He’ll probably say it was the natural thing to do but a lot of people don’t. I think it’s a credit that Jason is that kind of person.
“It’s difficult circumstances for Jason but this is recognition, not only for him, but for lots of other people who do the same job and colleagues as well.”
Meanwhile, the Depot Person of the Year Award was given to Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) projects manager Encarna Huerta.
The 43-year-old, of Bedford, packed up all of her things and moved to the UK from Spain five years ago after becoming tired of the situation in her homeland.
She first started cleaning in a university, but an agency soon gave her work on the railway.
From starting as a cleaner at GTR’s Bedford depot, Encarna now looks after administration, staff wages, purchase deliveries and a host of other areas.
Moving up to look after admin at the depot, Encarna found her time was not completely filled so she asked her manager to teach her new things, which led to more responsibilities, until she became the valued member of the depot team she is today.
As her nominator, train presentation depots manager Janine Foulger, said: “She is not afraid to get her hands dirty and will assist the cleaning team when they are shorthanded or just gets on and puts away stores deliveries unasked and often unassisted.
“Her hard work is unnoticed and under appreciated by many, but I can honestly say that she has been invaluable to me and my team and this nomination is my way of placing on record our thanks for all her hard work to date.”
Depot Person or Team of the Year was sponsored by the industry body the Rail Delivery Group (RDG).
Gary Cooper, director of planning, engineering and operations at RDG, said: “Depots are important because all of our customers’ safe, punctual journeys start in depots. So I think it’s important we showcase them, praise them, give them support and give them awards.
“The quality of the entries was good – what amazed me was how varied it was, from administration and project management to hardcore engineering – just so much different stuff. It shows just how diverse our railway is in activity, and Encarna is a worthy winner.”
Changing lives and culture
AECOM civils and infrastructure recruiter Stephen Bullock was named the 2018 Recruiter of the Year for the impact he has made on people’s lives.
Stephen, who was presented the award by Network Rail group human resources director Alison Rumsey on behalf of category sponsor RailwayPeople.com, said: “It’s a great honour. There’s a fabulous list of people in there. I’ve come to a few of these and to be nominated and acknowledged, which is what this whole thing is about – it’s amazing!”
“I’ve been in the industry for 20 years and this year, specifically, I’ve probably hired over 300 rail staff. I’ve got a great team behind me, and, clearly, we’ve made changes to 300 people’s lives, their families, their careers.”
The 40-year-old, of West Sussex, added: “This industry used to be very time-served. I made my first hire into CTRL 550 (the signalling and control contract for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link – now HS1) back in 2001 and it was very much ‘you’ve got 10 years’ experience, so you can’t move on.’
“Those days have gone. It’s all about ability now. So you can have someone with 20 years’ experience and they’re a plodder – and that’s great, that’s fine – but you can have somebody with five years’ experience who shows real promise and aspiration and drive and fire, and all those good things you want in people. It’s no longer about being time-served. Businesses are not time-served. It’s about ability, output and how we serve our clients.”
Although, as a recruiter, Stephen’s role is to bring new people on board, his job doesn’t stop there.
“Not everyone takes to change,” he said. “Moving somebody from a competitor to ourselves – that’s change. So, we have to acknowledge that and we have to look after that.
“It’s a collaborative event. We make sure that my colleagues in HR and myself are all connected and, if we do have somebody who is stumbling, that we get them back on the right path.”
Stephen’s job isn’t over when a person is appointed – there are internal opportunities too. AECOM is a global business so if someone wants a job in Sydney, or South Africa, Stephen can help them with that.
Asif Ahmed, director of RailwayPeople.com, said: “RailwayPeople.com is really proud to support the RailStaff Awards. Recruitment and HR are two departments that are often overlooked, so it’s fantastic to see so many teams and individuals recognised. Congratulations to AECOM’s Stephen Bullock, who is a very worthy winner.”
A training team from Virgin Trains was recognised for rolling out a project that has resulted in the biggest change to the company’s retail operations in more than 10 years.
The team, made up of 10 trainers, a training coordinator and a subject expert, was created in January to support the rollout of a new system for ticket offices, which has seen staff step out from behind their desks to become more involved with customers. This included training nearly 400 people across 21 stations between London and Glasgow and working closely with the technology team to identify how to best use the new system, provide feedback on functionality and identify training needs as well as to plan and create the training sessions.
The project involved a huge culture shift for the teams, as it has been designed to allow the ticketing teams to become mobile, to offer a greater retailing experience for customers.
Representing her team, training coordinator Gail Stephen, who works out of Manchester Piccadilly, said: “I was in total disbelief – from being nominated to being a finalist to actually winning.
“It was like ‘oh my god’, we have actually done it. All the hard work we have put in has all been worth it.
“I don’t think we expected it. I thought there were two other really good finalists in our category.”
The Trainer or Training Team of the Year was sponsored by Keltbray, a leading specialist business, that offers engineering, construction, demolition, decommissioning, remediation, rail, environmental services and reinforced concrete structure solutions.
Martin Brown, managing director of Keltbray Rail, said: “We were pleased to support this very well-attended event with rail professionals from across our industry. It’s an evening that provides recognition and appreciation for the people who deliver great work on our railways. It was a well organised and an enjoyable evening.”
Complex solutions to complex problems
Between July and November, 2017, a series of suspected suicides on the rail network in the Milton Keynes area raised cause for concern.
The incidents, which were having a huge impact on the local communities and on the rail industry, led to representatives from the area’s train operators, emergency services and mental health professionals forming a multi-agency taskforce to tackle the problem head on.
Working together, the group – which included representatives from Network Rail, Samaritans, British Transport Police, West Midlands Trains, Virgin Trains, Thames Valley Police and other stakeholders – pursued a range of different workstreams that focused on information sharing and community engagement to increase the chances of human intervention and to promote help-seeking.
As a result, there have been no further suspected suicides on the lines in this area, with seven recorded lifesaving interventions recorded in the process.
This tremendous result led to the ‘Milton Keynes Escalation Team’ winning the Rail Safety Award.
BTP officer Philippa Smith said: “We can’t do this on our own, we can’t reduce suicides and help those vulnerable people on our own, but, working together with local authorities and local organisations, we can actually make an impact within the communities as well as on the network.”
Neil Peters, strategic programme manager at Samaritans, added: “Suicide is a complex issue so, to tackle it, we had to have a more complex response. We know that we can’t tackle it as individual organisations, so this is a great example of how we all can come together and tackle a difficult and complex issue together.”
The Rail Safety Person of the Year category was sponsored by eye safety specialists Bollé Safety.
Damien Guillobez, global vice president at Bollé Safety, said: “When speaking about safety at work, we speak about saved lives and, in the case of Bollé Safety, saved eyes.
“We are pleased to support the rail industry and congratulate the Milton Keynes Escalation Team.”
A career railwayman who has clocked up more than 45 years in the industry was given the Lifetime Achievement Award.
Graeme Brindle, 63, joined British Rail as an engineering management trainee in 1973 and has since worked as an electrical engineer in the Western Region and has also held various roles working on the Channel Tunnel, where he honed his French during a seven-year stint.
Spells at German electrical equipment manufacturer AEG Transport and current employer Amey have followed and Graeme, of Ruislip, now looks to go full circle and finish his career on a big electrification project he was meant to begin on, some 40 years ago.
The chartered engineer and technical director said: “I was trained for the national electrification scheme in the late 1970s, which was then cancelled, then my career went to various places.
“I think my claim to fame is that I designed the train power systems for the South Wales electrification – which is now Wales and Borders – which I am working on now part-time. So everything I was trained for 40 years ago I am now getting around to doing.”
Colleagues were full of praise for the “living legend” and his extensive electrical engineering knowledge, which has helped to improve electrical safety and implement innovation within the UK rail industry. One example is Graeme’s development of signalling power technology, which has brought about significant improvement in safety and infrastructure performance.
Wife Daphne Brindle, who was by his side at the awards ceremony, said: “I’m very proud of him.
“Anyone that knows him knows that Graeme is all about railways. All of our friends and relatives know that Graeme is railways.”
The Lifetime Achievement Award was sponsored by telent Technology Services, a leading technology company delivering ICT, mission-critical communication networks, operational systems and services.
Stephen Pearce, programme director at telent, said: “What made Graeme stand out was the number of accolades from the people he’s worked with over the years. There were just so many of them, the body of evidence was huge.”
Best person and team
A 54-year-old man from Ramsgate, Kent, was named the Rail Person of the Year for developing a mental health support scheme for colleagues.
Programme manager Lee Woolcott-Ellis, of train operator Southeastern, has developed a scheme to support the early intervention of potential problems that can be signposted to appropriate support, before problems such as absenteeism arise. The project also hopes to overcome the stigma surrounding mental health.
After interviewing, recruiting and training a committed group of 11 volunteer mental health advocates to support it, the programme was launched on October 10.
Mental health is a cause very close to Lee’s heart as a result of his difficult upbringing. He was the victim of historic child sexual abuse, an experience he has since written about in his book ‘A Childhood Not Easily Forgotten: A History of Abuse’.
For most of his life, Lee had kept it a secret, only revealing to friends and family in 2013 what had happened on the eve of legal proceedings being launched.
Putting him forward for the Rail Person of the Year industry honour, colleagues said Lee “has a hunger to make a difference in order to help others” and is a “truly special man”.
Lee said: “It hasn’t really sunk in to be honest. I just feel like a winner everyday doing what I am doing.
“I have taken something really, really negative and turned it into a positive and it validates me as a person.
“All I want to do is get the message out there to the industry so people can learn from it and get the support they need. We at Southeastern are really engaging with our colleagues to say that whatever is wrong with you, come and talk to us, we can help out.”
The Rail Person of the Year category was sponsored by McGinley Support Services, one of the UK’s largest specialist recruitment agencies providing the infrastructure sector of the construction industry with permanent, contract and temporary staff at all levels.
Dermot McGinley, managing director of McGinley Support Services, said: “Whilst all nominees for Rail Person of the Year were commendable, it was great to see Lee being recognised for developing a programme that will have an impact and future benefit to rail users across the Southeastern network.
“We had a wonderful evening, and thoroughly enjoyed the chance network with colleagues across the industry, and to celebrate those individuals and parties, such as Lee that go above and beyond in their daily lives.”
Lee was grateful for the support of volunteers and the executive team for working with him to develop the programme from his initial idea. The Rail Team of the Year winners provided another good example of different parties pulling together to achieve something great.
After years of talking about using trackside equipment to improve digital connectivity onboard trains, the cross-industry team of Network Rail, Cisco, telent and ScotRail have proven it can be done on an operational railway through project SWIFT – Superfast wi-fi in-carriage for future travel.
As a result, ScotRail customers between Edinburgh and Glasgow have been the first in the UK to experience on train wi-fi at broadband speeds.
Lee Byrne, service delivery manager at Cisco, said: “Project SWIFT was the embodiment of everyone coming together for the greater good over a long period of time.
“It was tough, you know, it was hard, it was new. Particularly Cisco coming into this marketplace as we hadn’t done it before.”
The Rail Team of the Year Award was sponsored by Total Rail Solutions, specialists in providing on-track plant hire and rail sub-contract services.
Paul Bateman, chief executive of Total Rail Solutions, said: “Whilst all nominations displayed the proactivity, positivity and general forward thinking that you would expect, we felt that Project Swift fully utilised cross party approval for what was a very complicated process, and delivered a positive outcome which will be of future benefit to rail users across the ScotRail network.
“We had a wonderful evening, and thoroughly enjoyed the chance to both interact with many areas of the industry, and to acknowledge and celebrate those parties, such as Project Swift, that went above and beyond in their relevant fields.”
… last but not least
Almost unnoticed amongst all the hoopla and excitement of the winners’ celebrations, many missed the fact that the judges of each category had awarded two Highly Commended certificates, effectively a pair of runners up. The recipients all had interesting stories to tell, and the work they had done, and the efforts they had made, were practically as good as those of the winners celebrating on stage.
The winners’ stories are told elsewhere but here are the deeds of those highly commended people and teams that otherwise won’t be mentioned. They are a credit to their industry, their employers and themselves. They finished in the top 60 of over 600 nominations – truly the best of the best.
Hackers, cats and innovators
Carl Braid is a self-taught, qualified and competent ‘ethical hacker’. He joined telent Technology Services 11 months ago, as one of the first cyber security apprentices in the UK rail industry, and is involved in testing and exploring the stability of, and identifying potential vulnerabilities on, the UK rail network.
HS2 apprentice Christopher Sadler has impressed both internal teams and suppliers with the energy and execution he brings to his role on this complex project, working closely with numerous stakeholders. In addition, Chris has voluntarily supported high-profile industry workshops, presenting to the CEO and his senior leadership team, and becoming an HS2 education ambassador and STEM learner.
Carys Thomas, operations compliance manager for GWR, was awarded business mentor of the year by Envision – a charity which helps underprivileged teenagers to develop key skills – for her work with Colston’s Girls’ School. She is also part of Young Rail Professionals and is an ambassador manager for the Western region.
Felix the cat, Huddersfield station’s senior pest controller, is famously known for her charity work, which is now worldwide. Her book launch alone raised over £30,000 for Prostate Cancer UK. Felix has built a global fundraising frenzy, with a following of more than 130,000 people on Facebook.
As control systems director for Siemens Rail Automation in the UK, Mike Lewis has been at the heart of the control systems sector for over 20 years, working closely with customers and the wider industry to develop and refine solutions that continue to meet their changing needs.
The Signalling Innovations Group, part of Infrastructure Projects, has been dedicated to making improvements to the way both large and small projects are designed and delivered, whether that is through improved design tools and processes, new products, support to projects and much more.
Depot closure, Fast Trackers and ‘Always On’.
Old Oak Common, one of London’s largest railway depots, employing over 200 GWR staff and an equal number of contractors, is closing to make way for HS2. 2018 has been difficult for the closure team, which has had to deal with a variety of major challenges, including low staff morale, whilst continuing to run a fully operational train maintenance depot.
Scott Richards is GTR’s yard protector at Brighton Down Sidings. Due to a shortage of staff, for several months he worked 13 night-shifts straight, with one day off, and straight back into 13 night-shifts at work, putting his work first to ensure that trains were maintained and cleaned and ready for customers.
Danny Matthews joined FirstGroup in 2016 as an operations management graduate and quickly gained a reputation for getting things done. He became Bristol Parkway station manager at a time when electrification work disrupted all train services, leading to rail replacement services during a three-week blockade.
Newcomer Inge-Sarah received a flurry of nominations in the Graduate of the Year category due to her role in helping to deliver Fast Trackers – the largest outreach programme in Network Rail’s Year of Engineering calendar – as well as time spent mentoring learners and for being a great role model for others.
Stuart Humphreys and the MML electrification L2C (Midland main line London to Corby) project have created and implemented the ‘Always On’ electrification safety video, which has had around 500,000 hits online and has been central to raising awareness of the dangers of trespass and, specifically, going near electrified overhead wires.
Germaine Mbabi is a creative and inspirational member of the GTR’s network operations communications and customer experience team. She has outstanding interpersonal and relationship building skills and is confident in advising and influencing senior colleagues.
Clean stations, Lincoln bypass and Lickey incline
Alex Lucas ensures Greater Anglia’s Elsenham station is always immaculate. The waiting rooms are always clean and the footbridge and platforms are always gritted in bad weather. From the Monday morning rush, to updating the village Facebook page with helpful information, Alex consistently demonstrates exemplary customer service.
Kevin Kramer of CrossCountry started his career in the rail industry back in 1976, so anyone who has been on a train in the North East over the past four decades stands a good chance of having travelled on Kevin’s train. His nomination was full of comments from passengers who have said his humour is refreshing and lifts the mood during his shifts.
Darryl White is an experienced project manager who instils confidence in those working around him. During his work for Network Rail on the Lincoln Eastern Bypass scheme, he kept the project on track and to budget whilst dealing with difficult challenges and managing multiple interfaces, always happy to speak with the public, undertake interviews or have a challenging conversation when required.
Andy Mooney has been in the rail construction industry for many years and is currently delivering a section of the Crossrail works in East London for Costain. He consistently strives for excellence, creating a climate of continuous improvement, yet he will always go the extra mile to ensure his teams deliver their works in a professional and timely fashion.
While Mel Osborne’s enthusiasm for engineering, particularly in rail, is infectious, it is her ‘extra-curricular’ commitment to supporting STEM engagement in schools and colleges that sets her apart, taking a lead role in lobbying the Amey management team for time and resources while directly engaging in countless activities throughout the year.
Andrew Thompson is an inspirational design engineer. An example of his excellent delivery record was his role as Mott MacDonald’s design team lead responsible for development of the OLE design for wiring the Lickey incline, the steepest sustained gradient on Network Rail’s infrastructure, on the Bromsgrove electrification project.
Care and compassion, open heart surgery and colour blindness
Samantha Wood, of London Northwestern Railway, received her commendation for risking her own life to save a suicidal woman by removing her from the track and bringing her to safety. She showed care and compassion and listened when no one else would, stayed by her side and waited for emergency services to arrive.
Matt West, Jim Wilson and Jake Chiverton were carrying out revenue duties for Southeastern when a man ran for and boarded a train. While escorting him away, they discovered that he was suicidal. When the emergency services arrived, the man didn’t want Matt to leave as he was the first person in 14 years to show interest in his wellbeing. All three now see him on a regular basis.
Network Rail’s Thameslink programme saw the complete redevelopment of London Bridge station and the surrounding railway. Described as being similar to “performing open heart surgery on someone running a marathon”, the station remained open throughout construction, despite being completely demolished and rebuilt from the ground up.
The Anglia Route tasking team, consisting of two regular and two special BTP constables, has the specific task of problem-solving route crime hot spots. When the national trend for trespass, vandalism, level crossing misuse and fatalities is on the increase, Anglia has seen the opposite trend with a reduction in incidents and associated delay minutes.
Joe Brown challenged the status quo to enable four members of London Underground’s staff to realise their dreams of becoming train drivers. Despite being red-green colour blind and therefore not meeting the colour vision standard, Joe questioned how applicable it was for an automatic railway with no colour light signals. After a year’s work, his proposed trial for four red-green colour deficient staff to drive trains on the Jubilee line was approved by directors.
Dubbed a future leader, Samantha Lear’s leadership of GTR’s Environment Champions has allowed the programme to expand, the success of which would not be possible without her valued input. Sam has proven, time and again, that her quality of work, positivity and dedication to her role goes above and beyond expectation.
French announcements, health and wellbeing and royal weddings
Scott Ward is an exemplary train driver whose announcements have really brought joy to Greater Anglia customers in the Southend area. He makes announcements in French on the approach to Southend airport (despite not being fluent), after a confused passenger once pulled the alarm, and is one of the most eloquent and professional individuals at Greater Anglia.
While driving a First TransPennine Express train between Leeds and Hull, Andy Butler noticed a suspicious car at Ruddings Lane crossing with something attached to it and notified the signaller. The driver of the car, who was attempting to commit suicide, was rescued by the emergency services at the very isolated crossing. Had Andy not reacted quickly enough, the occupier of the vehicle could have died.
Teams led by Stuart Haden have devised a wide range of empowering designers to think about health and wellbeing in new ways. He has helped deliver a step change in how Arup views health and wellbeing which, in turn, has vastly improved the legacy of its designs and the environment in which its projects are delivered.
Dr Ann Mills, head of health and safety at RSSB, has been a force for good in human factors safety in the rail industry for more than 20 years. She has built RSSB’s world-recognised Human Factors team from scratch and, with more than 50 people having chosen to come to work with her, her team-members now hold leading roles across the globe.
GWR’s Care Team is a group of specially selected volunteers who respond to traumatic incidents to support customers and colleagues. In the past two years it has responded to a train collision in Plymouth, the Croydon Tram derailment, a fatal stabbing at Plymouth station and a fatal bus crash in Peterborough.
The Royal Wedding was the most high-profile event GWR and SWR have ever planned, culminating in over 40,000 customer journeys to and from the event. Windsor & Eton Central was re-branded to Harry & Meghan Central, branded chocolates, confetti and flags were given to customers, bunting festooned the local stations and trains were given special liveries. This could not have happened without the team working so closely together.
WISE, CPR and TIM
Lydia Fairman has been with Network Rail for two years and is described as a dynamic thought leader whose ideas and vision will ensure that those outside of the industry will be enticed by a career in rail. In the last year, she’s produced an industry-wide people strategy for the Digital Railway and personally represented Network Rail as a speaker at the WISE conference.
Whatever the request, Louis Williams always starts working out how to deliver it quickly and efficiently. The GWR HR administrator delivers far above what is expected of him, whether this is through harnessing his technological knowhow or using his network of contacts. In addition, as a former stations team member, Louis frequently volunteers to work on the frontline during disruptions.
Richard Shaw, with the help of the team at Ebbsfleet, helped save the life of a member of the public who suffered a heart attack on a Eurostar train earlier this year. Richard administered CPR and followed the instructions given by the defibrillator until paramedics arrived. As well as providing excellent care, Richard and his team minimised the distress to the patient’s family and other passengers.
A mother figure at Victoria London Underground station, Teresa Miles regularly takes the time to support both colleagues and customers. Her ability to empathise with those around her has helped to save the life of a member of the public and always brings a smile to people’s faces. Colleagues say they are proud and privileged to work alongside Teresa.
Trevor Boyd and his team (Al, Josh, Sian and Simon) have created and are delivering a team effectiveness development programme to frontline and management teams in Network Rail Western Route titled TIM. Not an ordinary classroom training session, the success of this course is not what is delivered, but how it is delivered, by a passionate, dedicated, hardworking, knowledgeable team.
Mark Sunshine has been a Land Sheriff for six years, working his way through the company from a security operative to become the in-house trainer, bringing his years of experience and knowledge at Land Sheriffs to the role. His enthusiasm is second to none, ensuring everyone takes an active part in the training and making each session personable and, most importantly, fun!
First aid and SafetyINRail
A first-aid trained police volunteer, London Northwestern Railway’s Scott Nickels is known for going above and beyond the call of duty, but it was the events of a nasty first-aid incident from January that won him his commendation. Scott took control of the situation and applied pressure to the wound. He remained until the paramedics arrived, who praised him for his efforts.
Georgina Cooper, a volunteer member of the BTP, has developed a new competency system that has allowed GTR’s entire operational management team to be assessed and kept up to date with the latest industry developments. Over the past year, many aspects of the business have changed, so Georgina has ensured that teams are achieving the best possible working practices whilst providing the best possible service.
John Jebson has made an outstanding personal contribution to the industry throughout his career. He has a remarkable thirst for knowledge and a passion for safety, not only at McGinley but the entire industry. He is also the editor of SafetyINRail – first published more than 17 years ago as a single-page briefing for McGinley rail workers, John has now expanded it into a full magazine.
Described as the backbone of safety at Virgin Trains, safety director Peter Bowes has shown that working collaboratively with other parts of the business, external stakeholders and the regulator can improve efficiency and create a better experience for the customer.
Great achievements, great awards
The 40 individuals and teams mentioned above are all winners and have achieved great things. The list started with two apprentices, Carl Braid and Christopher Sadler, and finished with the lifetime achievements of John Jebson and Peter Bowes. They, and the 36 named in between, are what makes the railway a great place to work and on which to travel.
We salute them all.
Read more: Read RailStaff December 2018 in full here