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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).

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.

Tributes paid to Sir Kenneth Grange, designer of the Intercity 125

Sir Kenneth Grange, designer of the Intercity 125 train, has passed away aged 95.

Sir Kenneth was a household name for designing many items, including cameras for Kodak and food mixers for Kenwood, and founded the design consultancy Pentagram in the early 1970s. He is famed within the rail industry for designing the interior layout and nose cone exterior of Britain’s first high-speed train.

InterCity 125 trains ran for four decades along the East Coast Main Line. Some remain in service with Great Western Railway and ScotRail. In May 2019, LNER held an event to mark the retirement of the fleet from its route and Sir Kenneth Grange was a special guest.

David Horne, managing director at LNER, said “We are deeply saddened to hear of the death of Sir Kenneth Grange, designer of icons. Sir Kenneth created the InterCity 125 which transformed the fortunes of long-distance rail travel in Britain.

We were honoured to welcome Sir Kenneth to London King’s Cross Station in 2019 to say farewell to the iconic fleet, which is quite simply a design classic. His legacy will live on through his numerous everyday designs from Anglepoise lamps to the TX1 London taxi.”

Sir Kenneth received his knighthood in 2014, for services to design.

He was honorary president of the 125 Group, which works to preserve the legacy of the InterCity 125s.

The group commented: “Sir Kenneth became a key designer for many iconic household items – but will be best remembered by us for the amazing transition he made to the front-end design styling and livery of the InterCity 125.

Following the Group’s involvement with the restoration of the Prototype Power Car, Sir Kenneth became a good friend of the Group, an advocate of our aims and has been our Honorary President for the last ten years – visiting us at events on numerous occasions.”

Image credit: Geof Sheppard

New head of rail at Servo Group

National multi-service provider Servo Group has appointed a new head of rail, as it looks to build on its client base and accelerate its growth within the rail sector.

Servo Group, which has offices in Leeds, London, Glasgow, Darlington, Manchester and Birmingham has recruited Annice Palmer to head up its rail division and expand its current market share.

Annice has more than 25 years’ experience within rail and related industries, including more than two decades at rail services specialist Torrent, where she worked her way up from administrative support to an operational lead, responsible for Scotland and the North East and North West of England. Prior to this role, she also held roles in account management and international sales at Speedy and McCullochs.

Servo has had a thriving rail division since its inception in 2013, providing PTS (Personal Track Safety) accredited labour, and SIA-licensed guards and welfare officers to the industry, including high profile clients such as Network Rail and Octavius, and Annice’s remit will include expanding on this client base.

She says: “I’m looking forward to contributing to Servo’s long-term growth and bringing new, fresh ideas, along with my experience of the technicalities of the rail industry to build on the company’s success so far. Being able to capitalise on the company’s existing relationships and, having strong, fundamental, foundations for the rail division in place, such as RISQS accreditation and excellent contacts will be a major asset, and I’m excited to join at a time of peak growth for the rail sector.”

The rail sector, which already supports over 700,000 roles in the UK, is predicted to see a surge of job creation in the next few years due to ongoing Government commitments to improve the state of the industry.

Servo Group Director Andy Haynes, said: “The decision to appoint Annice to head up our rail division was a very easy one. Her experience, contacts and enthusiasm are all impressive and we can’t wait to see the growth that Servo Rail has coming under her leadership, with some huge contracts in the pipeline.”

In the past decade since its inception, Servo has enjoyed fast, national growth, expanding its security, CCTV, cleaning and, now rail divisions, with some high-profile client wins and a host of senior appointments.

The multi-service provider, which has over 1000 operatives working around the country is aiming for a £22 million turnover in the next 12 months.

Image credit: Servo Group

Ben Woods joins Porterbrook as Engineering Business Development Director

Porterbrook has confirmed the appointment of Ben Woods as Engineering Business Development Director, starting in July.

Having started his career in the railway industry as a Graduate Technical Support Engineer at Porterbrook in 2004, he returns bringing a wealth of experience from senior engineering roles at East Midlands Trains, Arriva Trains Wales, Network Rail, IPEX Consulting and most recently at FirstGroup plc.

Ben Ackroyd, Chief Operating Officer said: “We’re pleased that Ben is rejoining the team. With over 4000 vehicles in our diverse portfolio, his expertise will be a huge asset as we look to further capitalise on our recent strategic investments and shape new opportunities in the future.”

Ben Woods said: “I’m delighted to be coming back at such an exciting time for the business.  Through coordinating early-stage workstreams with customers and suppliers, in partnership with teams across the company, I look forward to building on its strong reputation for innovation, collaboration, and delivering value for our customers.”

Image credit: Porterbrook

New chief transformation and digitalisation officer appointed at DB Cargo UK

DB Cargo UK has appointed a new chief transformation and digitalisation officer to spearhead an innovative overhaul of the company’s technological landscape.

Mike Gray, who over the past decade has been a technology leader in the UK rail industry, will take up his appointment to the UK Management Board with immediate effect.

Andrea Rossi, chief executive of DB Cargo UK, said Mike had been supporting the company on an interim basis and was delighted that he had agreed to make his appointment permanent.

“Mike has worked on projects for HS2, Network Rail, the Rail Delivery Group and Transport for Wales, as well as over 25 rail franchise bids. He has extensive knowledge and experience of UK and European rail relevant to leading the digitalisation of our business.”

“The greater use of digital and AI technologies is a key aspect of our ongoing transformation plan and will enable us to deliver even better customer service and product innovation, as well as improving our overall efficiency,” added Andrea.

“Among one of the first deliverables will be the delivery of a new end-to-end operating system, where we can track our products and the customer experience from initial enquiry right through to delivery and invoicing.”

Commenting on his appointment, Mike said: “This really is a dream role for me. I have worked in most aspects of the UK rail industry, but never the freight sector. So, to have the opportunity to support digital transformation and work for the premier UK freight operator is an incredible opportunity.

“I am grateful to DB Cargo UK for creating such an industry-leading role. I feel like all of the experience I have had in my career, has come together to make me a great fit for this task.”

Image credit: DB Cargo UK

New CFO appointed at HS1 Ltd

HS1 Ltd has announced the appointment of Virginie Merle as the company’s new CFO.

Virginie, who has been the UK, Middle East and India CFO for Keolis over the last few years, will take up her role at HS1 in September 2024, and replace Claire Howling, interim CFO at HS1. Claire will stay with the company in a new Finance Director role.

Virginie, a dual French and British citizen, steps into the role with more than 20 years of finance experience. The majority of this time has been in the transport sector, including senior roles at French transport giants Keolis and Transdev, as well as UK rail industry experience with Board positions at Govia Thameslink Railway, Nottingham Trams, Keolis Amey Metrolink and Keolis Amey Docklands. She joins HS1 with a track record of leading finance, procurement, legal, compliance, cyber security and IT teams, as well as stakeholder management.

Robert Sinclair, CEO of HS1 Ltd, said: “We are thrilled to announce the appointment of Virginie as HS1’s new CFO, following an extensive search and selection process.

“Virginie brings a wealth of experience with years of leading finance teams in the transport sector and is well placed to help grow HS1 at a very exciting time for the business as more and more people look to travel by rail to Europe.

“We would also like to give our sincerest thanks to Claire Howling who has taken on the role as interim CFO. Claire will stay on in a new Finance Director role and continue her fantastic work at HS1.”

Virginie said: “I am delighted to have been appointed as the new CFO of HS1 and I look forward to being a part of the exciting journey of growth for high-speed rail over the coming years.

“I am excited to know that I will be working with a highly professional and motivated team at HS1 and I look forward to collaboration with my new colleagues and the company’s stakeholders to build on the business’s already significant success and unlock its full economic and environmental potential.”

The appointment comes at an exciting time for HS1 as international rail travel from the UK is set to grow, and planning for enhancements to meet long term growth at St. Pancras International is underway. The HS1 line, which runs from London to the Channel Tunnel, has the capacity to run up to 50% more cross-Channel services. HS1 aims to unlock this capacity which will come with a host of economic and sustainability benefits.

Image credit: HS1

Northern staff in County Durham praised for saving woman in distress

Three members of Northern’s train presentation team have been praised after they saved a woman who climbed onto the tracks.

Connor Strover, Phil Williams and Keith James were cleaning a train at a station in County Durham during a night shift in May when they noticed the woman was in distress.

When Keith went over to speak to her on the platform, she walked off and climbed onto the railway line.

Connor and Phil called over to a dispatcher, who alerted the control room and managed to get a signal to the driver of an oncoming train.

“Everyone was in the right place and if they weren’t it could have ended very differently,” said Connor, who is a train presentation leader for Northern. “The driver saw the dispatch baton was on red and managed to stop around 20 meters in front of her – it was close. Someone must have been looking out for her.

“As soon as we saw her that night, we knew something was off because of the way she walked past our train.”

After making sure all incoming trains had been stopped, Connor, Phil, Keith and the dispatcher climbed down onto the track to speak to the woman and the convinced her to return to safety.

Connor said: “It’s not part of the job, but everyone kept their cool, reacted quickly and listened to instructions. We were all shaken up afterwards, but the fact she’s OK and getting the help she needs has been a huge morale boost for the team.”

Following these incidents, a review was carried out and the team were presented with walkie talkies, which allow them to communicate with all staff at the station and respond to welfare concerns immediately.

Tricia Williams, Northern’s managing director, and Jason Wade, regional director for Northern, met with the trio to thank them in person earlier this month.

Tricia said: “We’re incredibly proud of our team for going above and beyond to save someone from serious harm. Our staff frequently step in to help people in distress on the rail network and manage to react quickly and remain calm in incredibly stressful situations.”

Anyone can contact Samaritans, free, 24/7, 365 days a year, on 116 123, email [email protected] or visit www.samaritans.org.

Image credit: Northern

TPE ‘ahead of the curve’ as almost a quarter of its engineers are women

TransPennine Express (TPE) is ‘ahead of the curve’ as almost a quarter of the train operator’s fleet and engineering team are women.

While the rail industry has been historically dominated by men, 22 per cent of the team employed are women – above the UK average of 16.5 per cent.

Ahead of International Women in Engineering Day, on Sunday 23 June, Bushra Khan, head of engineering at TPE, said: “While we are well ahead of the curve, we want to continue to empower and inspire more women to join us in the rail industry.

“It’s really important that women get into these roles so there is more representation which reflects the communities we serve.”

Caitlin Gent now works as an assistant commercial engineer. She had originally wanted to be a weapons engineer in the Royal Navy before deciding to take on an apprenticeship role at TPE after studying A-Levels – changing her career track.

She now wants to encourage other women to do the same.

Caitlin said: “Even though I’m in a traditionally male dominated environment, I have always felt supported. “It is important to raise awareness of the different roles in engineering for women. It could be anything from working in a diesel depot, to being in an office dealing with data.”

Leeanne Matuszczyk, is a fleet maintenance planner based in Manchester, much of her working life had been spent in the RAF as an avionics technician when some former colleagues told her how much they were enjoying new roles in rail – so she took the leap and joined TPE.

Leeanne said: “It’s a very diverse job and there is something for everyone, no matter your personality, no matter your skills, there is something for you in the rail industry.

“There’s always someone around to support you and to help you succeed.”

Image credit: TPE

Managing Director of West Coast Partnership Development awarded OBE

Shamit Gaiger, managing director of West Coast Partnership Development (WCPD), has been awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the King’s Birthday Honours list.

Shamit has been recognised for services to rail marking an extensive career working across the industry which has spanned 22 years.

Before being appointed the Managing Director of WCPD in 2022, Shamit held a variety of roles in the sector including a post at the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB), as Director of Strategy at National Skills Academy for Rail and leading the Rail Sector Deal on behalf of HM Government at the Department for Transport.

She also sits as a non-executive director of both Women in Rail and the Campaign for Better Transport.

Speaking about being awarded the honour, Shamit said: “I was completely shocked when I found out to be honest. I am very happy and flattered.”

She added: “I have worked with some wonderful people during my career and I would like to thank them for all their support across the years. This is a huge honour for me as well as my family.”

Shamit will receive her OBE in an investiture ceremony later this year.

Image credit: West Coast Partnership Development

Kevin Gore appointed new boss of Northern’s Neville Hill TrainCare Centre

Northern has appointed Kevin Gore as the new manager of its historic Neville Hill TrainCare Centre in West Yorkshire.

Kevin, who takes up the role from Monday 1 July, joins Northern from Alstom, where he has been the manager of Wembley TrainCare Centre since February 2022.

He has held a number of roles with Alstom, including senior operations manager for rolling stock modernisation and operations manager for the Pendolino fleet rebrand – both at the Widnes Transport Technology Centre.

As a production manager at the Alstom TrainCare Centre in Liverpool, he also led projects on fleet WiFi upgrades and improvements to Pendolino carriages.

At Neville Hill, Kevin will lead the team of engineers and support staff that service 34 trains from nine different fleets and carry out more than 500 safety and service critical tasks every single day.

Commenting on his appointment, Kevin said: “I’m excited to join the team at Neville Hill whose work supports 260 direct and 825 indirect passenger services a day.

“I’m a firm believer in keeping things simple – working as a team to find solutions and getting the job done. These are values I can get behind.”

The TrainCare Centre received a £350,000 makeover last summer and in December, the team at Neville Hill won a Golden Spanner Award for the most reliable loco-hauled fleet, recognising their work on LNER’s InterCity 225s.

Jack Commandeur, engineering director at Northern, said: “Kevin is an excellent addition to the engineering team here at Northern and he will be able to hit the ground running.

“We’re very proud of the reputation Neville Hill has gained in recent years and Kevin will help take that work to the next level.”

Image credit: Northern

Engineer’s career advice to women: “Take the initiative and make it happen”

An engineer working for the train operator Northern has said women shouldn’t wait to be ‘encouraged’ to consider a career in engineering – saying the sector’s employment credentials speak for themselves.

In a rallying cry to women across the country, Rebecca Prendergast says engineering offers excellent career progression, the opportunity to work on exciting multi-million-pound projects and higher than average salaries.

Prendergast, who is currently a senior production manager for operations at Northern’s TrainCare Centre at Newton Heath in Manchester, has spoken out ahead of International Women in Engineering Day on 23 Sunday.

She says: “Engineering has so much to offer in terms of a fulfilling career. Women shouldn’t wait for anyone to ‘encourage’ them into it, they should take the initiative and make it happen themselves – they won’t regret it.

“I appreciate it’s still a male dominated industry – but the same benefits that make this a great career for men are just as true for women.

“I get the opportunity to work on something integral to the success of the region I call home – and that’s incredibly rewarding.”

Having originally joined Northern as a train conductor in 2013, Prendergast has already climbed several rungs up the engineering career ladder.

She made the move into the engineering team in 2018 when she became a depot train driver and went on to become an instructor for other depot train drivers in 2020.

Since then, she has taken on a bigger role at the TrainCare Centre, working as a shift production manager before being promoted into her current role in December 2023.

Prendergast added: “It hasn’t always been plain sailing – I didn’t get some of those jobs on the first attempt – but you have to just keep going and never give up.

“What I’ve found to be the case is that, within engineering, there’s a great sense of willing you on to succeed. Why wouldn’t a woman want to work in that environment?”

International Women in Engineering Day is an annual event organised by the Women’s Engineering Society (WES) to promote the contribution of female engineers around the world.

The WES is a registered charity founded at the end of the First World War when women who had been employed in technical fields found it difficult to continue working as engineers.

Over a hundred years later it continues to ensure equality for women in engineering and support the industry to be inclusive. For more information, visit: inwed.org.uk.

Image credit: Northern

Network Rail’s Sharon Salmon recognised in King’s Birthday Honours list

Network Rail’s Sharon Salmon has been made a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) for services to the railway and diversity and inclusion.

In her 18 years at Network Rail, Sharon has devoted much of her time volunteering to help make Network Rail and the industry a more diverse, open & inclusive place for everyone, committed to removing barriers for people and helping Network Rail become increasingly representative of modern Britain.

Sharon was a founding member of Network Rail’s Cultural Fusion Network (CFN) in 2014 – an employee network for black, Asian and minority ethnic employees & their allies, and became chair in 2019. Before leading the network, she volunteered as the network’s communications, marketing, external liaisons lead and deputy chair all on top of her busy day job as a commercial analyst for Network Rail’s Route Services function.

Membership of the CFN grew from 565 to 1162 within a year of her leadership and the CFN has been recognised for taking initiative to make positive change in the business.

Sharon has also coordinated events for Black History Month, organising inspiring speakers such as Ansel Wong CBE, Board Director for Nottingham Hill Carnival and founder of Black History Month in the UK, and award winning actor Naomi Ackie, who gave a candid interview on the importance of representation and how she navigates remaining authentic in the industry.

The award includes Sharon’s collaborative work with the charity Anthony Nolan, where the CFN supported events to highlight the lack of black, Asian and minority ethnic stem cell donors. The network also worked with the Sickle Cell Society, organising a 10k charity run and raising money.

The result of her hard work saw an increase in people joining the stem cell register and raising awareness on the debilitating disease for sufferers of Sickle Cell disease which is prominent in Ethnic minorities. Sharon has since stepped down as the lead of the CFN but continues her commitment to diversity and inclusion as a trustee of Women in Rail.

She was awarded HR, Diversity & Inclusion Award at the 2022 RailStaff Awards.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s chief executive, said: “Huge congratulations to Sharon on this well-deserved recognition. She has shown true leadership in making Network Rail a more inclusive workplace, in particular in being a founding member of our Cultural Fusion Network. She is an inspiration to many across our industry and a real credit to Network Rail.”

Image credit: Network Rail

QTS announces promotions to senior team

National rail contractor, QTS Group has announced several key promotions within its board of directors and a 25% growth in recruitment.

As part of the QTS’s commitment to fostering talent and recognising exceptional leadership, the senior team changes will support its growth and operational excellence.

Gary Burnett has been promoted to regional director for England & Wales whilst Barry McLeish steps into the role of Regional Director for Scotland, both bring a wealth of experience to further fortify QTS’s presence in its pivotal regions.

In addition, Stephen Nutley has become operations director for Civils & Geotechnical in Scotland, and Joe Urquhart took on the new position of operations director for Reactive & Small Schemes in England & Wales. Thomas Marshall expands to operations director for Fencing and Vegetation Management in England & Wales.

In addition to these internal advancements, QTS ramped up its recruitment efforts to attract top-tier talent across the industry. In the last year, the national rail contractor made 157 new hires, with the majority at its headquarters in Strathaven in South Lanarkshire (113), followed by Linby, Nottinghamshire (13), Leeds, Yorkshire (10), Preston, Lancashire (13), Penrith, Cumbria (6), and Malmesbury, Wiltshire (2).

The demand for talent will continue to grow throughout 2024 following the announcement of secured contracts for the North West and Central region. QTS will also open three new offices across England including Manchester, Leighton Buzzard, and St Helens.

Image credit: QTS

All change, please

There’s been a sense of change in the air ever since Rishi Sunak called a General Election for 4 July. It would be wrong to presume the outcome but there’s a definite sense that the balance of power in the House of Commons is set to change. That said, politics is as much of an art as a science, and election shocks are part and parcel of the process.Whatever the result, we can only hope that it brings a season of positive change for the industry.

As the Government appears to steam towards election defeat, near misses, derailments, and collisions dominate Colin Wheeler’s regular safety digest. However, he looks to the post-election future with a sense of optimism that a reorganised, well-motivated railway, is in reach. Let’s hope that can be achieved no matter who’s in Number 10.

In this edition’s features, we take a swing to the left as we sit down with Steve Mole of CPC to discuss his decision to transition the business to an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT). The model is designed to encourage broader employee ownership and participation, deliver tax benefits and ensure continuity for the business.

Having touched on employee issues, we honour the work of our brothers and sisters on the network’s train presentation crews, who toil away, often out of sight, to make our trains a pleasant space to while away the time. Surely, it’s about time they got the recognition they deserve? Workers of the world, unite!

Staying in a progressive frame of mind, the focus of this issue is – Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI) and there’s something of a bias towards women, for a change. We begin by welcoming Ruth Busby OBE who chats to us about her varied career, her route into rail, and the passion for EDI which earned her a nod in the New Year’s Honours List.

Next, we meet new columnist Daisy Chapman-Chamberlain, who explores the disparity in pay between male and female colleagues and asks how the industry can close the gap. Women in Rail’s Marie Daley then joins us to discuss how the industry can make itself more attractive to the younger generation and open the doors to upward progression.

Women’s health issues are a largely undiscussed fact of life, and sweeping these issues under the carpet holds them back in the workplace. We shine a spotlight on one condition which affects more people than you might think. Finally, we celebrate Pride Month with a look at how the UK’s train operating companies (TOCs) are showing support for their LGBT+ colleagues and customers.

We close with an update from Bonnie Price, CEO of Young Rail Professionals who brings us back to the issue of EDI and invites us to broaden our horizons with a spot of global travel.

Once the election is over, a holiday might be what we all need, whichever side of the political spectrum we stand on.

[email protected]

Image credit: iStockphoto.com

Safety awareness & culture need to improve

Colin Wheeler

I was pleased to see the recent updating of Network Rail’s Safety Bulletins on their Safety Central website which is accessible to all. Network Rail says they are “regularly sent out to staff”. Hopefully, all relevant employers of staff working on Network Rail’s railways use them to brief their people.

It is more important than ever that supervisors and managers reinforce safety culture via face-to-face discussions with their staff. Personal commitment is needed. I recall from years ago the efforts made by Trades Union Safety Representatives, whose dedication and commitment contributed hugely to the safety culture in the railway industry.

A near miss and contractor fall

On 5 April, a report was issued describing how a contractor was seriously injured on 11 March. The individual was working on wooden infill in Clapham Depot carriage wash area adjacent to the parapet when the wooden infill collapsed, resulting in a fall of 20 feet onto another section of railway below.

The incorrect installation of Emergency Speed Restriction (ESR) equipment “on multiple sites” was reported on the Safety Central website relating what are described as “several instances” during 2023. On April 30, a near miss with a trackworker was reported on a limited clearance underbridge at Chiltern Green Luton.

Recent RAIB report

On 27 March, the Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) issued report 02/2024 about the derailment of a tram at Bulwell, Nottingham on 12 June last year. It was at 17:05 when a southbound tram, travelling at 25mph “approached a set of facing points in an unsafe condition”. At the north end of Bulwell tram stop it travelled over points but the tram’s first and second set of bogies “were routed in different directions.”

The tram derailed and struck an overhead line pole supporting the overhead wire. As a result, a pane of glass was dislodged and struck a passenger causing a minor injury. The tram driver was also injured. The spring-loaded points were in an unsafe condition having not reset after the passing of two north bound trams. A visual indicator located alongside the points was “not observed by the tram’s driver”.

The driver believed they would be informed if there were any issues with a set of points but this had not occurred. The report speculates that “the driver had probably been conditioned to there being no issues at this location and was probably distracted.” Report 02/2024 makes three recommendations, all to Nottingham Trams Ltd. It is to “review control room policy and procedures to ensure that clear and practical guidance is available to manage the response to engineering faults.”

Secondly, RAIB highlights the need to “improve risk assessments in the light of this accident”. The third recommendation concerns the “consideration of human factors when assessing the effects of a prosed engineering change”. Having read the report carefully I hope their drivers regularly attend safety meetings, recommend improvements, and are able to raise concerns.

Near miss with track worker

This incident occurred on 14 March this year at 14:14 hours on the Up Fast line close to the junction with the West Coast Mainline. It involved a train travelling at 110mph. The track worker involved believed the Up Fast was blocked, but the line blockage agreed with the signaller applied to the Down Fast not the other road. Following a preliminary examination, RAIB has decided to publish a Safety Digest!

Derailment at Grange over Sands

On 22 March around 06:05, a passenger train travelling between Preston and Barrow in Furness derailed after crossing over a length of track that was unsupported and gave way as the train passed over. It was travelling at 56mph and the first three of the six coaches derailed. The train struck a wall at the top of the embankment but remained upright, coming to rest about 30 metres beyond the cavity.

Four passengers and four staff were on the train but none of them were injured. However, there was “significant damage to both the train and railway infrastructure”. RAIB is seeking to “identify the sequence of events and will consider the condition of the railway and drainage, the planning and management of maintenance, management of local flood risks, and any underlying factors”. I expect to read a full investigation report in due course.

Near miss at Fishguard

On 10 April, RAIB released its Safety Digest on this near miss that involved a trackworker who was acting as both Person in Charge (PIC) and Controller of Site Safety (COSS). The incident took place on 4 January at around 09:46 and involved a train travelling at 53mph some three and a half miles south of Fishguard.

The workers were a small team of agency workers whose job was to clear vegetation for a principal contractor. The planned work was to be done using a “separated system of work” with staff remaining at least two metres away from the nearest open line. As the train approached, its driver saw the PIC on the track! The train’s horn was sounded and the emergency train brake was applied. The PIC moved off the open track two seconds before the train passed.

The train driver reported the near miss to Clarbeston Road signal box and then continued the train’s journey. RAIB’s Safety Digest states that the PIC had strayed outside of the safe area that had been published in the planned safe system of work. The site is on a bi-directional single track between Clarbeston Road Junction and Fishguard Harbour Station. It is on a sharp curve “with vegetation further restricting the view for train drivers”.

Image from forward-facing CCTV taken from a different train, showing the access point in the foreground and the bridge in the background. Credit: RAIB

The access point permits eastern access from a roadside gate next to a bridge carrying the railway over a road. From the gate a grass path rises parallel to the track with railway on either side. At the top the path turns towards the track and then leads into the cess.

Preparation of the Safe Work Pack (SWP) was done by the principal contractor and was received by the PIC three days before the site work began. It covered a section of track including the sites planned for the day. Planned access details for that morning were listed, as was the egress point at the other end of the work around four miles away. The SWP also blandly advised that “various authorised access points within the mileage could also be used for access”. There were no specific SWP’s for each site nor any individual consideration of risks. The hazard directory did not include any details of limited clearance at the bridge.

The plan required the PIC to “establish a separated system of work to protect the team from moving trains”. Site Wardens must have no other duties, and no one should enter any closer than two metres from an open line. A site warden may not be needed, provided a three-metre separation can be achieved. Two operatives met the PIC around 09:00, were briefed at the access point, and signed the briefing form. One of them also signed to confirm undertaking the duties of a Site Warden!

They walked up the path to the first strip of vegetation to be cleared. Work began between the path and railway boundary. The PIC then asked the other operative to use the cess to locate the next area to be cleared, but was unaware that the next strip was the other side of the bridge beyond the limited clearance area. The operative moved out of sight of the PIC who stayed on the access path.

On hearing an approaching train, the second operative and PIC moved towards the track to “get a better view of the first operative’s location”. They both stumbled and ended up on the track. Closed-circuit forward-facing pictures from the train cab showed the train’s speed to be 53mph. Following the near miss, the trackworkers left the site almost immediately without either completing the work or reporting the incident. The SWP did not include any details of limited clearance at the bridge and the PIC had not visited the site before the work took place, and consequently was unaware of the limited clearance before going on site.

Ponton Yard access point from a train travelling south on the up fast line.

Train collides with RRAP equipment

This accident occurred on 19 December 2023 at 06:03. A passenger train was damaged when it ran into parts of road/rail access point (RRAP) left on the track at Ponton Yard near Highdyke on the East Coast Main Line. RAIB’s Safety Digest 02/2024 was issued on 17 April. Road/Rail on-tracking had been attempted the previous night following which the RRAP was “unintentionally left on the track”.

Planned inspection and maintenance was one of the activities south of Grantham. The portable RRAP had two metal ramps to be placed outside the running rails and two locally modified lightweight, high density foam ramps to be placed between the running rails. These were made from a commercially available kit, but the modification had not been approved by Network Rail nationally.

Uncontrolled self-evacuation

RAIB’s Report 03/2024 titled “Uncontrolled evacuation of a partially platformed train at Clapham Common London Underground Station” was updated on 8 May. The incident took place as long ago as 5 May 2023 at around 17:43. An underground train departing from the station was halted by a passenger using the emergency alarm after smoke and a smell of burning entered the train. It came to a stand with two cars inside the tunnel and four adjacent to the platform. Around 100 of the 500 passenger self-evacuated using the interconnecting doors between the cars and the train windows.

Some train windows were broken by passengers both from inside the train and from on the platform. After a delay of four and a half minutes, station staff began opening train doors. A few passengers reported minor injuries. Clapham Common Station has a narrow island platform which the report says increased the risk of passengers falling onto the track and potentially being exposed to the conductor rail or trains approaching on the adjacent southbound line.

Passengers beginning to evacuate from the train via the broken window.

The report refers to the increasing alarm of passengers when the trains doors remained closed and the delay which took place before information and action became apparent from London Underground staff.

Train driver in near miss

On New Years Day at 09:30, a freight train carrying dangerous goods activated a hot axle box detector (HABD) at Netherfield Junction, east of Nottingham Station. Signalling brought the freight train to a stand. While its driver was examining the train on the Up line, a passenger train was allowed to leave Nottingham Station on the Down line. Its driver saw that the driver of the freight train was on the track and in the passenger train’s path.

The passenger train’s driver braked and used the train horn to give a warning. The freight train driver reacted and moved clear. After bringing the train to a stand the passenger train driver reported the incident to the signaller.

A new era?

My optimistic, but I hope realistic, post-election aspirations are for a reorganised and well-motivated railway, free of industrial action that, operates safely. Currently, there are simply too many accidents and incidents. I worked in the industry for 17 years while fulfilling an on-call commitment. I have too many bad memories. On today’s railways there is still plenty more that should be done.

Image credit: RAIB

Expert commentary – Ruth Busby, GWR & Network Rail Wales and Western

Ruth Busby, people and transformation director (regional) for GWR and Network Rail Wales and Western, forged a career path in HR before joining the rail industry in 2018. Awarded an OBE in the 2023 New Years Honours List, she spoke to RailStaff about her journey into rail, her commitment to Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion (EDI), and how wellbeing is a crucial pillar of the agenda.

Thanks for taking the time to chat with us, Ruth. You’ve had a varied career in HR, working for some very interesting organisations. Could you tell us a little more about that and your journey into rail?

I started my career at the Home Office as a civil servant on their fast-track scheme. I was working on policy development around youth offending, criminal justice, and hate crime, that sort of thing. While I was at the Civil Service, I moved into HR and worked on an MSc in HR and became a Chartered Member of the CIPD. I was planning to go back into policy work at some point, but I stayed in HR and, in 2010, when the coalition government came in, I moved to the University of Reading as deputy director of HR. I should mention that wasn’t for any political reason, but because the coalition was making cuts to HR in the civil service. I then moved on to the Atomic Weapons Establishment doing both HR and transformation work, before moving into rail.

For my first five years in the industry, I was HR director at Great Western Railway (GWR) and, in January 2023, became people and transformation director (regional) for GWR and Network Rail Wales and Western. The move into rail came about as it was a good opportunity to move into an HR director role. I was a regular user of the railway, having commuted into London for nearly a decade, and I felt it was an interesting industry. Another attraction is that it was a customer-focused organisation – you don’t get to chat to many people when working in the world of nuclear warheads. Rail also allowed me to work in an organisation that provides a public service, through a private operator, and that really appealed to me as well.

My previous roles really gave me a good grounding for Rail, not just because I managed to get my HR qualifications, but also because working for the Civil Service has given me a good understanding of how the Department for Transport (DfT) works. I’ve brought some useful learning over from those days, which isn’t all around HR.

You’ve been lauded for your work in EDI. Could you tell us more about your activities in this space, both inside and outside the workplace?

Outside of work I’m a passionate supporter of Women in Rail. I was co-chair of Women in Rail South for a while and briefly joined the board as a trustee. I’m also a non-executive director for a nonprofit company called Youth Futures Foundation, which was set up to address the disparity in youth unemployment linked to disadvantage. Some of that is around ethnicity and particular ethnic groups, as well as young carers, mental health, and neurodiversity.

In terms of my professional career, during my first couple of years with GWR my work concentrated on how we could engage with people, how we represented the communities we serve, and how to attract people from different backgrounds.

Credit: iStockphoto.com

When the Covid pandemic began in 2020, we had to adapt quickly to make sure we were looking after people and we developed a different relationship with trade unions because we were working more collaboratively. We were adapting policies very quickly in a much more agile way and focussing to a much greater degree on wellbeing because of lockdown and homeworking. As a result, mental health became a big focus.

The most important thing for me about the EDI agenda is engaging people in conversation. There is often push back, which is why for me, having conversations about wellbeing is a fundamental part of the EDI agenda. You can embrace everyone and recognise that we all have specific challenges. For example, it is vital that we talk about the crisis in men’s mental health and the impact of suicide. Covid opened the door and allowed wellbeing to become part of the conversation we were having around equality and diversity, and to really drive change.

My current role as people and transformation director (regional), for GWR and Network Rail Wales and Western is slightly different to those I’ve held before. It’s essentially two roles spanning two organisations, leading the people and internal communications teams in both. The idea is that if you have one person leading in that joint role, you have more opportunities for cross-industry collaboration on a wide range of people issues, including mental health, diversity, the ageing workforce, and the need to bring in new talent to address that.

Drawing on your experience of other industries, how well in your opinion does Rail handle issues around EDI?

The railway has got something unique and special, particularly when it comes to wellbeing. There genuinely is that sense of togetherness, which is why I think the wellbeing agenda is so well received. For example, I don’t know any other industry, where private and public sector companies come together to co-sponsor an event like Rail Wellbeing Live which is for the benefit of everyone in their industry. That’s really unusual.

Last year, the Samaritans released a report, commissioned by GWR and the Department for Transport, into the mental health of railway workers. It found that the impact of encountering trauma, physical, and verbal abuse, and the culture of grievances meant that there are unique impacts for the mental health of railway colleagues. That’s why it is so important that we come together to support one another.

In terms of diversity, one of the challenges in the rail industry, particularly among train operators and some areas of operations in Network Rail, is that people work in the industry for a long time. Because of that, it takes a long time to make the workforce more diverse. So it is important that we have an environment where everyone is made to feel welcome when they join the industry, how we address equity, and how we start conversations about things that mean a lot to people with experiences other than our own. I genuinely believe that, in terms of equality, the difference comes in having contact with people from different backgrounds.

Something else that’s really important is that we know young people consider the values of an organisation more today and are much choosier about where they work. They want to know if a particular company is a place that they’ll resonate with, if it’s a place where they’ll feel they can be themselves. It’s important that we appeal to a much broader portion of the population to attract employees and to attract and retain customers.

You were awarded the OBE in the 2023 New Years Honours List. What was it for and how did you find out?

I received the OBE for Services to Diversity in the Rail Industry. I wasn’t aware that I’d been nominated – you don’t know anything about it until you receive a letter through the post. I received the letter – which was very official, on nice paper with an embossed seal – on 20 November, but it wasn’t announced until 29 December. So, I had this really exciting news but couldn’t tell anyone except for my closest family and the press office at work. It was the most bizarre, exciting, smoke-and-mirrors type of situation.

Credit: iStockphoto.com

Can you tell us about the experience of going to receive the award? It must have been an incredible occasion.

Going to the awards ceremony was a fantastic experience. I know a few people who’ve received honours and they all went to Windsor Castle, but mine was at Buckingham Palace so quite different, but equally amazing. It was on the Friday before the London Marathon, so Constitution Hill was closed, and our taxi dropped us off around the corner. My husband and I, and our two children, were walking in our finery in front of all the tourists getting ready to watch the Changing of the Guard and my daughter said: “Someone just said ‘Do you think they’re royal?’”

When you get to Buckingham Palace, you go up the golden staircase and there was a string quartet playing Avicii. We were taken to the Picture Gallery to be given our briefing and after that, you go in to collect your award individually.
It’s very British. You form a queue, accompanied by your guests, but just before it’s your turn they’re taken to a viewpoint in the Throne Room. Then, you go into the Throne Room yourself, do your little curtsey or bow, have a chat with whoever is presenting the award – in my case the Princess Royal – and then receive the award. It’s an absolutely incredible experience.

Despite the fact that I received the award for services to EDI, when it was reported in my local paper, the headline ran: “Mum of two awarded OBE”. That was quite ironic – I doubt they’d have used a similar headline for a man, and whilst I love and am very proud of being a mum, it isn’t what the OBE was awarded for.

Finally, what do you think can we do as an industry, and as a society, to drive the EDI agenda and bring the change that’s needed?

I think there are two mistakes that are made in relation to EDI. One is that we become apologetic and don’t want to offend people who disagree with the conversation. The other is that we’re too politically correct and tell people what they can and can’t say.

That approach was taken in the early noughties and people with experience of EDI will agree that was a mistake. It meant that people closed down and didn’t engage in conversations and continued to hold the same views under the radar.

The only way we’ll help to ensure that everyone feels valued and able to be themselves at work is if we change the way people feel, and you can only achieve that through connection.

It doesn’t work if you’re apologetic, I don’t think you can tiptoe around people. You can challenge with curiosity and ask “why is it that you feel like that?” and “what is it that’s driving that?” but if you completely avoid a topic, you’re not going to get anywhere.

I also like being a bit mischievous. I once talked about providing sanitary products for colleagues at a stakeholder conference which made some people in the audience a bit uncomfortable. But why not? You need to get people’s attention if you’re going to make any change.

There are some huge challenges that need to be tackled: challenges around the success rates of people from ethnically diverse backgrounds securing jobs on the railway; around representation at all different levels; around how we appeal as an industry to the next generation who are strongly motivated by values; and around the treatment of some senior women in the railway. And if we tiptoe around these issues, we’ll never make any change.

Lead image: GWR

Time to close the gap

RailStaff’s new columnist, Daisy Chapman-Chamberlain, explains why an industry-wide push on EDI is essential.

In many ways, the rail industry is extraordinarily honest. When there are incidents, we dutifully log them, investigate, and carry forward lessons learned. When special timetables are successful, we celebrate, assess, and copy positive learnings for the future. But when it comes to our people, are we as proactive as we could be?

Credit: Daisy Chapman-Chamberlain

Since the start of mandatory gender pay gap reporting in 2017, the industry has been taking a hard look at our equality/equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) balance. Some parts of the industry are leading the way; LNER and Network Rail are delivering the ‘Never Mind The Gap’ initiative, which offers training and placements for women who have been out of work for a period of time, such as following career breaks or redundancy. Govia Thameslink Railway revealed a 50% increase in the number of female applicants starting an apprenticeship with them from 2022-2023.

The initiatives outlined above with GTR, LNER, and Network Rail are all incredibly positive and laudable, but they are happening in pockets, rather than across the sector. What is needed most is an industry-wide, collective push to enable not only the growth of EDI in the sector, but to reverse some worrying wider trends. The gender pay gap, for example, has increased across all modes of transport employment – in 2017, the pay gap between men and women was 9.6%, and in 2022 it was 10.4%. EDI is not just about gender, of course, and encompasses a wide range of intersectional factors, including race, ethnicity, age, disability, and beyond.

A problem shared

Looking to our friends on the continent, 21% of those working in the Europe-wide rail sector are women. We can also see positive, sector-wide growth within some European nations, which the UK can learn from; the number of women working at Deutsche Bahn (DB) has reached 55,000 across Germany, making up 24.1% of it’s workforce, an increase on the 23.6% of the previous year, and not just at lower levels of the company – the proportion of female executives at DB has increased to 29.4%. 2024 is DB’s second year as the ‘most female-friendly company’ in Germany (awarded by the FKi Diversity for Success initiative).

So how has DB achieved this, and what can we learn? Well, for one, the company’s initiatives are national (due to its national railway organisational structure). Having comprehensive schemes across the country, rather than individualised and in some ways harder to find programmes in different operators, will certainly have contributed to its overall success. DB ensures this growing success in gender balance in a range of ways, including part-time working availability, career development and advancement programmes and training, and flexible work hours.

The Railway Industry Association and Women in Rail EDI charter, launched in 2020, is a key step in the right direction. The charter has over 200 organisations signed up and committed to a range of progression activities, including public reporting of their progress, inclusive recruitment processes, unconscious bias training, and more. This charter outlines some of the most important steps organisations can take if they are serious about their EDI journey, and comprehensive application across the country is a key unifying factor as we see with DB’s progress. A problem shared is a problem halved, as the saying goes.

Credit: iStockphoto.com

Less than straightforward

EDI can seem to be a tricky topic to understand, let alone deliver on, but there are practical actions that organisations can take. They must assess their gender balance and gender pay gap, as benchmarking is essential for progression. Policies should ensure equal opportunities (as demonstrated by DB), such as equal parental leave, flexible working and hours, equity in pay, leadership and development programmes, and more. Externally, organisations should also be engaging in education programmes within schools and colleges to ensure the next generation can consider rail as a positive viable career. Engaging with Community Rail education initiatives is an excellent path to ensuring the highest levels of quality engagement.

EDI must not be considered a ‘nice to have’ or ‘optional’ in rail, and we must not rely on just the words spoken by an organisation as to their EDI commitment but look at the actions that they take. As we see large numbers of rail employees retiring, we must place ourselves as a sector which is desirable for potential employees.

It is vital that we have more women (and people of all identities) working within rail for a wide range of reasons, from staffing level practicalities to enabling diversity of thinking, which in turn enables higher profits (according to a study from the Peterson Institute for International Economics and Ernst & Young, a shift from no female leaders to 30% positively correlates with a 15% increase in net revenue margin). However, the central message is that women use the rail system, and must therefore shape, lead, and deliver within it, to ensure a truly fair, safe, and accessible network.

Daisy Chapman-Chamberlain is the Innovation Manager at East West Railway Company. With a passion for transport transformation, accessibility, sustainability, and inclusion, she works to make the future of rail safer, accessible and enjoyable for all customers. Daisy can be contacted at [email protected].

Lead image: iStockphto.com

Women in Rail: driving equality, equity, and diversity

It’s been some time RailStaff reported on the work of Women in Rail, the charity which strives to improve diversity in the industry by providing networking opportunities and support for all women within the sector. We caught up with the organisation at the end of on incredibly busy 12 months, which have seen it celebrate success, hit milestones, and welcome new leadership.

At the end of May, the charity published it’s end of year report 2023, charting its progress in improving gender balance, equality, diversity and inclusion across the rail industry. Last month also saw the charity’s seventh Women in Rail Awards which was held at the Roundhouse in Camden, London. With over 780 attendees, the event was, as ever, a huge success and saw a record number of nominations.

In the past year, Women in Rail’s cross-industry mentoring programme has yielded impressive results seeing 41% of mentees promoted during or after taking part, and 43% of mentors become advocates for EDI in their workplaces. Meanwhile, SWiFT, its networking platform for executive members, staged its first executive coaching session and delivered a busy schedule of events and insightful talks from inspirational leaders.

It’s also been a year in which Women in Rail has strengthened its board with the appointment of six new trustees and, in September, welcomed Marie Daly, chief customer & culture officer at Transport for Wales, as its new chair.

Marie took time out of her hectic schedule to remind us of Women in Rail’s operations, objectives, and the critical importance of connecting with the next generation.

Hi Marie, thanks for joining us. For those who aren’t already aware, would you mind telling us a little more about the work of Women in Rail?

Women in Rail is the leading voice for women across the rail industry and we’re passionate about partnering with organisations and businesses to help them in their pursuit of gender equality and diversity. We’re a really exciting organisation and anyone who isn’t currently engaged with us should get involved.

Credit: iStockphoto.com

Funded by corporate sponsors, we’re a charity that’s inclusive of all genders within the sector, working alongside major stakeholders to support the development, promotion and attraction of women in the UK railway sector and, more broadly, improve gender balance, equality, diversity, and inclusion in rail.

Our regional leads work directly with colleagues across all different aspects of the industry, providing a hub for people to connect with us. We do everything from running group sessions to discuss the issues that people are facing, to organising walks and addressing wellbeing. Our work tends to be member led and one of our unique selling points is that membership is free, making it inclusive for all.

Our mission is to be unapologetic in our pursuit of gender equity and being a gender-diverse organisation is so important to us as we can’t deliver the change that is necessary without our allies being on board.

Can you talk a little about the challenges that women face in the rail industry today?

The rail industry has come a long way in terms of board level discussions around equality and diversity, and we have some really enlightened leaders who understand that diversity in the boardroom is really good for business.
However, according to our most recent gender equality survey, the proportion of women and those identifying as women working in rail stands at just 16.3%. The challenge of the rail industry is to see that increase significantly.

omen are not going to face a better working environment unless we get that gender balance fixed in our current environments. We also need to see more women represented in senior roles who can shape the debate and strategy that will affect rail’s future employees.

I’m currently working closely with the Great British Railways Transition Team (GBRTT) focusing on frontline roles. We do a lot of good work in EDI but, as humans, we sometimes only consider issues through our own lens. Considering policies around menopause, for instance, Women in Rail does a lot of work around this important Women’s health issue, but can sometimes fail to consider the experiences and different needs of women throughout the industry doing a wide range of roles. The experience of employees working in frontline roles is completely different from those in office-based roles, and we need to be able to say that we’re representing women in all areas, and at all levels, of the industry.

So how can the industry attract women to its ranks and create an environment where they can progress?

We’ve got some work to do as an industry. We need to think about how we influence senior leadership, including at government level, and how we shape the way that the industry is viewed. Perception of the industry is a significant part of this and that’s been made clear in a number of surveys we’ve carried out.

For some time, there’s been talk of a drive to shift rail from being a transport business to a customer services business, and this presents an opportunity for us to change the dialogue. If a greater focus is placed on the customer experience, then by default the experiences of women travelling on the network will be taken into greater consideration. And if that is the case, then the industry will become more attractive to women as a career option.

Credit: iStockphoto.com

Recent data shows that we are seeing a greater number of young, skilled women entering the industry and that’s very positive, but as an industry we need to better understand the generational difference of this group of employees and if the industry doesn’t adapt, we risk pushing away young talent. I really think rail is missing a trick at the moment. The industry is all about customers, communities, and providing a service, but we don’t play on those aspects enough to interest the younger generation. We need to connect better with young people, understand their needs, and tap that reservoir of potential employees. Women in Rail sees apprenticeships as the industry’s biggest opportunity to bring the next generation into rail.

In terms of progression, getting involved with networking groups such as Women in Rail, is so important. We have a great mentoring scheme, and 54% of mentees have said that in the last year they’ve either moved roles, been promoted, or moved to company for a role at a higher level. One consequence of the gender imbalance within the industry is that there are fewer female role models and potential mentors. Joining a networking group provides opportunities to meet women working at a senior level and learn from their experience.

How can Women in Rail help the industry achieve this over the next few years?

We’re about to launch our new three-year business plan, which sets our vision of evolution rather than revolution focussed around the four pillars of supporting, engaging, attracting, and retaining women from all backgrounds in the industry. We must make sure that women are thriving, not just surviving, in rail.

The new business plan has been co-created with the input of trustees, regional leads, and members. One of the biggest things to come out, which is linked to our work on the EDI Charter, is to develop a gender equity tick list. This brings together all the voices of women, and those who identify as women, to discuss the simple things that businesses can do today to make a difference.

It’s about quick wins – addressing common issues and providing a list of good practices which can be achieved with minimum funding. This may be something like ensuring that women are represented on recruitment panels. If we don’t have diverse recruit panels, how can we expect to address the gender imbalance?

There is still a long way to go, and our recent Women in Rail and NSAR survey has shown that. However, we are at a moment of change for the industry and Women in Rail wants to work with whichever government it will be on 4 July to ensure that the collective voice of women from all backgrounds in the industry is heard and understood by government and senior railway leaders.

Lead image: TfW

Breaking taboos around women’s health

Dealing with unique health challenges is one of the many hurdles that women face in the modern workplace. Endometriosis is just one complaint that can have a huge impact on day-to-day life, but one which employers rarely recognise or provide adequate support for. However, some companies are leading the way.

In May, TransPennine Express (TPE) announced it had signed up to become an Endometriosis Friendly Employer, helping to drive positive change in the workplace.

By joining this scheme, the train operator pledged its commitment to colleagues with endometriosis, promising to raise awareness and break taboos surrounding women’s health issues.

“We are proud to now be a certified endometriosis friendly employer and demonstrate our commitment to creating a workplace in which everybody can thrive,” said Deborah Easby, occupational health & wellbeing manager at TPE. “Endometriosis and other women’s health issues affect many of our colleagues, and we are dedicated to educating and removing stigma around these conversations.”

What is Endometriosis?

One in 10 women suffer from endometriosis, a painful and debilitating condition where tissue similar to the lining of the womb grows in other places. This abnormal tissue growth can occur on the ovaries, fallopian tubes, outer surface of the uterus, and other pelvic organs. In rare cases, it can spread beyond the pelvic region.

Endometriosis can significantly affect quality of life, causing chronic pain and fertility issues. Early diagnosis and effective management are crucial in minimizing its impact. Treatment plans are often tailored to the individual’s symptoms, severity of the condition, and whether they are seeking to conceive.

While there is no cure for endometriosis, several treatments can help manage the symptoms including medications and surgical options. Lifestyle changes and home remedies can also help to relieve symptoms.

Guidance and support

The Friendly Employer scheme, which is led by the charity Endometriosis UK, provides guidance on how to support employees with endometriosis, with employers committing to providing those with the condition the necessary support to thrive at work.

TPE has launched this scheme by appointing several ‘Endometriosis Champions’ who will help raise awareness, signpost to further information, and provide a listening ear to anyone experiencing issues at work because of endometriosis.

Emma Cox, CEO of Endometriosis UK said: “I’m delighted to welcome TransPennine Express to the diverse range of organisations tackling taboos around menstrual health and endometriosis through the Endometriosis Friendly Employer scheme. By showing their employees they are valued and can expect support and reasonable adjustments to help those with endometriosis and menstrual conditions succeed at work, they will be increasing engagement across the whole of their workforce, ultimately making the organisation more successful.”

Shannon’s story

Shannon Cassidy is a Liverpool Lime Street based train driver for TransPennine Express who lives with endometriosis. She understands first-hand the challenges that come with managing endometriosis and the effects it can have on your personal and work life.

When did you first join TPE?
I joined TPE in 2019 as a qualified conductor. After around two years I applied to become a trainee driver and have since qualified as a driver in July 2023.

How were you diagnosed with endometriosis?
I first started experiencing severe period-like pains when I was 15 years old. Initially, my doctor diagnosed me with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and suggested dietary changes. Despite years of altering my diet and trying various medications, my symptoms persisted. After nine years, I received a referral to gynaecology, where menopause was considered as a possibility. However, blood tests and scans ruled this out.

The doctor then suggested that, in the absence of physical evidence, my symptoms might be psychological and recommended a psychiatric assessment or counselling. No further action was deemed necessary from the gynaecology department, and I was discharged back to my doctor. After three more years of persistent doctor appointments, I insisted on further testing and a referral to the Liverpool Women’s Hospital’s gynaecology department.

In my first appointment there, we reviewed all previous tests and concluded that laparoscopic surgery was the last option to investigate further. After another year of waiting, I finally underwent the surgery and woke up to the news that I had endometriosis.

How did it feel to finally get the diagnosis?
When I woke up from surgery and the doctors told me I had endometriosis, I cried with relief to finally have some answers to what I had been going through for so long. It took me 12 years in total to get a diagnosis and feel like I was being heard by doctors. It also confirmed to me that you know your own body better than anyone else and if you think something isn’t right, you should advocate for yourself and push for more tests.

How does it feel working in a front-line role whilst dealing with endometriosis?
I am very proud to be a train driver and be in a role that I worked so hard to get to. I try to not let the endometriosis affect my focus but on the days that it does get too much, I know I can reach out and approach my line manager to express my concerns without feeling embarrassed. I’m determined to not let endometriosis affect my career.

How important is it to you that TPE has signed up to become an Endometriosis Friendly Employer?
TPE has taken a compassionate and thoughtful approach to raise awareness of endometriosis which will help other women in my position to feel like they can reach out for help and open up to colleagues within the company. It’s a huge relief that I feel able to talk about my condition without the fear of being judged and I feel very lucky to have the support system that I do within TPE.

Image credit:

TOCs taking pride in diversity & inclusion

With Pride Month running from 31 May to 30 June, it’s an ideal time for the industry to champion diversity and fly the flag for its LGBT+ colleagues and customers. Train operating companies (TOCs) up and down the country are working hard to to raise awareness, combat ignorance, and show their support for the LGBT+ community. RailStaff takes a glance at the initiatives that have made the news in the past few weeks.

A display of regional pride

On 3 April, Greater Anglia unveiled a special Pride livery for one of its Stadler-built ‘class 755’ trains. The livery, which was applied to regional train (number 755421), includes both the Pride and transgender flags adjacent to the driver’s cab, on both ends and sides of the four-carriage train.

The train primarily operates services both between Ipswich and Felixstowe, Lowestoft, Cambridge, and Peterborough, and between Norwich and Cambridge/Stansted Airport, Great Yarmouth, Lowestoft, and Sheringham.

The livery, launched at a special ceremony at Norwich station, also includes the word ‘Pride’, applied beneath the windows of the first and last carriages, in colours supporting the progress flag and representing visibility for marginalised LGBT+ people, as well as the wider values of diversity and inclusion.

The unveiling marks the second ‘Pride train’ on Greater Anglia. In July 2023, a Class 720 suburban train, which operates on a large number of Greater Anglia routes from London to Essex, Hertfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Suffolk, was unveiled at London Liverpool Street in a similar livery. The addition of the livery to one of the regional bi-mode trains, means it will now be seen across most Greater Anglia routes and passing most Greater Anglia stations.

Credit: WMR

“I’m so very proud to have witnessed the unveiling of this new Greater Anglia Pride train,” said Jamie Gooch, who works as a senior conductor and is a member of the LGBT+ community.

“For Pride-liveried trains to now run across the majority of our network and be particularly visible across rural areas of Suffolk and Norfolk, spreads the message that the railway is here for everybody.

“It is another step forward to bringing communities together and ensuring that everyone, regardless of sexuality and gender, can be their true selves while travelling with us and working for us.”

Greater Anglia has also invited those heading to parades and festivals across East Anglia and London this Pride Month to let the train take the strain. The operator has stations close to where a number of the key events will be held, enabling everyone to celebrate across the region.

Fine name for a train

Ahead of Birmingham’s Pride festival at the end of May, West Midlands Railway (WMR) named one of its newest trains “Hurst Street” in honour of the city’s famous Gay Village.

The train, which also features a stylish rainbow diamond motif and the word PRIDE, is one of the new Class 730 fleet being rolled out on the Cross City Line through Birmingham.

“Hurst Street” – also known as 730018 – is the first train in the fleet to be officially named. The fleet has been dubbed the ‘Landmark Class’, with further trains due to be named after other landmark locations across the West Midlands in coming months.

“We are proud to play an active part in our communities and celebrate the diversity of our people, our passengers and our region,” said Jonny Wiseman, WMR customer experience director.

“The Gay Village is a huge part of Birmingham’s culture and identity and we are proud that the Hurst Street name is the first to adorn our newest train fleet.”

On 23 May, colleagues from across WMR joined the official photocall at Lichfield Trent Valley on the Cross City Line to launch the new name, including members of the company’s Aspect group, supporting the LGBTQA+ community.
Staff from WMR, including workers from on-train and head office, were among those taking part in the iconic Birmingham Pride parade on Saturday 25 May.

Not one, but two

Train operator CrossCountry unveiled two Pride-themed trains at the end of May. The two new-look trains were brought into service in time for Birmingham Pride, with CrossCountry colleagues in attendance for the first time ever. Together with colleagues from Chiltern Railways and Grand Central, they walked with a specially-decorated bus, mingling with the crowds and giving out free goodies.

The move marks the ongoing commitment of the company – headquartered in Birmingham – to focus on diversity and inclusion as it embarks on its new National Rail Contract.

Turbostar unit 170618 will spend the summer taking customers from Birmingham to and from Pride festivals from Cambridge to Cardiff, and everywhere in between.

Meanwhile, intercity Voyager unit 220005 will be racking up the miles taking customers from Birmingham to all corners of the country – to Scotland and the North East of England, towards Manchester, Bristol, Bournemouth, Southampton – even as far afield as Penzance.

Julian Edwards and Scott Maynard, CrossCountry’s interim managing directors, said: “We’re delighted to unveil CrossCountry’s first-ever Pride-liveried trains. It’s important for us, as a train company connecting so many parts of Great Britain, to demonstrate our commitment to the diverse communities that we serve and that make up the CrossCountry family.

“We’re always keen to do even more to create an environment that encourages our colleagues to bring their whole self to work – and these specially-liveried trains are a fantastic symbol of that ongoing commitment.”

Credit: WMR

Coming together to celebrate

Colleagues from LNER and TransPennine Express (TPE) joined together on 1 June, in a show of unity to celebrate the start of Pride Month. The teams gathered at York Railway Station alongside LNER’s special liveried train ‘Together’ and TPE’s ‘Unity’.

The teams were joined by members and beneficiaries of LGBTQIA+ youth charities Mosaic Trust and The Proud Trust who travelled to York for the popular Pride Parade and Festival.

Launched during Pride Month 2023, ‘Together’ was the first in the Azuma fleet to feature it’s eye-catching livery on each of its nine carriages. Its name symbolises the unification of all communities which LNER is proud to support, as well as the relationship between members of the LGBTQIA+ community, allies at LNER, and the wider industry.

Tracey Barber, senior employee experience partner at LNER, said: “We celebrate Pride all year round and foster and encourage individuality and an environment where our colleagues can bring their true selves to work, every day. It’s fabulous to see so many of our colleagues, and colleagues across the industry, getting into the spirit with our Pride celebrations in York and a joy to see LNER’s ‘Together’ train and TPE’s ‘Unity’ train side-by-side on the tracks as a show of solidarity for the LGBTQIA+ community.”

TPE launched its dedicated Pride train earlier this year as part of its ‘Week of Inclusion’. Named ‘Unity’, it symbolises how the company celebrates diversity and embraces the individuality of colleagues and customers.

“Seeing the ‘Unity’ and ‘Together’ trains side by side is a powerful symbol of our commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said TPE Diversity and Inclusion Manager Harriet Harbidge. “At TPE, we strive to create a workplace where everyone feels valued and respected, and joining forces with LNER to celebrate Pride highlights the solidarity and support within the rail industry for the LGBTQIA+ community.”

TPE also ran an extra morning service for customers attending York’s Pride celebrations onboard the ‘Unity’. The extra service ran between Newcastle to York via Leeds on the morning of the festivities.

Lead image: TPE

CPC: sharing its success

One of the most effective ways to guide a company to success is to ensure that employees are fully invested in their role, sharing the values and aims of the broader organisation. Good salaries and benefits, flexible working conditions, and a focus on career development are surefire ways to keep employees motivated. A step beyond is to give staff a stake in the business.

In late March, CPC Project Services (CPC) did just this, announcing it had transferred ownership to its employees through an Employee Ownership Trust (EOT). Managing Partner Steve Mole sat down with RailStaff to explain the move, and what it means for the business and its employees.

Steve Mole. Credit: CPC

The company

CPC provides project and cost management services to clients in both the public and private sectors with a focus on rail infrastructure, and has worked on some of the biggest projects across the UK.

“We deliver consultancy services to a range of clients including to the Department for Transport (DfT), Network Rail, transport authorities such as Transport for London (TfL), train operating companies (TOCs), and MTR Crossrail,” said Steve

“One of our divisions, CPC Systems, specialises in major signalling upgrades and we’re currently working on the Four Lines Modernisation project for TfL, as well as working with Irish Rail on its new train protection system and Network Rail on the East Coast Digital Programme.”

CPC was previously owned by five partners, with Steve as principal shareholder. He has been with the company since 1993, starting as a database analyst. Having worked his way up to supporting and then leading projects, he was invited to join the board in 2000, before becoming managing partner in 2004. Since then, he has seen the company through a period of intense growth, leading CPC to triple in size over the last six years.

Steve continues to drive the company to further success and changing the way the business is structured is part of his strategy for the decade ahead. The transfer of CPC’s business structure to an EOT means that the company will now be owned by its employees, enabling them to share in the future success of the business and have a greater say in how it is run.

Why choose this model?

“In the last 12 months I’ve been reflecting on what the future holds for CPC and myself,” he said.

“Last Autumn I set up a 10-year growth strategy, with the aim of remaining independent and doubling our market share for both project and cost management services. I’ve set targets of achieving £50 million in revenue within five years and £100 million revenue within 10, both of which I firmly believe are achievable.”

“I wanted to ensure that CPC’s brand and culture could be secured for its long-term future. I was never going to sell the business from underneath the people who have helped me build it, and I was exploring all kinds of opportunities. An EOT ticked every box for what I wanted to achieve. It means that we can offer long term career opportunities for our people, continuity of service for our clients, and longevity of the CPC brand in the market. It also means that the people who helped to nurture the business now get to share in its success.”

How does it work?

An EOT is a mechanism for business ownership that enables the transfer of a majority stake of company shares to employees through a trust structure.

Employees do not hold shares directly – instead, the trust holds shares on their behalf. This ensures collective employee benefit rather than individual shareholding. While the trust holds the shares, employees typically have a say in how the business is run through representation.

The model is designed to encourage broader employee ownership and participation, providing various benefits to both the business and its employees, including tax benefits. Selling a controlling interest in a company to an EOT can be exempt from Capital Gains Tax (CGT), providing a significant tax incentive for business owners. Companies controlled by an EOT can pay annual bonuses to employees free of income tax, up to a specified limit.

Credit: CPC

“A number of businesses have followed this model recently, and I think you’re going to find it becomes increasingly popular going forward,” says Steve.

“The current model was introduced by the UK Finance Act in 2014, but the concept of employee ownership dates back to likes of Arup who transferred their business to employees in 1970 and even earlier John Lewis back in 1929. For CPC to progress with this model we had to get sign off from HMRC as well as the Cabinet Office, due to the nature of a number of the projects that we’re delivering.”

“The main benefit today is community. In real terms, the business has been valued and sold to the trust, where the shareholders have a deferred consideration for the business. This consideration is realised on a gradual basis – over the next seven or eight years – and only if there are sufficient funds to do so, which means that everyone has a vested interest in the long-term success of CPC.”

“As we grow the business, we’ll see value being created, and shareholders will fully hand over their interest in the business, to CPC’s employees.”

The future

The EOT marks the beginning of a new chapter for CPC, paving the way for a new stage of growth. Steve and the board have been working for many months to ensure the new business structure is in the best interests of its employees and clients, as well as the company.

Steve’s strategy shows that he’s got his eye on the future and remains passionate about the continuing success of the company. And he’s keen to let everyone know that he intends to see his plans through and to remain with CPC for quite some time to come.

He’ll continue to lead CPC alongside the current board of partners which will remain responsible for managing the businesses day-to-day operations and interests. The board of trustees, meanwhile, will be responsible for ensuring the success of the trust for the benefit of the company’s employees.

“I’ve made a commitment that I will continue to lead the business for the next 10 years, which will see me through to my fortieth year with CPC. In around five to six years, I’ll start to look at what my succession plan is and make sure that the right leaders take the business beyond my tenure to maintain our employees’ best interests.

“I’m more energised than ever to drive our plans forward and rather excited to see what the future holds.”

Lead image: iStockphoto.com

Train presentation crews: the hidden heroes

Punctuality, reliability, and cost are key concerns for customers when choosing to travel by rail. But another consideration, and one often taken for granted, is cleanliness. It wouldn’t be possible to kick back and enjoy a journey if you couldn’t be certain of a particular level of hygiene and, to this end, a hidden army of dedicated staff works around the clock to make train journeys as pleasant as possible.

To get a greater insight of our network’s train presentation crews, RailStaff sat down with Charlie Hatcher, head of train presentation at South Western Railway (SWR). He talked us through the day-to-day work of a train presentation crew, their training, and the career opportunities that come with the role. Furthermore, he discussed the techniques and technologies employed to keep the SWR fleet spick and span, and the company’s commitment to sustainability.

A moving objective

One of the major challenges of keeping passenger trains clean and tidy is linked to their primary purpose – moving customers from point A to point B – and the logistics involved in maintaining a high level of hygiene are incredible.
“Keeping a train clean doesn’t just involve one team working in a depot at night,” explains Charlie. “It’s about maintaining a level of cleanliness throughout the day.”

“We operate three levels of clean at SWR, which is fairly common across all Train Operating Companies (TOCs). These are: turnaround clean, where a team will board the train at a terminus and ensure it is clean and tidy for the return journey; an overnight standard clean, where a greater focus is placed on hoovering, sweeping, mopping, and making the train fit for daily service; and then there’s our 30-day heavy clean programme where we’ll have a team dedicated for an entire shift on a single train, really focusing on the details.”

As well as this, the train presentation team must respond to issues as they arise during the day. One of the ways they do this is via reports from the Solano app, which allows on-train colleagues to flag problems to the team for them to rectify.

Like many other staff working on the railway, train presentation crews tend to operate behind the scenes and rarely receive the public praise that their work demands. However, says Charlie, the fact they often go unnoticed is a sign they’re doing their best work:

“We often talk about the fact that ours is an invisible team, but what we take from that is that we’re doing a good job. As a customer, if you don’t notice that your train is spotlessly clean, it means everything is running to plan. When trains are dirty, customers will make their voices heard, so we celebrate the fact that we’re meeting their expectations.”

That said, SWR is looking to carry out more in-transit cleaning, to bring even greater reassurance to customers and relieve the pressure on its presentation crews.

“I’m a strong believer that the visibility of train presentation activity is comforting to customers,” says Charlie. “It’s something that we’ve been trialling for the past year, specifically between Basingstoke and Winchester, and we’re looking to branch that out further on our network. As well as giving customers greater reassurance, it takes the pressure off the very short turnaround time we have at stations, where staff may only have five to 10 minutes to work through an eight or 10-car train.”

Credit: iStockphoto

Training and development

Working on the train presentation team is no stroll in the park, and achieving the required level of competency relies on hard work and dedication. Staff usually receive their training once they’ve joined SWR and the company uses buddying-up systems and regular capability assessments to ensure that trainees are on track. Some tasks are more complex than others, for example maintaining the cleanliness of controlled emission toilets (CETs), but trainees continue to be supervised even once they’re qualified and established in the role. For many, this is just the start of a long and rewarding career in rail.

“One thing I really like about my department is the opportunity for development,” says Charlie.

“I’ve seen so many examples of individuals joining our train presentation teams at entry level, before moving on to supervisory, and even regional manager positions.”

“We see team members move on to other parts of the business, gain long service awards, and finish their careers in influential positions. The training we provide when people join the train presentation team helps them to develop their future careers and begins their journey within the company.”


As in all areas of the rail industry, indeed across all industries, sustainability is now a critical concern for SWR. Whether it’s considering the fate of onboard waste, eliminating harmful chemicals from cleaning products, or reducing CO2 emissions in the supply chain, the train presentation team works hard to protect the environment.

“Sustainability is something that my team and I are really very focused on,” says Charlie. “And we really do feel that we have the power to do something about it.”

“We’re involved in a number of successful sustainability initiatives. For example, we’ve been segregating waste at our depots for around five or six years, and 100% of recyclable waste now avoids landfill. This initiative involves waste segregation officers who work in the depots at the end of the nightshift, physically sorting waste to ensure that the recyclable and general waste is separated.

“Another initiative is around the use of chemical cleaning products. Naturally, cleaning products are associated with harsh chemicals, and we’re very conscious of that. One cleaning technology we’re looking at is de-ionised water, which draws bacteria off surfaces without the need for a chemical reaction.”

De-ionised water can be made by running mains water through a machine which removes ions and natural minerals such as sodium, calcium, iron and copper. As de-ionised water is deprived of these contaminants, it’s keen to regain them and return to a more stable state, by absorbing them from surrounding sources. In doing this, it attracts the dirt, bacteria, and other contaminants which collect on surfaces.

“We’ve run swab tests on trains cleaned with de-ionised water using an ATP machine, and the results that come back have shown that it’s as good if not better than some of the cleaning products we’ve used previously,” Charlie says.
As well as reducing the use of potentially toxic substances which can eventually make their way into the environment, the use of chemical-free cleaning methods has further benefits. The simple act of transporting cleaning products around the country contributes to CO2 emissions, as HGVs are the primary mode of transport. In addition, it reduces the requirement of staff to use single-use PPE, such as nitrile gloves, minimising waste. From a safety standpoint, it also reduces the risk of exposing train presentation crews to potentially hazardous products.

As a further extension of its drive towards sustainability, SWR is doing more to ensure its fleet stays cleaner for longer, and with a minimum of intervention. The fleet team is trialling a hybrid seat cover which blends flat cloth and moquette upholstery, on seven of its Class 450 Desiro trains at Bournemouth depot. The new product aims to achieve the best of both worlds, combining the modern look of flat cloth with the easier to clean properties of moquette. The replaceable covers are sent for an intensive clean to be restored and brought back into service, replacing other covers which in turn can be restored and returned.

“In recent years, the industry as whole has moved away from traditional moquette fabric towards the more modern flat cloth material, which is woven more tightly with a shorter cut. However, it transpired that it is a real challenge to clean visible stains out of flat cloth.

“After trying different means of extracting stains and treating the cloth we spoke with a company called Diamond Rail Services who presented an idea of a moquette/flat cloth hybrid, which still uses shorter fibres but is not as tightly woven. We’re currently trialling this and look forward to seeing the results.”

Credit: SWR

Working together

Collaboration within the industry is an increasingly common occurrence, especially when it comes to environmental concerns. Charlie notes that this has been a growing trend since the Covid pandemic, and one that will bring huge benefits to his team.

“Something positive that came out of the Covid situation is that the industry is now trying to work more closely both internally and with external suppliers. As such, back in late 2022, I thought it would be a good idea to set up a cross-TOC working group focused on train presentation.”

Since then, Charlie has been in touch with heads of train presentation from across the TOCs to share ideas and collaborate. The initiative has been a great success.

“We’ve had six meetings so far, where we’ve discussed common problems and actively shared best practices,” he says. “We’ve invited guest speakers and carried out site tours. There’s no competitive vibe within the group, and that’s something that’s great about this industry. It also means we can work together as an industry on issues that might be getting public attention – for example, the recent talk in the media about bed bugs.”

Understated stars

Though they rarely receive the praise they deserve, the efforts of train presentation crews are critical to the customer experience, and their work has far wider ramifications than you would first imagine.

With implications for health, wellbeing, the environment, and passenger satisfaction, their work cuts across all aspects of the industry and leads the way in many.

Though it’s a role that has previously existed in the background, it’s time for a change. Train presentation deserves to step out from behind the curtain and take its place on the main stage.

Lead image credit: SWR

RailStaff Awards 2024 – The countdown starts now

Can you hear that? It’s the clock ticking down on the 2024 RailStaff Awards. It’s less than six months away. How time flies!

That’s fewer than 24 weeks to make your nominations. 168 days to choose your outfit. 4,032 hours to wait patiently, counting down the minutes to the big event.

Each year, the RailStaff Awards astonishes attendees with an extravaganza bigger and bolder than the year before. And it’s no easy feat. Here at RailMedia, it’s a hive of activity as we prepare long in advance to make it a night you’ll remember.

Celebrating the trailblazers

In 2024, we bring you 20 categories for which to nominate your colleagues and co-workers, including a brand-new award.

The Rail Ambassador of the Year Award recognises individuals who have demonstrated unwavering dedication to promoting and advancing the rail industry.

Awarded in honour of Tom O’Connor, the esteemed founder of Rail Media and visionary behind the RailStaff Awards, it celebrates those who go above and beyond to champion the industry, serve as positive advocates, and inspire others through their innovative ideas and initiatives.

The recipient of this award is a trailblazer and influencer, continually cheerleading for the rail industry while also showcasing their own contributions. They actively adopt and embrace all aspects of the industry and consistently promote its importance and benefits to society.

If you know someone who fits the bill, who is unwavering in their support of the industry and eager to let everybody know about it, nominate them today!

A helping hand

It’s not that straightforward though, is it? Where do you even start with something like this?

If you head over to our brand-new website, you’ll find everything you need to help you through the process and answers to all your questions about the event.

To nominate somebody who deserves an award, a good place to start is to first write down the things that you most admire about the person: their cheerfulness, positive outlook, or determination. Are they a person who stands by their colleagues? Do they go out of their way to make other people’s days easier?

Next, write down a specific incident which typifies the qualities you know this person has. Perhaps they helped to organise a charity event or put in a last-minute shift to help out a colleague. It could be an act of bravery, rescuing a passenger from an incident, or assisting someone who had become lost. Include the approximate date and location.
Finally, visit railstaffawards.com and click on ‘Nominate Now‘.

At any stage of the process feel free to contact [email protected]. We can help with advice on how to draft a nomination.

But remember: You must obtain the approval of the nominee’s manager or director, along with a photo of the nominee, before submitting the nomination.

A glittering evening

If you’ve never been to the RailStaff Awards before, now is the time to book your tickets and prepare to hear the voice of the industry.

Attendees are guaranteed an amazing experience with delicious food and drink, and spectacular entertainment.

Whether you’re nominated or nominating, make sure to grab your ticket to the rail industry’s greatest night of the year. You absolutely don’t want to miss out.

GeoAccess: engineering perfection

The Rail Engineer of the Year award is one of the RailStaff Awards’ most competitive categories and it’s not hard to see why. Engineers provide the vision and abilities which drive the projects and systems on which the rail network relies. Without them there would be no railway.

Bespoke asset management company GeoAccess was proud to sponsor the award in 2023 and returns to do the same this year. Established in 2014 to address the need for inspections on difficult access sites, GeoAccess relies on highly experienced geotechnical and structural engineers, along with UAVs, ROVs, Rope Access and Confined Space Techniques. The firm works nationwide, covering a broad range of industries.

GeoAccess takes pride in its ability to tackle any job, no matter how large or small, with a professional and flexible approach. By marrying tried and tested methods with cutting-edge techniques, it provides the most efficient and cost-effective solution to all its client’s needs.

“The fact that rail engineers are being recognised for their excellent and critical work is brilliant,” says GeoAccess Managing Director Mark Coleman. “It’s a such prestigious title for someone to take home, and it’s great to think it might inspire others within the industry to aim high and get their ideas noticed.

At GeoAccess, we’re all about striving to make things better. We are genuinely making a change, and that’s why it’s so fitting that we sponsor this award.”

A fabulous example

Balfour Beatty Vinci’s David Millar was named Rail Engineer of the Year in 2023. David was in charge of managing the design and works for the West Coast Mainline Bridge and South Staffordshire Line Bridge – both very challenging projects with tight deadlines which were delivered on time and to the highest standards of health & safety.

Each member of David’s team was grateful for his drive and expert knowledge, not only on construction and engineering works, but also how to support and respect one another. He ticked all the boxes for the RailStaff Awards judges and was a picture of modesty on the night.

“I’m ecstatic, this is fantastic,” said David on receiving the award, “but it’s not just me who’s won tonight, a whole crowd of people have contributed to this and I’m so pleased to be here with them.”

The RailStaff Awards continues to shine a light on the outstanding work of the rail industry. It’s the event of the year and leads the way in cheerleading the unmatched individuals who keep the country moving.

“The RailStaff Awards are superb,” says Mark. “From nominations, through to judging and the award ceremony, the event raises the profile of so many talented individuals and of the industry as a whole. We’re proud to be sponsoring the Rail Engineer of the Year Award and can’t wait to be part of the event once again.”

Do you know an engineer who rises to the challenge and always delivers results? Who knows the industry inside out or has achieved an amazing feat of technical brilliance?

If so, do them the honour of nominating them for this prestigious prize.

Bodyguard Workwear: embodying the values of the RailStaff Awards

The RailStaff Awards honours the people who make the rail industry great – its diligent and devoted employees. It shines a light on the individuals who go far beyond the requirements of their roles to keep the country moving and, each year, companies from across the industry are eager to support the event. Bodyguard Workwear is proud to be a Gold Sponsor in 2024.

Boasting more than 40 years’ experience in manufacturing and distributing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and safety workwear, the company combines an in-depth understanding of safety clothing with expertise in garment design and manufacture.


Committed to staff welfare and wellbeing, Bodyguard Workwear specifically manufactures many of its own products, which include high visibility clothing, workwear, footwear, and gloves. This unique selling point gives it control over the quality of its garments and gives it an opportunity to innovate. It continuously invests resources into researching and developing solutions to ensure workers remain safe on the rail tracks and stay comfortable while they’re at it. Managing performance and fatigue on the lines saves lives, and the company is one of only a handful of licenced manufacturers of GORE-TEX garments. It also manufactures an exclusive brand range which includes alternative foul weather clothing, protecting workers from the inclement and changeable British weather.


Bodyguard Workwear understands that one size does not fit all and is committed to inclusivity, producing garments tailored to the female silhouette – a section of the workforce often overlooked when it comes to comfortable and practical workwear. All too often, female staff are handed men’s workwear for a lack of any alternative, and Bodyguard Workwear works hard to end this practice, providing a wide range of female fit PPE made to fit properly and provide optimal protection from the elements.

Sustainability / environmental

With the environment a key concern for all industries, Bodyguard Workwear is committed to making its business practices sustainable and passing these benefits on to customers. As well as being a Gold member of the Supply Chain Sustainability School and producing a range of Eco workwear garments made from recycled plastic, the firm keeps an eye on its customers’ consumption and provides regular reports on the savings they can make to their carbon footprint. It’s also committed to making its garments as recyclable as possible, so that any environmental gains are not lost when a product is past its useful life.

Customer experience

Rail has one of the closest consumer-supplier relationships of any industry and looking after the customer is at the core of Bodyguard Workwear’s business. It prides itself on ensuring all clients, from the largest contractor to the smallest sole trader is well catered for, and that rail staff are safe at their place of work. Functional and high-quality safety clothing is a staff safety imperative on the railway, and the company certainly delivers.

Bodyguard Workwear demonstrates many of the values that the RailStaff Awards stands for, and we are thrilled to have its support in 2024.