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Talent and gender diversity in the rail sector

Guest writer Adam Razzell, head of transport and infrastructure at Advance Resource Managers, reflects on the diversity of talent in the rail industry and questions whether more needs to be done.


With an average staff turnover rate of just three percent (compared with the UK median rate of 13.6 percent), the UK’s rail sector has less experience than most of dealing with skills gaps – but its landscape is changing quickly.

An ideal time for reflection

Due to retirement alone, the industry is expected to lose as many as 50,000 workers by 2033 (from a total of around 240,000), most from operative roles. The futures of a further 15 percent – the workforce’s EU nationals – also remain uncertain because of Brexit.

Then there’s rising demand from passengers (in contrast with falling interest in bus and coach travel) and plans for a new era of high-speed rail infrastructure to create the need for even more staff.

As UK rail looks to steady itself for the future using a range of recruitment and training initiatives, we find ourselves at an ideal point to take stock of its current talent, and the diversity of that talent. Does its recruitment approach need to change drastically for a more secure future, or is it on the right track already?

A general snapshot of rail talent

According to Department for Transport data from December 2019, around 240,000 people work in the UK rail sector – 67.8 percent for rail infrastructure firms and 25.4 percent for train operators, the two biggest categories.

With salaries ranging from £16,000 up to £71,000, the average rail worker earns just over £35,500 per year, although this rises to £39,000 in London and falls just short of £32,000 in Scotland. Average salaries in all other areas of the UK sit between these two figures, meaning all are above the wider national median salary of £30,300.

Given rail’s low staff turnover rate, it’s unsurprising that almost two-thirds (63 per cent) of its workers have eight or more years of experience in their roles. Sixteen percent have between four and seven years of experience, and 20 percent have three years or less. And, while this implies that a retirement surge could cause serious issues, the amount of experience currently present in the sector does bode well for the Strategic Transport Apprenticeship Taskforce (STAT), a body set up in 2016 to address skills gaps and increase diversity across UK transport using apprenticeship programmes.

Gender representation in rail

The rail sector cannot avoid major skills shortage without diversifying its workforce – that’s something that Mike Brown, the recently departed Transport for London Commissioner and STAT chair, implied in STAT’s latest update report.

“A skilled workforce is vital to future economic success,” he said. “Quality training at all levels is fundamental and we need to broaden our talent pipeline if we are to drive productivity and innovation across the transport sector.”

Right now, the data shows a huge imbalance. Of its quarter-million employees (including those working in passenger services, freight operations and the wider supply chain), only 17 per cent are female. That falls to 13 per cent in the commercial rail workforce, and again to 12 per cent in signalling and design – both areas with significantly higher average salaries (£45,800 and £37,900 respectively).

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Both photo credits: Southeastern.

Some companies and regions are more diverse than others. Network Rail – by far the sector’s biggest employer – TFL and Southern Railway hold the most female talent, while London and the South East lead the list of regions. But more needs to be done.

What’s positive is that we are seeing action from some of the sector’s biggest operators. Southeastern and East Midlands Trains, for example, recently introduced anonymous candidate screening and targeted advertising campaigns in attempts to encourage more women to become train drivers. Southeastern is aiming for 40 percent of applicants for driver roles to be women by 2021 (from 4.5 percent in 2019), and East Midlands has already seen the number of female applicants double.

But skills gaps and underrepresentation aren’t challenges that employers can address individually – there needs to be an industry-wide shift. And, as the seemingly inevitable skills gap inches closer, it must happen quickly.

New London Underground Piccadilly Line Trains

In March 2021, Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London and Michael Peter Global CEO of Siemens Mobility unveiled the design of the forthcoming Piccadilly line trains for London Underground.

TfL commissioned Siemens to supply 94 nine-car Inspiro London trains in November 2018 and new trains will be in operation on London Underground’s Piccadilly line from 2025. The contract has options that will enable LU to additionally order further trains to enable a standard fleet of trains on the Bakerloo, Central and Waterloo & City lines in the future, subject to funding agreement.

The new metro platform, called Inspiro London, was specifically developed for the capital city, and sets new standards in design and innovation to meet LU’s unique and diverse requirements.  They boast a 10 per cent capacity increase thanks to increased length and articulated design that reduces the number of bogies required per full length train whilst maximising the available interior space – important in the space-constrained Tube environment.

The train follows the principles of the design developed by Priestman Goode which reflects the Tube’s iconic heritage whilst delivering a modern look.  It also delivers cost savings through increased reliability, greater standardisation of train operations, staff training, equipment, spares and maintenance especially if adopted on all four lines.

The longer, more spacious, air-conditioned trains, with HVAC units integrated under the train, will be fully walk-through, boosting accessibility and ensuring customers can move easily to quieter areas. They will also be lighter, more energy-efficient and significantly more technologically advanced than current trains, with digital screens for real-time customer information and advertising fitted throughout.

The new trains feature regenerative braking and cutting-edge traction systems using low-loss permanent magnet motors and auxiliary electric systems that feature silicon carbide technology, as well as Lithium Ion batteries. Eight of the ten bogies will have motors.

When combined with LED lighting and advanced energy management, overall energy consumption is reduced by 20 per cent compared with the existing fleet. They will also emit less heat into the tunnels than current rolling stock. Indeed, it is the light weight, efficient traction drives and regenerative braking that enable air conditioning without the tunnels becoming overheated.

Coming out of lockdown

As the country takes the next steps out of lockdown, rail companies are running more services and longer trains, increasing space to support social distancing as part of the rail industry’s safer travel pledge.

To ensure people can travel with confidence, rail companies have been closely monitoring passenger numbers and adding services where possible and as necessary. More than 1,000 weekday services have been added since mid-February increasing to almost 18,000, yet an even more significant service uplift is planned through May and June.

Robert Nisbet, Director of Nations and Regions for the Rail Delivery Group said, “In addition to enhanced cleaning and providing better information to help people avoid busier times, rail companies are increasing space on trains across the country by adding services as we take steps out of lockdown. We are closely monitoring passenger numbers as restrictions ease to carefully balance service levels with demand, and the need to run the railway efficiently for taxpayers.”

Rail companies have been supporting the country throughout the pandemic including during the recent lockdown, ensuring supermarkets stay stocked and key workers get to where they’re needed. When schools reopened, train operators across the country added more services on key routes for school children.

Testing

The rail industry is working to keep rail staff safe in turn, with many operators incorporating lateral flow testing for rail staff, enabling them to more quickly identify any staff member who may have contracted Covid-19 and protect other members of staff.

Cleaning

Rail staff are working hard to ensure that stations and trains are also kept clean. 1,500 additional people have been employed to clean the railway during the pandemic, an increase of almost 25% since March last year, and 13,250 litres of cleaning agent is used every month to sanitise surfaces across the network. Surveys undertaken by the independent passenger watchdog Transport Focus have consistently shown that around 90% of people making train journeys in the past two weeks feel safe doing so.

Christine Smith, who manages the cleaning of Govia Thameslink Railway trains said, “We’ve pulled out all the stops to make sure stations and trains are thoroughly cleaned and sanitised many times every day, with extra attention paid to high contact touchpoints like handrails and buttons. If you touch it, we’ve cleaned it.”

Ventilation

Increasingly, the government is promoting effective ventilation to disrupt aerosol transmission of coronavirus indoors. The EU Agency for Railways has stated that ventilation systems on trains, which renew the air in a carriage at least every ten minutes, are important to extract harmful aerosols including coronavirus, suggesting that trains may be safer than some other indoor settings.

Mark Phillips, CEO of the Rail Safety and Standards Board said, “As restrictions ease, it is extremely reassuring that rail companies are taking the necessary steps to ensure people can travel with confidence. While research into this field continues, we know that ventilation systems on most trains are effective in replacing air in carriages meaning transmission may be less likely on trains than in other indoor environments.”

HS2 begins work on UK’s longest rail viaduct

Work has started on the UK’s longest railway bridge, with ground engineers sinking the first of almost 300 piles that will form the foundations for the Colne Valley Viaduct.

The viaduct, which will carry the new high-speed rail line for 3.4km across a series of lakes and waterways on the north west outskirts of London, will be almost a kilometre longer than the Forth Rail Bridge and carry trains travelling at speeds of up to 200mph.

Set low in the landscape, the design was inspired by the flight of a stone skipping across the water, with a series of elegant spans, some up to 80m long, carrying the railway around 10m above the surface of the lakes, River Colne and Grand Union Canal.

HS2 Ltd’s Central 1 Project Client Rohan Perin, said: “The Colne Valley Viaduct will be one of HS2’s most iconic structures and it’s great to see work now starting in earnest. I’d like to thank the whole team for the huge amount of work they’ve done to get us to this point.”

The structure will be supported by 56 piers, with the widest spans reserved for where the viaduct crosses the lakes, and narrower spans for the approaches. This design was chosen to enable views across the landscape, minimise the viaduct’s footprint on the lakes and help complement the natural surroundings.

Over the next year, engineers from HS2 Ltd’s main works contractor Align JV – a team made up of Bouygues Travaux Publics, Sir Robert McAlpine, and VolkerFitzpatrick – will construct 292 piles under the ground to support the viaduct piers.

On top of each group of piles – some of which will go up to 55m into the ground – a concrete pile cap will support the pier which will in turn support the full 6,000 tonne weight of the bridge structure above. Instead of hammering the piles into the ground, holes will be bored before being backfilled to create the pile.

The main deck of the viaduct will be built in sections at a temporary factory nearby before being assembled from north to south.

Align’s project director Daniel Altier, added: “I have no doubt that the viaduct will become one, if not the most striking element of HS2 phase 1 once complete. The way it will be constructed is going to be equally fascinating for engineers young and old. The sections for the deck will be fabricated at our main construction site to the west of London just inside the M25, and using a huge launching girder, the deck will be formed from north to south, along the line of the route, thereby keeping unnecessary construction traffic off the roads.”

An extensive programme of test piling has already been completed with engineers sinking 12piles at two locations with geological and structural data from these tests fed back into the design of the viaduct. This has resulted in a 10-15% reduction in the depth of the piles and associated time and cost savings.

Colne Valley Viaduct concepts created for HS2 by Grimshaw Architects.

All photos: Copyright HS2 Ltd | Align JV

HS2 apprentice flies the flag for International Women’s Day

Nineteen-year-old Lisa-Marie from London is defying gender biases. As a civil engineering apprentice she was flying the flag for women and girls working in the construction sector to mark International Women’s Day.

Lisa-Marie joined Mace in September 2020. She’s now part of the team tasked with delivering HS2’s station at London Euston.

She drew inspiration from London’s architecture when deciding on her career pathway and from an early age was fascinated at how unimaginable design concepts turned to reality.

Lisa-Marie studied hard to follow her dream of becoming a civil engineer and secured three A-Levels in Mathematics, Physics and Geography. Her drive and academic success led to her securing her degree-level apprenticeship and within weeks of joining, she became part of the Mace team designing and building Britain’s new railway.

“The opportunity to work on Europe’s biggest engineering project and transform Euston Station ready for HS2’s arrival is beyond what I ever imagined would be possible at such an early stage in my career,” said Lisa-Marie.

HS2 is striving to address the gender imbalance inherent across the construction and rail engineering sector and is inspiring young people to take an interest in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) subjects and careers through its education programmes. Engineering UK’s 2018 report found that less than 12.5% of the engineering workforce is female and HS2 hopes that more young women will be inspired to follow in Lisa-Marie’s footsteps.

Lisa-Marie added, “The best thing about my job is that I’m building myself a meaningful career. Railways and bridges get us everywhere we need to go and help create communities where everyone can thrive. It’s incredible to physically see that you have built something new, which will be around for many generations to come, and that’s something I’m really proud of.”

‘There is always hope’ campaign launched

Young people have seen their mental health deteriorate the most since the pandemic began, according to new research from Network Rail and national mental health charity, Chasing the Stigma.

Almost three quarters of 18-24-year-olds (69%) say that Covid-19 has had a negative impact on their mental health compared to 28% of over 65s, while nearly half of Brits (48%) agreed that their mental health has taken a hit since the pandemic began.

The research was carried out as part of Network Rail’s new There is Always Hope campaign aimed at encouraging those struggling with their mental health to seek help before they reach crisis point.

According to the study, mental health symptoms have surged among all age groups over the last 12 months, with respondents reporting increases in anxiety (40%), loneliness (31%) and depression (31%).

The study of more than 2000 GB adults by research agency Yonder, reveals that the pandemic has also had a significant impact on students, with 64% claiming it has affected their mental health, along with 65% of those who identify as being LGBT+.

The rail infrastructure giant has partnered with charity, Chasing the Stigma to create a new film which portrays a young man looking distressed and withdrawn, who finds himself surrounded by positive moments of hope as he moves through a railway station.

At the end of the film, he finds himself having a moment of connection with a fellow passenger, which leads to them striking up a conversation as they embark on their journey. By showing these moments of care and connection throughout the film, the aim is to show that no matter how desperate you may feel, there are people around you who care and there is always hope.

The film ends with a call to action encouraging people to download the Hub of Hope app if they are struggling with their mental health. The Hub of Hope app is provided by Chasing the Stigma and brings together all of the mental health support available to someone in any given area, from NHS support and national charities like Mind and Samaritans to voluntary, private and third sector services.

Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail said: “We have a huge responsibility to keep people safe and support the wellbeing of both our staff and passengers. Through this campaign, we are trying to help vulnerable people who are at risk before they even come to the rail network by signposting them towards support services through the Hub of Hope.”

There were some hopeful findings however, with three in five claiming to know where to go for mental health support in a crisis (58%), two in five people saying they have saved money as a result of the pandemic (40%), and a quarter reported having been able to spend more time with loved ones (26%). Meanwhile, half of those surveyed said they were feeling hopeful about the future due to the vaccine rollout (49%).

Additional findings from the research revealed:

One in ten have accessed mental health support during the pandemic (9%)

Social isolation has been felt by almost half of respondents (43%)

Three quarters of those who struggled before the pandemic say their mental health has got worse (75%)

More than a third (36%) of those who did not struggle with their mental health prior to the pandemic have done so since it began

A quarter said they have had more time to devote to hobbies and interests (25%)

Just under half have concerns about the economy (42%)

The latest campaign forms part of the rail industry’s efforts to reduce suicides across the rail network – sadly an ongoing challenge faced by Network Rail, train operating companies and the British Transport Police. Ongoing measures are being taken to prevent such incidents from taking place, such as training thousands of industry staff and running campaigns such as Small Talk Saves Lives, which calls on people to look out for one another and intervene safely if they see someone who might need help.

There is Always Hope however, has been created with the input of suicide prevention and mental health experts to signpost those at risk of suicide towards support services much earlier on in their mental health journey, before the idea of ending their life on the railway becomes a conscious thought.

Anyone struggling with their mental health can download the Hub of Hope app or visit www.hubofhope.co.uk

Colourful community art brightens up Bristol

Five local artists and artist groups have successfully covered up graffiti with a range of new vibrant artwork at Fox Park viaduct in Easton, Bristol.

Network Rail and Severnside Community Rail Partnership jointly commissioned the five fabulous pieces of artwork which were created by Peace of Art, Silent Hobo, Graft, Anna Higgie, Dave Bain and Zoe Power.

The painting has taken two weeks to complete and aims to improve the overall look and feel of the area by making it a more pleasant environment for local communities and passers-by.

Each piece of art has been focused around a different theme, including promoting sustainable travel, bringing communities together and providing communities with a voice.

Steve Melanophy, Network Rail’s community safety manager, said: “It feels fantastic being able to see this art scheme completed from start to finish. The local artists have made a huge difference to the local area and the brightly coloured artwork reflects the true style of Easton and the wider Bristol community.

“We want Bristol’s railway infrastructure to be a clean and welcoming environment for passengers and local residents living alongside the railway. We hope that art schemes like this will encourage people to look after the infrastructure for generations to come.”

This is the latest example of a wider Network Rail initiative known as Project Sprint, that involves tackling graffiti hot spots on the railway across the south west, ensuring the condition and appearance of the railway is graffiti-free and well maintained.

Hull Trains returns with live tracker

Hull Trains has introduced new technology which publishes the level of passengers onboard in real time, to help make social-distanced travelling easier when services resume.

This innovation allows passengers to check how busy the train is on the Hull Trains website or app, thanks to official data supplied by onboard managers.

It has been developed by First Rail, part of FirstGroup the parent company of Hull Trains, to help manage social distancing and is part of the preparations to welcome passengers back onboard Paragon trains.

Louise Cheeseman, managing director for Hull Trains (pictured), said the tool can give people confidence when travelling by train as the country starts to ease out of lockdown.

“It’s important that passengers feel that they can travel confidently with us. The Live Train Tracker will help people to make more informed decisions about travelling by train while we steadily reintroduce services and build the business back up.”

People will see how busy the trains are in real time through a simple, red, amber and green code. It also shows locations of toilets and priority seating to limit people walking through carriages.

Louise added: “This is one of several measures we have put in place to keep people safe onboard, our seats are clearly labelled with spaced out seating and we have a dedicated cleaner on every journey. We are currently limiting the number of tickets available to maintain social distancing and this technology will make it easier for people to decide which carriage to sit in.”

A new beginning – Network Certification in a post-brexit UK

Malcolm Dobell sits down with Craig Young, NCB’s Head of Business Development to see how NCB has flourished and its plans for the future.

Network Certification Body Ltd (NCB) is an Assessment Body accredited by UKAS that provides independent assurance to rail projects and the regulator, the Office of Rail and Road. Its role is to certify that legally mandated requirements have been complied with and that suitable & sufficient safety analyses have been performed with the resulting actions completed. 

In RailStaff April 2019, Sam Brunker, managing director, and in March 2020, Tim Dugher, retiring chair, both talked about the development of NCB since it was set up as a wholly-owned subsidiary of Network Rail in 2012. 

It is timely to revisit the company and understand what has had to change as a result of COVID-19 and Brexit. In March 2021 RailStaff talked to Craig Young, NCB’s Head of Business Development about how NCB has flourished during all this change and its plans for the coming years.

NCB’s certification and assessment team specialise in all forms of rail infrastructure (structures, track, telecommunications, command and control) and they currently have just over 60 people on the payroll with a turnover heading towards £7m/pa. In addition, during the last two years, NCB has created a Specialist Services function, bringing together its non-infrastructure capability (including plant, freight and rolling stock) with other technical services. 

The East West Rail Link Winslow Station illustration.

As might be expected, most of their work is for Network Rail but they are also increasing third party funded portfolio as UK railway devolves funding. One example is NCB’s partnership with Certifer where they are working on HS2 (NCB in the lead) and Rail Baltica (Certifer in the lead). Craig highlighted the latter as one of their key recent wins. 

Rail Baltica is the largest Baltic-region infrastructure project in the last 100 years, a greenfield rail transport infrastructure project aiming to integrate the Baltic States in the European rail network. The project is being implemented by Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania but includes five European Union countries – Poland, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia and indirectly also Finland. It will connect Tallinn, Pärnu, Riga, Panevežys, Kaunas, Vilnius and Warsaw and, eventually Helsinki. It is one of the EU’s priority transport projects. Other projects include:

The East West Rail scheme

Re-establishing a rail link between Cambridge and Oxford to improve connections between East Anglia and central, southern and western England. NCB has been awarded a contract to deliver an assessment of the compatibility of the infrastructure with the rolling stock and also have been awarded AsBo, ApBo and DeBo contracts. This work is for phase 2 which will provide the first direct rail link in more than 50 years between Oxford and Bletchley/Milton Keynes/Bedford.

The Midland Main Line Upgrade programme

A £2bn infrastructure investment, that includes the electrification from London to Corby, Market Harborough line speed and station improvement and Derby station re-modelling. NCB’s new contract is for ApBo/DeBo/AsBo service for Key Output 1A which is the start of the work to extend the electrification north from Kettering/Corby.

The Victoria Area Re-signalling Programme

A major four-year package of upgrades to modernise 1980s track and signalling on the lines into London Victoria station. The upgrades will improve the reliability on the network. Again, NCB will provide ApBo/DeBo, AsBo services.

COVID-19

Craig turned to challenges that NCB has faced and is likely to face. The immediate challenge has been and is likely to continue to be responding the COVID-19 pandemic. He said that there were difficult times in March/April 2020 when NCB, like most other organisations, had to manage with its workforce operating from their homes – as Craig put it “from 95% office work to 95% home working”. 

He paid tribute to the team who have kept safe whilst delivering high levels of service with great flexibility, although, at first, there were some IT challenges. Through credit to Network Rail’s IT teams who rapidly improved the remote working capability whilst NCB’s staff worked through how their process could be adapted to virtual, rather than face-to-face, meetings and assessments. 

One of the features of assessment work is the need to inspect works or witness tests, and Craig said that the teams had made great use of video where project personnel carried out their work whilst recording on video to demonstrate the conformance of the works to the assessors. Remote working has led to the development of risk-based and other flexible techniques and Craig was sure that some sort of blended office/home working will be a feature of work for the future.

Brexit

The panel explains how the assessment and authorisation process has changed with Brexit. Craig suggested that these changes are just the start and he can foresee that there will be further changes. For example with the introduction of “project SPEED” and of PACE, organisations could be given the responsibility to self certify compliance with NTSNs or perhaps NTSNs might be merged with RGSs. As part of a strategic review, NCB decided that they needed to diversify and are therefore developing new products. They are also taking the opportunity to work with clients to make the assessment process more efficient and to add more value to projects. 

Compatibility Assessments

NCB has developed a new product to deliver compatibility assessments to demonstrate that new or altered infrastructure is compatible with the existing railway and the rolling stock that runs or could be required to run on the route. It is the opposite side of the interface to the assessment that projects have to do to demonstrate that new trains, trains new to the route or enhancements of existing trains fit the existing environments. 

Craig emphasised that NCB can complete this work and maintain its independence as long as the engineer has no involvement in the assessment of the project. 

This and other diversified services will make NCB less reliant on traditional assessment work although Craig thought that assessment would remain the lion’s share of the work for the foreseeable future. This type of work also gives the NCB engineers more variety helping them to “keep their skills finely honed” as Craig put it.

Progressive Assurance Methodology

When the current Interoperability certification/authorisation process started in circa 2012, many projects saw it as an unwelcome bolt-on at the end of the project that consumed money and time, and even worse sometimes identified non-compliances that were expensive to fix. 

It is a truism that it is easier to fix a non-compliance at the requirement or design stage than during or after construction. 

NCB has been working with its Network Rail clients to develop ways of providing progressive assurance, and being engaged early, ideally at GRIP 2 stage (feasibility) is an important enabler. The idea is that any issues of conformance can be flagged as early as possible and not at the end.

Clearly certification can come only at the end, but with progressive assurance, there can be a stock take at each GRIP/PACE (see panel right) stage or step on the project V cycle. NCB aim to develop a relationship with the client based on shared objectives whilst recognising the independent role of the assessment body. 

NCB has also been working on risk-based assessments and findings that are clearly communicated. Findings are classified as major, minor or observation and each will be explained; i.e. the reason for the finding and the reason for the classification. The first should be rectified immediately, the second before close out and observations should be taken on board. The benefit will be that issues can be resolved early and will thus generally involve less time and cost.

Software

Finally, the conversation turned to software. More and more software is used in safety functions on the railway and there has been much concern expressed by regulators and investigators about how the safety of software can be assured and certified. There is also the issue of cybersecurity. 

Craig said that NCB is growing its skills in both software and cybersecurity and has also noted that their recently appointed non-executive director has a special interest in this topic; Professor George Bearfield.

COVID has provided many companies with significant challenges over the last year, and the most successful organisations have faced and embraced the challenges, have continued to grow, and will come out of the pandemic even stronger than when they started. Craig was absolutely confident that NCB will be one of them.

What does a Certification Body do?

The role of a Certification body was described in the March 2020 RailStaff article. What follows is their role in a post-Brexit world. Although it appears that it is a case of “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”, there are a lot of details to trip up the unwary.

Legislation to adopt EU law that UK wishes to continue to comply with has been adopted in UK law and since January 2021, the Railways and Other Guided Transport Systems (Safety) Regulations are once again the top level safety regulations covering railways safety management and includes authorisation and certifications, driver licencing, vehicle registration, Entities in Charge of Maintenance and the Common Safety Methods.

The Railways (Interoperability) (Amendment) (EU Exit) Regulations have mandated that technical requirements that were contained in Technical Specifications for Interoperability will now be in National Technical Specification Notices (NTSN) with requirements unchanged for now, with the specific UK cases and other UK requirements in National Technical Rules (Railway Group Standards).

What is unchanged is that the essential requirements: conditions relating to safety; reliability and availability; health; environmental protection; technical compatibility and accessibility are contained in the NTSNs and currently they are unchanged from the former TSIs. As before, all this applies to all elements of GB’s main line railway (approximately but not exclusively Network Rail Infrastructure and trains that run on it; different rules apply in Northern Ireland, metros, tramways and heritage railways).

The legislation applies to significant new projects or significant alterations to existing assets/systems.

Significant projects/alterations must continue to be authorised by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), following the submission of a Technical File demonstrating that the essential requirements have been complied with. This demonstration has to be certified, and this is the role of certification bodies.

Prior to January 2021 Notified Bodies (NoBo) certified that TSIs had been complied with, Designated Bodies (DeBo) certified that Notified National Technical Rules had been complied with, and Assessment Bodies (AsBo) certified that safety management had been appropriately carried out in compliance with the EU’s Common Safety Method and that hazards/risks, have been appropriately identified, assessed, managed, closed and/or transferred. All three tasks continue to be carried out, but Notified Bodies are now known as Approved Bodies.

Approved Bodies (ApBo – the new acronym), DeBos and AsBos continue to be accredited by UKAS, the UK’s National Accreditation Service, and be approved by the DfT. There is no longer a requirement to notify them to the EU and they cannot work on NoBo, DeBo or AsBo work in the EU unless they either partner with a Certification Body based in Europe or set up a subsidiary based in Europe and seek EU accreditation.

Network Certification Body carries out all these functions and is also a Certifier of Entities in Charge of Maintenance – an activity required under legislation adopted by UK for freight vehicle maintenance. 

What is Project Speed?

Project Speed is part of a government strategy to rebuild Britain and fuel economic recovery by accelerating investment in core infrastructure across all sectors, including health, education, town centres, energy, flood defences, waste, roads – and rail. It is led by the Treasury, with the aim of cutting the delivery time and cost of projects.

What is PACE?

GRIP (Governance for Railway Investment Projects), in use by Network Rail for the last 10 years, is being evolved into PACE (Project Acceleration in a Controlled Environment). In the words of Toby Elliott, Network Rail Head of Communications, “PACE is designed to deliver projects more quickly, at lower cost and higher quality. PACE will start to be rolled out from the beginning of next year, but there will be many projects still going through the GRIP steps as it will take time to get the new PACE process right.”

For a full explantion of GRIP see www.railengineer.co.uk/grip

The principles of managing though stage gates does not change but there is a huge emphasis on leadership, attitude and competence supported by the PACE process rather than pedantic, slow and expensive adherence to process which was the point made by GRIP’s critics.

White zone working is needed to change our rail safety culture!

30 year old track patroller fatally injured near surbiton and RAIB publish report on fatal accident to vision impaired passenger at Eden Park station.

There was a euphoria about the pandemic vaccinations which has affected us all until I heard about the fatal accident to a young man working as a track patroller near Surbiton on February 9th.

Equally distressing is the saga that led to the accidental death of a vision impaired intended traveller who fell onto the track at Eden Park Station over a year ago on February 26th 2020 as his train entered the station.

Lessons learnt involve the inconsistent and confusing use or non-use of tactile strips on platforms and the reasons for the twelve-minute delay in rendering assistance to a traveller who died at the scene. The Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) report is thorough, and its recommendations are far reaching.

Track patroller fatality near Surbiton

Tragically I must begin by expressing my sincere condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of track patroller Tyler Byrne from Aldershot who at around 1135 on the morning of February 9th was struck and fatally injured by a passenger train near Surbiton Station in south west London. The Waterloo to Salisbury train involved was travelling at 76 mph on the down fast line.

The RAIB investigation is underway. Their news story says he was one of four track workers undertaking a regular planned inspection of switches and crossings whilst the lines were open to traffic “with arrangements in place to protect staff from train movements”.

Network Rail’s Safety Central website says that a cyclic weekly inspection was being undertaken with the patroller working with three others acting as site lookout, distant lookout and patrollers assistant respectively. The team were experienced and familiar with the location. The up to down fast crossover was being inspected at the time of the accident. On Network Rail’s website a number of points to consider are listed including, “What arrangements could you use to avoid unassisted lookout working?”

Safety Culture and “White Zone Working”

Over a year ago in response to the fatal accident at Margam Port Talbot a 100-person strong task force was set up by Network Rail to improve the safety of track workers. Four key elements have been identified.

  • Risk based maintenance, technology to protect people.
  • Consistent use of track circuit operating devices and other protections.
  • Signaller workload and the use of line blockages.
  • Safety culture.

Network Rail’s Chief Executive Andrew Haines described safety culture as “the big nut to crack”. Not only is it big, but I suggest it is by far the most important of them all!

In Railstaff July/August last year I emphasised my support for “White Zone Working” as advocated by Simon French of the RAIB. He highlighted the fact that the French and other European railways, as well as Docklands, London Underground and others all benefit from the timetabling of White Periods with no trains running so that inspections and maintenance works may be carried out more safely in off peak daylight hours.

RAIB’s annual report last year noted that “since 2005 there had been 45 incidents involving track workers, 8 resulted in fatalities, and 12 in injuries. Between 2005 and 2019 a total of 44 investigations by RAIB involved trackworkers”. I question the need for any regular track inspections being carried out whilst trains are running.  

Passenger fatality at Eden Park Station

On February 19th RAIB released their report 01/2021 following their investigation of the fatal accident to a 53-year-old vision impaired man that occurred on Wednesday 26th February last year. The man entered Eden Park Station 14 minutes before the accident and used the subway and stairs to access the platform.

The station is on the third rail electrified 750-volt DC Mid Kent line and is leased from Network Rail by the Southeastern Railway. The train involved was the 1900 Hayes to Charing Cross, an EMU service made up of 10 cars including but both Class 465 and 466 units. The forward-facing CCTV with which they were fitted was not working at the time of the accident!

When the arrival of the train was announced the intended passenger moved towards the edge of the platform and walked along, falling onto the track as the train driver sounded his warning horn as he arrived at the platform.

Incomplete tactile surfaces and 12 minutes delay

The published report reviews the use of tactile surfaces, research both here and in the USA and the advice of the Royal National Institute for Blind People. Network Rail’s standard requires the installation of tactile surfaces when there is a “reasonable opportunity” but no work had been done to match this in the 20-years before the accident. A survey of Kent and Sussex route stations in 2019 identified 145 with tactile surfaces that were not installed over the full length of the platforms.

Immediately after the accident the train driver made an emergency call to the signaller asking for the traction current to be switched off and emergency services to be called.

Another passenger called 999 whilst talking to the passenger underneath the train. On arrival emergency services were unable to determine whether the third rail traction power supply had been turned off until a member of Network Rail staff arrived at the scene! This resulted in a 12-minute delay between ambulance staff arriving on site and being able to access the track and provide medical care!

Poor standard of communications

RAIB’s review of voice recordings revealed “a poor standard of safety critical communications throughout which contributed to the uncertainty about the status of the electrical power during the response to the accident”.

Eden Park has now been fitted with platform markings to assist visually impaired people including tactile surfaces and Network Rail Southern Region have funded the installation of tactile surfaces throughout their Kent and Sussex routes. These are scheduled for completion by April 2022.

RAIB recommendations

Department for Transport and Network Rail in consultation with others are to create a coherent policy and associated process for establishing when tactile surfaces should be provided at the edge of platforms.

They are also to develop and progress a time bound programme to install tactile surfaces where justified by safety benefits and the Rail Delivery Group (RDG) assisted by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) and others are to research and develop means of reducing risk where tactile surfaces have not been installed.

Office of Rail and Road (ORR) is to amend its “Accessible Travel Policy” to ensure the publication of information detailing which stations are fitted with tactile surfaces. The RSSB is also is to develop ways of managing data so that the safety risks to disabled people travelling are managed. The sixth and final recommendation requires BT Police, Fire, Ambulance and Network Rail to review and improve their processes for requesting and confirming that no trains are moving and electrical power supplies are switched off when Network Rail are not on site. 

Simon French, Chief Inspector of Rail Accidents said “This tragic accident resulted in the death of someone who had impaired vision and mobility, and relied on the railway to transport him safely. My thoughts are with his family, and others who knew and were close to him, as we publish our investigation report. Our investigation concluded that the absence of a tactile strip along the platform edge may have been a factor in this accident. These strips are used to provide visually impaired passengers with an indication that they are approaching the platform edge. Eden Park is far from unique: around half of all mainline stations in the UK are also not equipped with this valuable aid to the visually impaired.

Our investigation found that government and the railway industry have policies in place to make rail travel more accessible for people with disabilities. However, there appears to have been no coherent strategy for the provision of tactile strips, despite their obvious importance to visually impaired people who value the opportunity to travel independently, without reliance on staff.

Although RAIB recognises that the immediate provision of tactile strips across the network would be very expensive, there is a need to develop a new policy to guide decision makers. This would inform the development of a programme for installation of tactile strips, particularly at places where the risk is likely to be higher, such as busy unstaffed stations. It cannot always make sense simply to wait until platforms are refurbished to install the strips.

While accessibility has rightly been promoted in recent years, it is important that safety is properly considered when the industry is looking at the arrangements and facilities that they provide for disabled or impaired passengers. The well-established principle that additional measures should be provided to protect rail passengers, where reasonably practicable to do so, applies to all. It is for this reason that we are urging a re-think on the approach to provision of tactile strips to ensure that they are installed where most needed.” 

Near misses at User Worked Crossing (UWC) in Norfolk

On February 17th RAIB announced its investigation into a near miss at Coltishall User Worked Crossing that occurred at around 1721 on January 21st when a passenger train narrowly avoided colliding with two cars. Coltishall, a public road crossing, had “higher than normal levels of road traffic due to the temporary closure of a nearby main road”.

Closed circuit television recordings showed the first car clear of the crossing just three seconds before the train passed with a following car approaching from the same direction stopping clear of the crossing as the train approached. There were no injuries or damage.

Coltishall crossing has telephones which users are directed to use with signage directing them to obtain permission from the signaller before crossing. However, the RAIB news story says “RAIB has been unable to find any evidence that a request was made by the drivers of the cars involved in this incident”.

It will consider how the crossing was being managed by Network Rail, including how risks associated with a user worked crossing on a public road were assessed and mitigated. It will also consider the presence of user worked crossings on public roads more generally and any other relevant underlying issues.

White Zone working now!

I suggest that now is the right time for the rail industry to take stock and review its working practices and adopt the RAIB proposal that White Zone working should be mandated for all planned inspection and maintenance work. Due to the pandemic fewer trains are running and it seems likely that the return to morning and evening peaks will be slow and involve fewer travellers than before the first lockdown. Arguably a mixture of working from home and office working will become the norm with businesses reducing their costs by paying for less office space. I have little doubt that White Zone planned working will not only save lives but also contribute to “cracking the nut” by changing railway safety culture.

Report by Colin Wheeler

Is anyone really listening?

You can share your health and safety concerns with the right people who can take action, without having to reveal your identity.

Think of a time you decided to keep your mouth shut. Perhaps you kept quiet to maintain harmony at home, because the conversation had already gone on too long, because the boss was there, or the people you were with seemed more interested in hearing their own voices.

Multiply that by everyone in your organisation and you can understand that there are many occasions when ideas, feedback, concerns or suggestions go unspoken and unresolved.

It is not surprising that you might not speak up if you think that what you have to say will be ignored. People usually need to feel that their concerns or ideas will be listened to and acted upon – making any perceived personal risks to speaking up worthwhile.

Teams that are ‘psychologically safe’ – where speaking up about concerns and learning from mistakes are encouraged and even welcomed – are especially important in safety-critical industries such as rail.

Unsafe team environments – where people are reprimanded for mistakes and there is no space for discussion, understanding and lessons learned – are likely to put people off raising concerns. That means any issues or mistakes will continue to happen again and again, putting people at risk.

Companies are only really listening to their employees when everyone feels able to speak out about health, wellbeing and safety, however they choose to do this. If you have a concern, you might speak out in an open forum, choose a quiet word with a supervisor, or stay silent.

There are many powerful reasons why you might not want to raise concerns unless your identity is protected – from past experiences to fear of the reaction. This is where the CIRAS confidential reporting service can play a part: your confidentiality is guaranteed.

A listening ear needs more than an open door. A psychologically safe environment also means respecting that everyone is different and that how people prefer to speak up reflects this.

Tackling workplace abuse

Consider the issue of workplace abuse. Sadly, the number of abusive incidents on the railway has not decreased in line with fewer passengers travelling. Transport workers are on the frontline for frustrated travellers when journeys don’t go to plan, or rules are in place that they disagree with, and this can translate into verbal and physical abuse.

People who have called CIRAS confidentially over the last three years to raise abuse-related concerns have on average put up with the situation for over a year, often longer. The vast majority explained they didn’t think reporting internally would make a difference – either they had tried and nothing changed, or they had lost faith in trying. Others said the company culture had kept them quiet. 

CIRAS has heard from people who have been or are fearful of being abused because of inadequacies in security arrangements, staff numbers, crowd-control planning, lone working or use of technology. Once alerted, companies investigated and acted where appropriate to protect their staff. Managers did listen, but they only had the chance because CIRAS enabled these workers to speak out with confidence. 

Most organisations want their people to come forward when they are suffering from abuse at work – and that is encouraged.  But CIRAS is there if the alternative for you is to keep quiet and continue to suffer.

Diverse voices

CIRAS has noticed that people reporting abuse tend to be younger than those reporting other issues. The rail industry is full of individuals from a variety of backgrounds and with a unique range of experiences, so priorities and concerns also vary from one person to the next.

We might all identify different hazards or perceive different potential outcomes from an unresolved issue. Some concerns might affect a group of employees – such as young workers – more than others. If businesses can’t hear from all staff, they may be missing out on the need for change. It’s important for everyone to be able to speak up.

It can be daunting for anyone to raise a concern or idea. Even more so if you already feel ‘different’ in your team because of something integral to who you are – and are perhaps singled out for it. You might feel, rightly or wrongly, that speaking up could emphasise this and even impact work relationships. But a range of perspectives can highlight opportunities and improvements.

If your managers are only hearing some voices and not others, either because some speak up more than others or because some are listened to more than others, workplaces are less safe. By reporting confidentially, the focus can only be on the safety concern rather than who raised it, overcoming any unconscious bias.

Questioning assumptions or traditional ways of working is often necessary for a safer, healthier workplace. Including everyone’s perspective is important. If you have a concern, remember that your voice matters and needs to be heard, however you prefer to speak up.

MPs raise concerns over Highways England’s ‘assault’ on legacy rail structures

The House of Commons Transport Committee has intervened in a row over Highways England’s intention of infilling or demolishing hundreds of disused railway structures, many of which have the potential to play roles in future sustainable transport schemes.

The state-owned roads company manages the Historical Railways Estate (HRE) of 3,200 legacy bridges, viaducts and tunnels on the Department for Transport’s behalf. In January, it was revealed that 134 structures are going to be put beyond use over the next five years, with the possibility of 480 more to follow.

According to The HRE Group – an alliance of engineers, cycling campaigners and greenway developers – around one third of the bridges earmarked for infilling are already proposed for reuse as part of reopened railways, heritage line extensions or new active travel routes, or have identified potential to do so in the future. The Group says this “takes a wrecking ball” to Government policies encouraging more of us to walk and cycle.

Five members of the Transport Committee met a representative of The HRE Group last month and a letter has since been sent to Baroness Vere, the Minister for Roads, Buses and Places, and Nick Harris, Acting Chief Executive of Highways England, urging them both to view the structures as “assets to be preserved, repurposed for public benefit and enjoyed.”

A masonry bridge next to the delightful former station at Staward, Northumberland, is earmarked for infilling. ©TheHREGroup

The Committee makes clear that the Estate is not only part of our national heritage, but includes many assets with demonstrable public value. It says that the formal agreement under which Highways England manages the structures should be amended to reflect their cultural and strategic importance.

Chair Huw Merriman MP voices the Committee’s concern at the likely impact of the proposed infilling and demolition programme on future rail and greenway projects. He also challenges the use of Permitted Development powers which, in many cases, Highways England is invoking to progress work on structures that are effectively safeguarded from adverse development through policies adopted by local councils.

“The future of these historic bridges, viaducts and tunnels should be determined by an open, transparent and democratic process”, says Mr Merriman. “Highways England should assess both the safety and value of these structures and, in non-urgent cases, apply to local authorities for planning permission, if it wishes to demolish or infill them.”

He goes on, “we understand the average cost of infilling is around £145,000 per bridge, whereas the costs of strengthening to increase the capacity of historic bridges can be much lower, at £20,000 to £40,000 per bridge. We would like to know why it is better use of public money to infill, rather than strengthen, the bridges affected by the programme.”

The Committee notes that Highways England has objected to planning applications for new walking and cycling routes that are proposed to pass beneath HRE structures and has fenced-off parts of the Estate to which the public previously had access. Highways England and the DfT are asked to set out what steps they are taking to facilitate and encourage access to as much of the Estate as possible.

Graeme Bickerdike, a member of The HRE Group, said: “We welcome the Transport Committee’s scrutiny of the approach being taken by Highways England in managing the Historical Railways Estate. Supported by the DfT, the company is guilty of an assault on our great railway heritage and democratic process, pulling the rug from under those who are trying to build a better future for their communities.

Highways England intends to infill this bridge in Cumbria, blocking a proposed link between the heritage railways at Kirkby Stephen and Warcop. ©TheHREGroup

“In Herefordshire, Northumberland, East Renfrewshire and elsewhere, proposals for new active travel routes are now in doubt because Highways England is recklessly pursuing infilling and demolition schemes without engineering justification or any prior appraisal as to the impacts of their actions.

“At a time when the value of fresh air and green space has never been clearer, it is unsustainable for the Government to allow vandalism of this kind if it expects us to take seriously its stated commitment to driving an active travel revolution.”

A petition against Highways England’s plans, launched by The HRE Group, has so far been signed by more than 12,300 people.

Featured image: Contractors progress the partial infilling of a bridge on the Penrith-Keswick line which is proposed for reopening, but the archway is not big enough to accomodate trains. ©TheHREGroup

All Aboard The Million Hour Challenge

This spring marks the second anniversary of the Million Hour Challenge, encouraging rail staff to come together and donate their time and support TO Samaritans and improving mental health and wellbeing.

The challenges that people face up and down the country have been felt even more acutely over the last year, given the profound impact of the pandemic on the nation’s mental health.

Research from Samaritans reveals over a fifth of calls for help to the charity have been related to coronavirus in the past year, although volunteers indicate that the pandemic has affected all callers in some way. This includes the knock-on effects of the pandemic such as social isolation, relationship breakdown, loss of income and other financial worries.

“At Samaritans, listening to our helpline callers, we know that the pandemic has had a huge impact on people’s mental health and has magnified many worries they might have faced before, such as finances or loneliness. As we start to look beyond lockdown, the long-term impact is concerning with pressures likely to continue for some time” says Julie Bentley, Samaritans’ CEO.

“That’s why we’re so grateful for the rail industry’s support and commitment to Samaritans, to not only help the charity to be there for everyone who needs us, but also in recognising the need to look after the industry’s own wellbeing right now too.”

After a challenging year for so many, Samaritans is calling on rail industry staff to take part in the Million Hour Challenge.

This volunteering initiative builds on Network Rail and the rail industry’s partnership with Samaritans to reduce the number of suicides on the railway and support those affected by them.

“The Million Hour Challenge is a great opportunity for the rail industry to make a real difference to those who may be struggling to cope. The past year has seen so many people pushed to their limits, that’s why we want to get out and help, so please get involved!” is the rallying cry from Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail.

There are several ways staff can get involved, simply by signing up to the Challenge’s website and logging their chosen activity hours contributing to the ambitious one million target. Volunteering options include:

  • Organising or taking part in fundraising activities – such as Samarathon, a challenge to run, jog or walk a marathon within a month
  • Organising awareness events or workplace tea events including Brew Monday to support staff’s mental health and wellbeing
  • Sharing and raising awareness of Samaritans’ services on social media
  • Online training including Samaritans’ ‘Wellbeing in the Workplace’ and ‘Managing Suicidal Contacts’ course
  • Possible volunteering opportunities with local branches – including training to become a listening volunteer or admin and support roles

Giving Back

Research shows that volunteering and the power of giving back and helping others also has benefits to improving mental health and wellbeing.

In a survey of Network Rail employees who have used their volunteer leave days to volunteer for a charity, over three quarters of respondents said the main reason they decided to volunteer was to benefit the community and a third said to improve their health and wellbeing.

Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways, ORR said “I’ve seen and felt the impact of suicide on a personal level and understand the importance of the work the Samaritans does. We launched the Million Hour Challenge to support the industry’s long-standing partnership with the charity, whose care and support is vital. Over the last few years, this has benefitted the health and wellbeing of our staff by volunteering their time to undertake training, fundraising or listening and help Samaritans with increasing demand for their services.”

The Million Hour Challenge is open to the entire rail industry and to date 30 rail partner organisations have pledged their support with an opportunity for around 165,000 of their staff to support Samaritans’ efforts.

Find out more and sign up to begin logging hours at: www.millionhourchallenge.com

Ribblehead viaduct repairs complete

Iconic structure benefits from sensitive remedial works over harsh winter.

Since November 2020, 100ft high scaffolding towers have moved across seven of the viaduct’s 24 arches to carry out masonry, drainage and repainting work.

The £2.1m investment as part of the Great North Rail Project will secure the Grade II* listed structure’s future as both an historic landmark and vital railway link on the Settle-Carlisle railway line.

Philippa Britton, principal programme sponsor for Network Rail, said: “The teams have worked throughout a harsh winter to restore this hugely important and impressive piece of Victorian engineering for the future and I’m hugely proud of the work we’ve carried out as part of the Great North Rail Project.

“We’ve worked incredibly closely with heritage experts and conservationists to make sure the repairs were sympathetic to the historic structure but would also last the test of time. Now these once in a generation repairs are complete we hope you won’t see scaffolding on this scale at Ribblehead again for many years to come.”

The improvements have been completed in time for easing of coronavirus lockdown restrictions this spring ready for an expected ‘Staycation Summer’. Bumper visitor numbers are expected for the Yorkshire Dales National Park, with the Ribblehead viaduct being one of its star attractions.

The much-loved Ribblehead viaduct is not only one of the country’s most recognisable railway structures, it’s also an important transport corridor for local people, tourists and freight. It carries the Settle to Carlisle railway 400 metres across the Ribble valley.

Mark Rand, vice-president of the Friends of the Settle to Carlisle line, said: “This has been another chapter in the history of the amazing Ribblehead viaduct.  Thirty years ago it was declared to be ‘life-expired’ and in need of replacement or the entire line would have to close.  Happily, neither of those things happened.  All credit to Network Rail and their contractors who have done this work through a bitter Ribblehead winter.  The viaduct stands proud and strong, a monumental tribute to those who lived, and died, to build it.”

During this project, the latest laser and drone survey technology mapped every inch of the Grade II* listed viaduct for the first time, giving a detailed record of its condition so it can be closely monitored in future.

During the works, further minor faults were found and planning applications were granted so the repairs could be completed as part of the same project. With experts already in place this has saved a huge amount of taxpayers’ money – preventing Network Rail from having to come back and erect scaffolding all over again in the near future.

Featured image credit: © Forgotten Relics

Young Rail Professionals – Opportunity and Progress

Newly re-elected chairman of Young Rail Professionals is determined for the YRP to reach a bigger and more diverse audience than ever before.

I’m delighted to be writing as the newly re-elected Chairman of Young Rail Professionals. I’m the first chair in our modest history to run twice, and looking at my day-job diary (as Sponsor for Euston Station at HS2 Ltd), I’m trying not to regret it!

Joking aside, I wanted to lead YRP for another year because post-COVID is probably the most exciting, disruptive period of rebalance and regrowth any of us will experience in our lifetime. Like many others I am daunted by change and the great unknown, but I take enormous solace in what has come before and the trajectory that our industry was following until everything ground to a halt last March.

Many of my fellow Young Rail Professionals (both those young in age and those older but fresh to the industry) will number in one of the only generations with cause to wonder if rail really will provide a “career for life”. With uncertain and somewhat pessimistic passenger demand forecasts, dangerously high industry costs and a legacy of poor public perception of the railways, you could forgive them for worrying about their future.

However, this uncertainty can be a good thing for those less experienced in the industry. Being new and agile allows for adaptation to change with greater ease. Operating with fewer ties in a changing industry opens opportunities to make one’s name, capitalise on career openings and accelerate through a sudden meritocracy like never before.

During my association with YRP I have witnessed a year-on-year improvement in how the industry expects diversity and equality to be prioritised in how we operate and promote ourselves to the world. I have seen the YRP gender balance improve, greater ethnic representation on YRP committees, and this year is the first with equal male and female YRP Company Directors. There is an assumption built into every decision that we make; only fair, equal, and highly moral outcomes are acceptable.

This is a brilliant platform from which to execute change. Early career professionals treated with respect and recognised for their essential role in solving the rail skills gap will quickly become the next generation of leaders, entrepreneurs and problem solvers.

HS2 is an excellent example of the new generation of railway industry players operating under such high expectations. Through job creation, extremely high standards of organisational equality (in February HS2 achieved Platinum Standard accreditation from Clear Assured in inclusive best practice, the only organisation in the UK to have ever achieved it) and world-leading targets for sustainability, HS2 is creating opportunities for Young Professionals to lead and enact change. The rest of the industry cannot be far behind – net-zero carbon targets and increasingly competitive tenders will drive a change in operations and approach, and the limited pool of resources will mean companies will need to exhibit the high standards of equality and morals expected by the younger workforce in order to attract and retain staff.

The change underway in rail is not limited to its workforce. Our contribution to a more carbon-sustainable future will be critical for the transport of our nation, the life-blood between cities and regions. Massive improvements in the accessibility of our infrastructure and services are moving the public perception of rail from an industry of the 19th to the 21st century. Those prepared to take risks to accelerate these changes are those that will benefit most- and who are amongst those most able to take risks? Early career professionals with a strong forward look and a healthy scepticism for the conservative, safe past.

Don’t get me wrong- I love reflecting on our past and take great strength from the incredible history on which our railway is built. I also don’t think that the status quo is automatically wrong. But, much like a strong safety policy, the right mix of established foundations and evidence combined with an ever-striving will to improve and adapt can only improve what our elders have achieved.

This year with YRP I am determined for us to reach a bigger and more diverse audience than ever before. On the track to recovery, rail is going to need a levelled-up workforce with new skills – skills which keep our technology current, our customer service at the forefront and our productivity sector-leading. I want YRP to provide the community for Young Professionals to rapidly develop and network – to learn from their peers and teach others too – to accelerate their careers and step up to the myriad challenges which face us.

Just as the pioneer railwaymen transformed a world without railways, our Young Rail Professionals must bravely take on the challenge of transforming this world for the generations of tomorrow.

Two appointments to RSG Council

The Rail Supply Group (RSG) have announced the appointment of two leading experts to its industry-wide Council, Jacqueline Starr, CEO of the Rail Delivery Group and Elaine Clark, CEO of the Rail Forum Midlands.

Jacqueline Starr became CEO of The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) in December 2020, replacing Paul Plummer. The RDG brings together the companies that run Britain’s railway into a single team with one goal – to deliver a better railway. Jacqeline’s passion and expertise in bringing the industry together to deliver better customer experience will be central to her role with RSG.

Elaine Clark is CEO of Rail Forum Midlands (RFM), a national industry association based at the centre of one of the largest clusters of rail businesses in the world. With some 250 members, RFM has been leading the Rail Sector Deal ’Midlands Pilots’ project, which is specifically designed to encourage SME growth through collaboration and schools engagement.

“The Rail Supply Group is driven by accomplished individuals who are ready to use their experience and expertise to implement positive change for the entire rail industry. I warmly welcome Jacqueline and Elaine, two such leading experts, to the RSG. Each brings their unique and much needed expertise at a pivotal time for our industry’s ambition to build back better” said Philip Hoare, Chair of the Rail Supply Group.

Two new non-executive directors at Network Rail

Network Rail has appointed Ismail Amla and Stephen Duckworth OBE as non-executive directors to its Board, effective from 1 April 2021.

Ismail and Stephen have considerable experience in both the public and private sectors, and join the Network Rail Board having held various senior positions in Britain and abroad.

Ismail Amla

Having lived in the USA for nearly a decade, Ismail has extensive international experience helping leading brands and disruptive start-ups across multiple industries, including rail infrastructure, leverage emerging technologies.

Ismail is currently the Chief Growth Officer at Capita, having previously led the North American Services business for IBM out of New York. Prior to IBM, Ismail was CEO for the consulting firm Capco in North America, and before that was a member of the leadership team for Accenture in the UK.

Ismail is passionate about harnessing the power of diversity and in ensuring that technology is used as a force for good in bridging inequality.

Stephen Duckworth OBE

Stephen founded and ran Disability Matters Limited, a research and consultancy business with expertise in health and safety, sustainability and diversity with an emphasis on access and mobility.

Stephen sits on the Boards of several organisations and has held numerous advisory roles to Government, in addition to an extensive body of international work across various EU states, the US, China, New Zealand, Australia, India, South Africa and the Middle East. He has also been listed in the Power 100 of the most influential disabled people in Britain.

As a wheelchair user who regularly travels by train, Stephen has a keen interest in the railway and accessibility, and has previously carried out consultancy work with Southwest Trains and Eurostar.

Sir Peter Hendy CBE, Chair of Network Rail, said “I am pleased to welcome Ismail and Stephen, and the Board and I look forward to the important contributions they will make to the organisation in the months and years ahead.”

The Secretary of State for Transport has also consented to Network Rail re-appointing Mike Putnam and David Noyes on the Board.

New CEO for G&W UK

Genesee & Wyoming Inc. (G&W) the owner of Freightliner and Pentalver have announced the appointment of Eddie Aston as chief executive officer of its UK / Europe Region.

Eddie joins from background DHL, where he was CEO of Global Sectors, CEO of the Global Life Sciences and Health Care Sector and held leadership positions in DHL’s supply chain solution divisions in the UK. He also served as UK, Ireland and Nordics Managing Director at Ceva Logistics and as UK Managing Director at Northgate Plc.

“Eddie is a seasoned business leader with deep experience in logistics as well as business transformation,” said G&W Chief Executive Officer Jack Hellmann. “He is a highly energetic leader who is intensely focused on customers and will fit in well with G&W’s culture. We are excited for him to lead the next phase of G&W’s business transformation in the UK and continental Europe.”

Eddie succeeds Gary Long, who has served as UK/Europe Region CEO since 2017 and is transitioning back to the United States as planned.

On track to be a chaplain

Helen Lewis has joined Railway Mission as the Railway and British Transport Police Chaplain for South and Mid-Wales. She joins the railway industry as an experienced chaplain, having first gained experience as an outreach worker within schools and as a chaplain with Welsh Netball; being a chaplain to both the Wales senior national squad and the Celtic Dragons Super League team. 

As a chaplain Helen knows that her past experiences with poor mental health could be of benefit in understanding the issues that others might be struggling with.“It was as part of this role with Welsh Netball that I became aware of Mental Health First Aid training,” said Helen.

Soon she trained as an instructor and set up a small training business with a vision to see at least one Mental Health First Aider in every church in Wales, which she has been working towards, training people across Wales in Mental Health First Aid.

Now Helen has taken on the role of Railway Mission chaplain for three days a week, allowing her the opportunity to continue training people to be Mental Health First Aiders, while still practising the skills and knowhow she has gained over the years.

One of the biggest issues the railway industry faces is that of fatalities on the railway. On average around 270 people a year lose their lives on the network in a deliberate act with others being left with life-changing injuries. Railway Mission chaplains offer support to the rail staff involved in such incidents, and to members of the public that are also affected and referred by British Transport Police.

New PMO boss for Alstom

With the recent announcement of Alstom completing the acquisition of Bombardier Transportation, there had been little delay in appointing the Head of Procurement, Supply Chain Transformation and Governance. Helen Endacott, formerly of Rolls-Royce Plc and the Environment Agency spoke of her recent appointment Litchurch Lane.

Commenting on the appointment, Helen said, “Although not actively seeking opportunities at the time, following an approach from Ford & Stanley Executive Search, the Alstom opportunity at Litchurch lane to head up a PMO function sounded like an ideal fit and considering the potential in the role, one not to miss. It has been made even more exciting following the recent Alstom acquisition and I am very much looking forward to embracing the integration of organisational cultures, as well as creating world class sustainable supply chains – can’t wait to meet the new team”

KeolisAmey Metrolink strengthens commitment to employee safety

KeolisAmey Metrolink (KAM) has made it easier for its employees to speak up about health and safety concerns by becoming a member of CIRAS – the confidential health and safety reporting service for the UK transport sector.

When an employee contacts CIRAS with a health or safety issue, CIRAS will listen and share the concern with KAM – without identifying who raised it.  KAM can then investigate and do whatever is necessary to address the concern.  Finally, CIRAS will feed this back to the employee so they are aware of the outcome.

With about 2,000 member companies, CIRAS makes it possible for everyone to have a voice whatever the circumstances, so that health and safety concerns don’t get missed.  CIRAS membership means everyone at KAM will get to share in making the tram operator as safe as it can be.

Ben Kershaw, Health, Safety, Quality and Environment (HSQE) Director at KAM, said:

“The safety and health of our colleagues and customers is our number one priority. Our CIRAS membership reinforces our commitment to zero harm and creating a positive, transparent, reporting and learning culture where everyone is empowered to raise any concerns they may have. We recognise that for some, reporting of health and safety concerns is not always an easy thing to do. It is, therefore, essential for us to provide a system for reports to be made confidentially, enabling our organisation to learn and continuously improve our approach.”  

Catherine Baker, Director of CIRAS, said:

“We welcome KAM on board.  Joining CIRAS sends a clear message to their employees and the wider industry that they want to know about all health and safety concerns, even in situations where it may be hard for people to come forward.

“KAM will be a valuable addition to the CIRAS community, where members share ideas and good practice in order to make the industry a safer place for us all.”

On track to be a chaplain:

Recently Helen Lewis joined Railway Mission as the Railway and British Transport Police Chaplain for South and Mid-Wales.  She joins the railway industry as an experienced chaplain, having first gained experience as an outreach worker within schools and as a chaplain with Welsh Netball; being a chaplain to both the Wales senior national squad and the Celtic Dragons Super League team.  As a chaplain, Helen knows that her past experiences with poor mental health could be of benefit in understanding the issues that others might be struggling with.

“It was as part of this role [with Welsh Netball] that I became aware of Mental Health First Aid training,” Said Helen. Soon she trained as an instructor and set up a small training business with a vision to see at least one Mental Health First Aider in every church in Wales, which she has been working towards, training people across Wales in Mental Health First Aid.

Now Helen has taken on the role of Railway Mission chaplain for three days a week, allowing her the opportunity to continue training people to be Mental Health First Aiders, while still practising the skills and knowhow she has gained over the years.

Helen Lewis visiting BTP Suicide Prevention and Mental Health (SPMH)

One of the biggest issues the railway industry faces is that of fatalities on the railway. On average around 270 people, a year lose their lives on the network in a deliberate act with others being left with life-changing injuries.  Railway Mission chaplains offer support to the rail staff involved in such incidents, and to members of the public that are also affected and referred by British Transport Police.

Railway Mission was founded in 1881 to provide pastoral care and support for railway staff, one hundred and forty years later, the charity is still supporting the railway community through a dedicated team of railway chaplains. From the North of Scotland to the tip of Cornwall, from the Welsh coast to the Humber, chaplains provide a valuable, proactive support network for the railway industry.

To find out more about the work of Railway Mission visit railwaymission.org

Vannin Solutions: A New Name in Permanent Recruitment

Founded by Ian Thomas and Victoria Hesketh in late 2020, Vannin Solutions are permanent recruitment specialists for the UK Rail Industry. Based in Ormskirk, Lancashire, they aim to establish themselves as the ‘go to’ name for permanent rail staffing solutions across the UK by offering a first-class service that’s simple, clear and straightforward.

Ian brings with him a wealth of in-depth railway knowledge and a network of contacts built up from a successful rail career that spans two decades. Victoria has a track record of entrepreneurship, having established and sold several companies during her 20 years as a Company Director.

Says Victoria, “During the first lockdown, Ian and I decided to change our career paths and combine our skills. Ian’s unrivalled rail knowledge and my experience of establishing and running successful businesses, naturally led to the formation of Vannin Solutions.” Partners of 14 years, Ian and Victoria found that, like many, lockdown forced them to re-evaluate their work/life balance and they realised that a change was needed. “12-hour door to door working days were no longer an option.” says Victoria, “We’re very fortunate to be able to successfully run the company from our home office, therefore reducing our overheads and our carbon footprint too.”

Vannin Solutions offer permanent recruitment solutions at all levels within the rail industry.  Ian says, “We have the expertise and experience of putting the right people into the right jobs. All businesses work in different ways, we listen and deliver recruitment solutions in a way that suits each individual business. We want to work in partnership with companies to improve their internal recruitment requirements.”

Ian and Victoria take a fresh approach to recruitment with their core company values being honesty, transparency and industry knowledge. Says Victoria, “One thing that I’ve learnt when establishing businesses is to build them on foundations of honesty. And to always deliver what you’ve promised efficiently and on time.”

For a knowledgeable discussion on how Vannin Solutions can help with your recruitment requirements, contact them on 01695 333033 or visit their website https://www.vanninsolutions.co.uk/

King’s Uncrossed Crucial stage of £1.2billion East Coast Upgrade

Network Rail teams are gearing up to carry out a major stage of the £1.2billion upgrade to the East Coast Main Line, which is the biggest investment into the historic route in a generation.

From March to June, rail workers will simplify the track layout just outside of King’s Cross station, as well as reopen a railway tunnel which closed in the 1970s, creating two extra tracks in and out of the iconic transport hub.

Both pieces of work will make it easier for trains to enter and exit London King’s Cross station, reducing congestion and creating smoother, more reliable and more punctual journeys for passengers.

Trains will be able to run to and from London King’s Cross station for the vast majority of the work, although there will be a slightly reduced service in place, as well as two weekends, one in April and one in June, when no trains will be able to call at the station. Once the work completes in June, more than 6km of new track and over 15km of overhead wires will have been installed.

Ed Akers, Principal Programme Sponsor for Network Rail’s East Coast Upgrade, said: “Our teams are busy making sure that everything is ready for the latest stage of this industry leading project. The work we’re doing at the end of this month is vital to enable a reduced train service to run in and out of King’s Cross station for the vast majority of the main part of this work, which begins in March.

“This East Coast Upgrade is a truly transformative programme, which will bring significant and tangible benefits, such as faster, more frequent and more reliable journeys, which will be felt by all those using the East Coast Main Line and we’d once again like to thank all those impacted by this work for their patience.”

New London Underground Piccadilly Line Trains

In March 2021, Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London and Michael Peter Global CEO of Siemens Mobility unveiled the design of the forthcoming Piccadilly line...

Coming out of lockdown