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One of the most loosely defined categories at the RailStaff Awards, Rail Team of the Year gives nominators broad scope. A team can be any number between two and infinity, and there is no restriction on what role that team has in ‘real’ life. So, nominating a pair of recruiters, five drainage specialists, ten train cleaners or twenty timetable planners – all are equally valid entries.

That permissible variety was evident in the nominations in 2019. A total entry of 64 teams included train operator apprentices, community ambassadors, a graduate outreach programme, a performance and planning team, train care, customer service, revenue protection, a station team (including the station cat!) and even a team of drivers testing new trains in the Czech Republic!

What will the RailStaff Awards attract in 2020?

More about the community

As it happened, the 2019 winner was the ‘Scotrail in the Community’ team, which had successfully delivered a number of community rail, regeneration, transport integration, accessibility and charitable schemes over the previous year.

This included high-profile events such as hosting the Association of Community Rail Awards in October 2018, which was attended by close to 500 people – an event record.

There have also been smaller changes that have had a big impact on people’s lives. Grace’s Signs, a more-inclusive toilet door sign for people with invisible disabilities, has been introduced to all stations. It is named after 13-year-old Grace Warnock, who has Crohn’s Disease and who came up with the idea after facing criticism from strangers when she used accessible toilets.

In a nomination bursting with success stories, there were also mentions of: a comprehensive programme of cycling initiatives, reducing the notice for passenger assist times to only two hours from April 2019 and increasing ScotRail’s ‘Adopt a Station’ programme to 75 per cent of its stations, while still reducing overall costs by 20 per cent.

James Ledgerwood, head of economic development and communities at ScotRail, said: “I’m so pleased for the team, because that’s the key thing. I work with a wonderful team – they’ve worked so hard since Abellio won the franchise to really change what the railway’s about.

“They’ve changed it from being just about getting from A to B to being much more about the community and this is just a small reward for the work the boys and girls have done.

“Community rail is at the forefront of what the franchise is all about. Railways are going to be so important in the future, they’re going to be at the heart of communities, whether it be for getting people to education, work or for tourism, it’s about connecting people to opportunities.”

The Rail Team of the Year Award was sponsored by on-track plant hire specialists Total Rail Solutions (TRS). Paul Bateman, chief executive officer at TRS, said: “What can I say? Another fantastic evening showcasing the rail industry and the people who make it happen.

“For a second year, we have chosen to sponsor the Rail Team Award as I firmly believe it takes a team effort to deliver success and this is certainly the philosophy at TRS. So much so we have already agreed to continue our support at the 2020 awards.”

Forging ahead

Paul Bateman and Total Rail Solutions are back for another year, once again sponsoring the Rail Team of the Year Award. This is because team spirit is very important for TRS’ business philosophy, which is based on the three Ps – plant, processes and people.

“Our focus this year is to professionalise the business,” Paul Bateman said.  “We’re launching TRS Digital as a platform that will enable us to digitise our site paperwork to make it more efficient and fully auditable. And we are working with a systems business that is helping us to develop a resource planning tool for all aspects of the business, from planning though to finance and assurance.

“Our capital expenditure for the year has been adjusted slightly, given the Covid situation, but our focus will still be on continuing to buy equipment to service the requirements of CP6.”

TRS is still making plans for the future – “We’re forging ahead,” said Paul, “and we’re financially stable, so there are no concerns about that.”

Two major plans for this year are the move of the company’s headquarters from Basingstoke to Newbury in July and the establishment of a new depot in the North of England.

The company recently opened a depot in Wales. It started out as purely a yard, then portacabins were added until it turned into a regional office. “We needed a Welsh depot to support our work with Transport for Wales,” Paul commented. “It’s in a great location and it will help us with projects in South West England as well.”

The move from Basingstoke to Newbury is a key milestone for the business this year. The new headquarters is a purpose-built, 7,000 square feet office giving a good working environment for the staff. TRS will be able to host client events there, there is good security onsite and it will be a marked step up from the facilities at Basingstoke.

It has been a difficult time for the plant hire industry across the board. Covid-19 came along just as Network Rail was getting ready to start up its major CP6 works, and suddenly the lockdown resulted in the industry being largely shut down again (completely so in Scotland). However, maintenance has continued and, once the lockdown is over, the work on the railway still needs to be done. It may mean that deadlines get extended, but the work will still be required.

The strength of the team is what will pull TRS, and the rail industry, back from this crisis. Paul Bateman is a strong believer in teams, which is why he sponsors the Rail Team of the Year award as well as the VIP reception, where his team can network with the industry as a whole.

He also appreciates the work that goes into staging the RailStaff Awards every year. Organising sponsors, arranging the venue, booking hosts and entertainment, music, lighting – it’s a team effort.