HomeIndustry NewsHonoured Members of the Rail Industry
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When King Charles’ New Years Honours List was announced at the end of December, individuals across the country in all fields of work were celebrated for their contributions to society, the community, and industry. Among the usual politicians, musicians, actors, and sports stars were a select few individuals whose work in the rail industry earned them much-deserved accolades. RailStaff honours these esteemed employees who have certainly gone above and beyond the call of duty.

Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE)

Ruth Busby of Great Western Railway (GWR) was delighted to receive an OBE. Ruth, who is people and transformation director (regional) for GWR and Network Rail Wales and Western, is a champion of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI), and was awarded for ‘services to diversity in the rail industry’. The honour recognises not only her work at GWR and Network Rail, but the numerous other organisations she represents to help revolutionise the railway.

In January this year she began a joint strategic role with responsibility for the HR and Internal Communications teams in both GWR and Network Rail’s Wales and Western Region.

Over the past couple of years, she has also worked with the Department for Transport, the Samaritans, and Mental Health at Work, to lead a research study on mental health and wellbeing across the rail industry.

She is also the executive sponsor for Rail Wellbeing Live, and non-executive director of the Youth Futures Foundation.
“I’m absolutely thrilled and feel so humbled that people took the time to nominate me,” said Ruth. “We know that people are at their best when they feel valued, can be themselves, and believe that their wellbeing matters.

“The work that I and my brilliant teams have been doing has aimed to create greater equity and workforce diversity, so that we’re more representative of the communities we serve and have an environment where everyone can flourish.

“I’ve had the privilege of working with organisations and charities beyond the day job to help bring about some exciting and positive change. I’m particularly proud of the work we’ve done to promote and support positive mental health and wellbeing, which is so important.”

Munir Patel – Credit: RIA

Munir Patel, CEO of XRail Group was awarded an OBE for services to Rail Exports. He has transformed XRail into a globally focused business and drove it to achieve a Queen’s Award for Enterprise in 2022 for outstanding achievement in international trade.

Munir is credited with single handedly developing an export business in XRail and his determination to succeed resulted in the award of contracts against intense global competition. He is a shining example to rail businesses of what can be achieved taking a long-term perspective, and proactively encouraging and supporting others to develop export capability.

Munir said: “I am deeply honoured and humbled to receive this OBE for international export. Our journey in global trade has been marked by resilience, innovation, and a shared vision for creating positive impact. Together, we’ve transcended borders, turning challenges into opportunities.

“This honour is not just an accolade for me but a celebration of collaboration, determination, and the power of fostering international relationships. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all who have been part of this remarkable journey.”

Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE)

Rizwan Javed of MTR Elizabeth line is no stranger to the limelight, having won numerous accolades for his commitment to raising awareness of mental health issues and helping those in distress. He was appointed an MBE for saving the lives of 29 people since 2015.

Rizwan, who won a Samaritans Lifesaver Award at the 2018 RailStaff Awards, said: “I’ve been fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time and to have the confidence to approach people, build on that small talk, and potentially save many lives.

“Some people may 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.

“If I see people missing trains or going backwards and forwards to the edge of the platform, I feel I need to go and challenge that. It’s my duty to make sure everyone at that station is safe.”

Rizwan continues to raise awareness of mental health issues and has a profound impact on commuters. Working alongside Samaritans, he helps to promote its Small Talk Saves Lives campaign.

Speaking to the BBC, Rizwan said he received the letter telling him he was being appointed MBE through the post when he was asleep. His mother insisted he opened it, and in the end did it herself.

“She was more excited for me than I was because I was half asleep,” he said. But when she told me, I had to read it about 10 times to digest it, it was amazing.

“I feel like this MBE award has given me the confidence to take it a step further on a wider scale.”

British Empire Medal (BEM)

Richard Isaac of Northern Rail was awarded the BEM in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the local community.

Working as a regional community and sustainability manager for Northern in Leeds, Richard also spearheads the organisation’s work with schools, community groups and station adoption schemes across Yorkshire.

Richard Isaac – Credit: Northern

He has been a passionate advocate for how trains can connect communities with employment and education opportunities as well as working to tackle social isolation and crime via the National Citizen Service (NCS).

“It is a great honour to be included in King Charles’ New Year Honours list,” said Richard. “Although I have received this award, I feel it is a reflection of everyone at Northern’s commitment to communities across the North.

“I would like to thank the Northern leadership team and our fantastic staff volunteers from across the business. Without such an amazing team behind me my work would not be possible.”

Tricia Williams, chief operating officer at Northern added: “This is amazing news and everyone at Northern is so very proud of Richard. He is a brilliant part of the team here at Northern and throughout his career he has made a huge difference to the communities we serve.”

South Western Railway’s (SWR) Chico Coulibaly & Sam Camfield both received BEM awards for their work during Operation London Bridge, the planning for the Lying-in-State and funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.

As regional manager at Waterloo, Chico, was a major part of the organisational structure for the operation. Working with Network Rail and management teams, he helped to ensure that Waterloo would be a safe and welcoming environment for the many thousands who would be making their way into the capital. On the day of the funeral itself, a major power failure led to the closure of the Paddington-Reading line, resulting in thousands of additional customers being diverted to SWR’s services from Reading to Waterloo. This unexpected influx of people had to be safely managed and passed through the station to their final destinations and this huge task was overseen by Chico.

With the members of the marketing team, Designer Manger Sam was responsible for developing the entire visual suite of materials displayed across all SWR channels. What people would see when they visited the SWR website and social media platforms or arrived at SWR stations is very important and, as design manager, Sam was responsible for ensuring that the visual impact of all SWR channels, digital platforms and stations was respectful and honoured the late monarch.

There was a particular focus needed for Windsor & Eton Riverside station, which was ‘dressed’ specifically for the occasion with individual assets such as special banners to go on the railings alongside the platforms, hiding the car park from view, and special hoardings which improved the view for passengers waiting to get into and out of the station.

Claire Mann, SWR’s managing director, said of the pair: “I’m delighted that the hard work of Chico and Sam in helping us to deliver our response has been recognised by His Majesty in the 2024 New Year Honours List. I would like to congratulate them on their British Empire Medals on behalf of everyone here at SWR.”

Zoe Sookun – Credit: Network Rail

Finally, Network Rail’s Zoe Sookun was awarded the BEM for services to the railway through her work in project managing the delivery of the Rail Aid for Ukraine project.

Zoe project managed the £10 million Network Rail aid package to Ukrainian Railways last year, which among other things included the delivery of: eight bridge spans to replace damaged bridge decks; four heavy JCB construction machines to assist with grain export; automated railway inspection equipment to enable accurate inspection of bomb damage; and a rapid tunnel repair system for fixing damaged railway tunnels.

Ukrainian Railways (Ukrzaliznytsia) made a passionate speech at the annual general meeting of the International Union of Railways, praising Network Rail and the DfT as the only organisations providing practical help. The railways are vitally important in Ukraine, with 60% of freight transported by rail.

“I cannot put in to words the emotions I felt when I visited the depot and saw the containers filled with bridging equipment being loaded on to the wagons,” said Zoe. “I could finally breathe a sigh of relief that we had done it! Being able to see the loaded trains leave and then travelling to Poland to sign over the aid to UZ will be a memory that I will hold on to for years to come.”

Commending Zoe’s work, Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s chief executive, said: “Zoe’s dedication to supporting the delivery of the Rail Aid for Ukraine project has been inspiring. She represents the very best of us and richly deserves this recognition. Thank you for all your hard work and many congratulations!”

Shining examples

RailStaff congratulates all on these pages for their tremendous efforts and achievements. You truly are exceptional personalities, in an industry of extraordinary people.

Lead image: Ruth Busby, Credit: GWR