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Total Rail Solutions – Five to focus

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It’s fair to say that the last few years have been challenging for the Rail industry, but Total Rail Solutions (TRS) is emerging with a renewed sense of purpose and priorities for its people. RailStaff spoke to CEO, Paul Bateman, to discuss the company’s vision for the future and its new initiative, Five to Focus.

Thanks for joining us Paul. Before we begin, could you give us an overview of TRS and the service it provides to the rail industry?

Paul Bateman, CEO, Total Rail Solutions

TRS is a leading national road rail plant provider for the UK rail market. Predominately, we operate road rail vehicles (RRV), offering for hire and via Plant Operations Schemes (POS). We undertake a variety of work with both main contractors and sub-contractors, the business is multi-disciplined with an expertise in enhancement and maintenance work.

Operationally, TRS delivers its services from three strategically placed hubs; South Wales, Yorkshire and Newbury in Berkshire, where we also have our head office.

What key trends and challenges are you seeing at present, and how are you addressing these? What trends do you expect to see in the next 6-12 months?

The challenges the industry faces right now are caused by the aftermath of the transition to CP6 and the impact on the market as a result of COVID. The outcome of which is the understandable, reorganisation, and prioritisation of the type of projects undertaken by Network Rail.

Renewal programmes were and indeed remain an area of focus from both an operational requirement and investment perspective.

Clearly there remains a challenge in recruiting and retaining staff, with a continuing skills gap for the key roles of HGV drivers and plant operators, an issue that persists across many other sectors other than rail.

Rising fuel, labour and supply costs represent a significant challenge for the industry. I am pleased to say we recognised our dedicated and loyal workforce and have been able to attract new talent to the business during this time. In addition we took the decision in the summer of 2021 to stop filling our machines with diesel and switch to Hydrotreated Vegetable Oil (HVO), a decision that has medium to long term savings and is much kinder to the environment.

As the market recovers and confidence grows, we remain competitive. We have a good plan, a great team, and continue to invest heavily in our fleet.

With that in mind could you tell us about TRS’s Five to Focus initiative? What is the purpose of the programme and what prompted its development?

Setting a vision for the business is a fundamental objective of any leadership team. I wanted to find a mechanism to share with the TRS team what our vision is, what we stand for, our purpose, our mission and, critically, where the business needs to focus to grow and prosper.
Settling on five key areas, Five to Focus was conceived.

The five areas are: Health, Safety & Environment – safety first, everyone goes home safely every night; Team – we’re accountable for our actions and belong to a team of which we’re proud; Finance – commercially minded, we always act with fairness and integrity; Engagement – collaborating to succeed, we are empowered to act and respectful to all; and Innovation – passionate to be the best, customers recognise and respond to what we do.

Dedicated members of my senior leadership team have been given, based on their skill set and accountability, responsibility for one of the Five to Focus.

Returning from the pandemic and into new headquarters, with a new branch movement, we felt the time to launch our focus and define our vision, purpose, and values was now.

We want Five to Focus to become a way of life in our business. By definition, it will provide a focus that drives behavioural change. Our reviews and communication will all be Five to Focus driven, leading to strengthened team cohesion.

What do you believe the new vision and values will do for the business?

Five to Focus and our new Vision, Purpose, and Values have given us a renewed sense of purpose which we believe will give our staff more clarity around what we stand for, what the future looks like, and how we will get there.

How has the initiative been received by the TRS team?

It was really important that we consulted with the business during the thinking and development stage of the initiative. We worked the plan through rigorous scrutiny with our leadership team then, critically, we asked two separate groups of 20 team members, to review the plan and give honest feedback.

These two focus groups met, two weeks apart, with an independent facilitator. Anonymity was assured as the groups rated the initiatives both quantitively and qualitatively. The feedback was evaluated and reviewed, with numerous genuine amendments made to create a final approved version.

How have you presented Five to Focus to the business?

As part of the programme, we’ve developed a graphic which we’re calling ‘The Wheel’. The wheel displays in segments, the statement of intent, ambition, and direction for each business area we’re focussing on.

Five to Focus will also enable a new way to communicate our monthly results – not just our financial performance but lead indicators such as shift counts, physical utilisation, and incident reporting.

All of this information will be communicated to the entire business, engaging the team to further drive performance and profitability. It’s a clear message to the company that yes, we’ve been through some challenging times but we’re back.

How will Five to Focus be communicated to senior leaders, management, and the wider workforce?

Sustaining the initiative is more important than the work we have done to launch. Our Head of People, Mel Budworth, will liaise with senior colleagues to ensure continued and sustained buy in, via monthly cascades of performance.

We have created a launch plan that will commence with a team brief to the business. We employ over 120 people, a proportion of whom are site-based, so we will conduct a series of roadshows around the business. Additional media, such as videos, presentations, and branch graphics will reinforce the initiative. This content will be uploaded to our internal SharePoint to allow the team constant access.

Finally, how will you measure the success of the initiative?

We’re going to review and measure each of the five core values on a monthly basis, and we’ll be sending out regular company-wide updates. Monthly updates will also provide the business with a visual aid of how the company is performing, creating a culture of continuing improvement.

The Five to Focus team owners will provide the measures of performance from their area of responsibility. The company will provide the financials, all on a one easy to read one page infographic.

We’ll really know we have achieved our Five to Focus objectives when the TRS team has a mindset that enables a two-way flow of information, communication, and initiatives that deliver tangible improvements and results. All for the good of the business and the good of the TRS team.

Image credit: Total Rail Solutions