Home Blog

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.

Balfour Beatty appoints UK Health, Safety and Environment Director

Balfour Beatty, the international infrastructure group, today announces the appointment of Lee Hewitt as UK Health, Safety and Environment Director.

Lee will take up his new role on 5 September, following Heather Bryant retiring on 18 November, having spent eight years at Balfour Beatty.

Lee will be responsible for driving the company’s Zero Harm, Health, Safety and Wellbeing strategy across the Group, working closely with Balfour Beatty’s leadership teams and the Board Safety and Sustainability Committee.

An experienced construction and infrastructure leader, Lee has undertaken several strategic roles, most recently as Programme Director for Site Wide Delivery and Logistics for Balfour Beatty VINCI’s HS2 Area North contract, Britain’s new high-speed rail line and the largest infrastructure project in Europe.

In addition, he has held roles at the SMB (Skanska MWH Balfour Beatty) joint venture delivering the Thames Water capital programme, as well as the Head of Capital Procurement for Gatwick Airport Limited, Director of Procurement and Contract Management at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, Head of Infrastructure, Project Management and Construction EMEA for Lendlease, and the Head of UK Procurement for National Grid where he spent 25 years. Lee’s experience will drive further operational focus and insights as the Group continues to deliver against its Zero Harm strategy.

Having joined Balfour Beatty to work on the HS2 project in 2020, Lee is further testament to the Group’s ongoing commitment to developing broad leadership careers through a strong commitment to internal mobility.  

Heather Bryant has been instrumental in progressing Balfour Beatty’s Health & Safety agenda, a core value of the Group’s Build to Last strategy, most notably, overseeing a 50% reduction in Lost Time Injury Rate since 2014, and the launch of the company’s Observation App which has seen over 750,000 health and safety observations. Heather has also been instrumental in many industry-wide initiatives including co-founding the Health in Construction Leadership Group to focus on treating health like safety and spearheading the industry conversation around mental health.

Leo Quinn, Balfour Beatty Group Chief Executive, said: “Health and Safety is our License to Operate and it is imperative that our teams are empowered and supported to deliver our Zero Harm vision. With his extensive deep domain knowledge and understanding of the industry from leadership and project-based roles, I know that Lee will continue to drive this agenda forward across Balfour Beatty, and I am pleased to welcome him to the Group.

“I would like to thank Heather for her steadfast commitment to making the construction and infrastructure industry a safer and healthier environment for everyone.”

XEIAD is delighted to achieve the ‘We invest in people’ award!

Last month, XEIAD successfully renewed their Investors In People accreditation. The ‘We invest in people’ award evaluates how well they support their people at work, including positive staff engagement, proactive leadership and providing personal development opportunities. In other words, it means the principles and practices around supporting people are in place. Consequently, everyone understands how to use them to make XEIAD a better place to work!

Paul Devoy, CEO of Investors in People, said: “We’d like to congratulate XEIAD. Being accredited with ‘We invest in people’ is a remarkable effort for any organisation, and places XEIAD in fine company with a host of organisations that understand the value of people.

Commenting on the award, Paul Capener, Managing Director said: “This is a great achievement! The award provides positive affirmation of our continued investment in staff, recognises the significant growth we’ve delivered during the past 12 months and how we are continuing to create a positive environment that supports development and recognises success.”

The Investors In People accreditation consisted of a two-part evaluation. Firstly, all employees were asked to complete an anonymous survey to give an insight as to what it is like to work for XEIAD, with a handful of employees being selected for further interviews by an independent Investors in People assessor. Secondly, XEIAD provided evidence to Investors in People supporting their application including their employee-focussed Policies and Procedures.

Overall, XEIAD received very positive feedback with everyone describing the organisation as extremely open, transparent, and inclusive, with the openness of the management team being specifically noted.  The IIP assessor said that throughout our assessment, it was very evident that XEIAD have placed a high level of focus on their people management strategy and understand the link between their people and business strategy.  With the significant growth seen across the business, They’ve done a fantastic job to onboard almost 150 new employees to the business.

XEIAD believe that the success of their organisation begins and ends with people. Through investing in people, they make work better for everyone and create a stronger, healthier and happier community.

Photo credit: XEIAD

Ramboll appoints Johnny Ojeil as Head of Transport Planning

Global engineering and consultancy company Ramboll has today announced the appointment of Johnny Ojeil to lead and enhance further its transport planning offer.

Johnny is a highly-regarded professional in the transport planning sector and joins Ramboll following a 33-year long career with Arup. With extensive experience in transport and infrastructure planning, public transport, traffic engineering/planning and highway engineering, Johnny has worked both in the UK and overseas on major Multi Modal Studies including master-planning for numerous authorities and developers in Europe, Middle East, Africa and the Far East.

Recently, Johnny contributed as part of a team working on the Commonwealth Games, serving as Project Director responsible for the delivery of a series of projects related to accessibility planning and modelling work. He has also worked extensively with Luton and Birmingham airports, with national clients such as Tesco, as well as sports organisations including Reading Football club. Internationally, he has delivered work as part of the JASPERS framework for the European Investment Bank and with EBRD on a series of projects. He has also led on EU multi country projects in the MENA region.

Johnny is a Fellow at the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation and ex Midland’s region Chair, and an elected council member for the Association of European Transport (AET), where he also chairs the Aviation Committee. With a rich and varied career, Johnny has been delighted to give back through his close ties with the University of Birmingham for 10 years as a Senior Honorary Lecturer, and Industrial Advisory Board Member for their MSc Road Planning and Management Course.

Dan Harvey, Executive Director for Transport at Ramboll UK, commented: “The breadth and depth of our Transport division has seen significant growth in recent years, and Johnny’s appointment marks the next phase in the growth for a significant transport planning and smart mobility team in the UK. With the growing importance of resilient societies and liveability, Johnny and his team will support our multidisciplinary teams in the development of successful mobility in urban environments and on large scale infrastructure in the UK and overseas”. 

Johnny Ojeil added: “I am delighted to be taking on the UK Transport Planning lead role at Ramboll. The organisation has a lot of UK and international in smart mobility and transport planning, and I am looking forward to expanding Ramboll’s UK capabilities and team in an environment that has a strong focus on people”.

Changing the face of construction: EDI report shows HS2 continues to lead by example

HS2 has published its annual Equality, Diversity and Inclusion report. The report shows how the company delivering Britain’s new railway is continuing to challenge its national supply chain, and the wider rail engineering and construction sectors, to champion inclusivity.

Across the supply chain, HS2’s performance continues to beat industry averages for the number of female and BAME employees working on the project, with the supply chain achieving 28% and 18% respectively.

With all three phases of the project now live, and HS2’s journey north beginning, challenge and opportunity come in equal measure. HS2 Ltd has set itself high standards, leading the way in the performance it expects from the 2,500 UK-based businesses engaged in its supply chain. Whilst just shy of the internal targets it set itself, HS2 Ltd’s own performance saw its female workforce reach 37% [40%], whilst the number of BAME employees peaked at 22%* [23%].

Natalie Penrose, Head of Legacy at HS2 said:

“HS2’s construction is gathering pace by the day, and we now have a 25,000-strong workforce spread across more than 350 sites. HS2’s scale brings the reality of our challenge to life, given the white male dominance that has gripped the rail and civil engineering sectors for many years.

“But every challenge brings opportunity, and I’m proud of the huge waves we are making to address national skills shortages, the threat of an ageing workforce in engineering and in attracting more women and BAME candidates into employment on the project.”

At the heart of HS2’s drive for change is the growing network of employees who challenge the organisation to achieve excellence. With a collective membership of over 1,650 across eight bespoke networking groups, staff are empowered to share their experiences and expertise on a range of initiatives from gender balance, the inclusion of ethnic minority staff, challenging homophobia, biphobia and transphobia and promoting disability awareness.

Engaging employees in the strategy, policy and decision making processes had driven positive change and key achievements during 2021/2022. On International Disabled People’s Day in December, HS2 launched its accessibility policy and digital accessibility hub, which seek to address the changing needs of disabled employees in the workplace and ensure that staff recognise the adjustments they can make to support their colleagues and the wider workforce.

Learning from others remains a key focus for HS2 in the years ahead and we are proud of the partnerships we are forming with schools, specialist employment support services and charitable groups along the line of route to help us achieve best practice. Our work with SEND schools and specialist schools for the deaf helps us to understand the design changes we can implement to make our stations and trains accessible for all, as we strive to ensure that we build a railway that reflects the diverse needs of the communities it will serve.

For more information about HS2’s commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion, read the full report here.

Photo credit: HS2 Ltd

FirstClass Team continues to Expand with two new members

UK based Rail Depot Safety specialist, FirstClass Safety & Control, has added two new members to their team as project orders continue to come in thick and fast.

Tony Blacker and Kirsty Light have joined FirstClass at an exciting time, with new project orders coming in from both the UK and overseas, including New Zealand and the Middle East.

Control Systems Design Engineer, Tony Blacker, will oversee the design of FirstClass’s flagship Rail Depot Protection and Control Systems. Tony graduated from Wolverton Technical College in technical and design engineering and has worked in multiple industries for over thirty years. He brings to FirstClass experience in whole life design and execution of projects, covering hardware and software, with extensive experience as a programmer.

Finance & Administration Executive, Kirsty Light, will oversee the day-to-day finance and admin with a focus on overall cost efficiency together with the provision of quality management information – such as spearheading the paper-free initiative. Kirsty brings to FirstClass 15 years’ experience across several engineering and customer focussed industries wearing different hats in a variety of roles. With a broad breadth of skills, from executive assistant to IT support, financial and data analyst to account manager, Kirsty is the go-to girl for anything office based.

Mark Meyrick

Mark Meyrick, Director of FirstClass Safety & Control said, “Tony & Kirsty have joined us at a pivotal time in the growth of FirstClass as we continue to win project orders from both home and overseas markets. They both stood out as excellent candidates and I am really looking forward to working with them as part of “Team FirstClass”. The only issue we have now is one of space, a nice problem to have and one that will be resolved over the next month or so, watch this space!”

For more information on all FirstClass Safety & Control products, please visit https://www.firstclass-safety-control.co.uk/

GHD strengthens UK transport offering with two new senior appointments

GHD, one of the world’s leading professional services companies, has made two new appointments to further strengthen its market-leading UK transport solutions offering and grow its client base in the region. Dario Feliciangeli has been appointed as UK Transport Market Leader, while David Hurren has been named Business Group Leader – Transport Solutions.

David Hurren previously held the position of Director at GHD, having joined the company in July 2021. David will be responsible for managing the operations and project delivery of the GHD’s UK transport solutions team. He has over 25 years’ experience working and consulting in the strategic transport and wider civil engineering sectors. His previous roles include Director of Transport & Infrastructure at Robert West, Director – Transport Strategy at BWB Consulting, and Project Consultant at Transport for London, in addition to running his own consulting firm for 10 years. David will report to Kevin Eyers, GHD’s new UK Regional General Manager.

Dario Feliciangeli joins from Meinhardt, where he spent five years, latterly as an Associate and Infrastructures Unit Leader, and has previously also worked at Mott MacDonald and HNTB. Dario is a highly skilled engineer with a dual degree in Engineering & Architecture, and extensive experience delivering civil engineering projects across the US, Middle East and UK. His previous projects include: Brooklyn Bridge Park, Kosciuszko Bridge in New York, Thames Tideway in London and Ghadan 21, a well-being programme in Abu Dhabi. Having joined GHD in July 2022, Dario’s responsibilities include developing and delivering GHD’s transport strategy in the UK market, driving its continued growth across transport sectors, and developing an integrated proposition to ensure the highest value offering for clients. He will report to Jonathan Edwards, EMEA Market Development Leader.

These two significant transport appointments come at a time of continued uncertainty for the transport market, with challenges including post-pandemic recovery, events such as the recent rail strikes, and fundamental shifts in passenger travel habits due to the modernisation of the movement of people and goods across the country. To enable organisations to respond effectively to these challenges, GHD is investing in growing its capabilities across urban planning, rail systems and sustainability to accompany its existing technical, digital and advisory propositions. This will enable GHD to offer holistic solutions to clients across rail, highways, aviation, international gateways and national infrastructure. 

David Hurren, GHD’s new Business Group Leader – Transport Solutions, said: “GHD is an exciting and rapidly growing player in the transport market and I am very much looking forward to leading the excellent transport solutions group. The transport market is facing exceptional challenges that need clear, effective and data-led advice. GHD boasts an expert team with international experience, which, coupled with our Future Community, people first approach, means that we are well placed to support the sector’s decision-makers in tackling these challenges over the coming years.”

Dario Feliciangeli, GHD’s new Transport Market Leader for UK, said: “GHD has an ambitious vision for the future to be the leading advisor and technical authority on the movement of people and goods, as well as projects that improve connectivity. We see sustainability and resiliency as being integral to future communities and clients’ transport needs. GHD’s fully integrated proposition – combining the key areas of digital, advisory and technical – is an approach that not many other companies can provide. Multi-disciplinary, holistic and cohesive solutions will define success for companies and projects across our market, and GHD is well positioned to provide these.”

Photo credit – iStockphoto.com

Greater Anglia thanks volunteers on Samaritans Awareness Day

Train operator Greater Anglia has thanked Samaritans volunteers for their life-saving work to mark the charity’s annual awareness campaign Talk To Us throughout July.

Samaritans Awareness Day is held on 24 July every year, to help spread the message that volunteers are available to listen to anyone who is struggling, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

As part of the rail industry’s partnership with the charity, Samaritans has helped train hundreds of Greater Anglia colleagues in its suicide prevention course.

The half-day course teaches rail staff how to recognise someone who may be vulnerable, how to approach them and start a conversation.

They are taught some of the essential listening skills that underpin Samaritans’ volunteer services as well as how to get the person to a place of safety and refer them onto friends, family, the British Transport Police or Samaritans to receive further support.

A total of 459 Greater Anglia staff have taken part in the course.

Matt Wakefield, Greater Anglia’s head of safety, security and sustainability, said: “We’re very grateful to the Samaritans for all that they do. Hundreds of our colleagues have taken part in their training and this had led to several life-saving interventions on our network.

“For every life lost on the railway, six are saved. The suicide prevention course has been invaluable; it empowers rail staff to start conversations, help support vulnerable people and signpost them to get the help they need.”

Samaritans’ Olivia Cayley, head of rail programme, said: “We’re so grateful to Greater Anglia for their commitment in training their staff to potentially save lives. Suicide is preventable and talking really can make such a difference. Given the last challenging few years, it’s so important that we continue to look out for one another and encourage others to reach out for help if they need it.

“Samaritans’ Talk To Us campaign reminds the public and rail staff alike that whatever they’re facing, our volunteers are there around the clock to offer a listening ear to anyone who is struggling to cope.”

Anyone can contact Samaritans for free, any time, from any phone, on 116 123, even on a mobile without credit. This number won’t show up on your phone bill.

Alternatively, you can email [email protected] or visit www.samaritans.org for more information.

Image credit: istockphoto.com

Transport Secretary boosts investment for rail in the North to over £9 billion

Passengers in the North are set to benefit after the Transport Secretary, Grant Shapps more than trebled the investment for TransPennine route upgrades (TRU). The increased spending should cut journey times and reduce carbon emissions by up to 87,000 tonnes per year.

The funding, which has been expanded from £2.9 billion to more than £9 billion, is set to strengthen TRU and Northern Powerhouse Rail. The full route will be fitted with the latest technology, from complete electrification and full digital signalling, to increased capacity along the route for passenger and freight services between Huddersfield and Westtown in Dewsbury, doubling tracks from 2 to 4.

A further £959 million of funding has been released to progress the next phase of TRU between Manchester and York. The money will be spent on the remaining electrification of the railway between Stalybridge and Manchester and unlocking shorter journey times and trans-Pennine rail freight flows, with electric trains between Manchester and Stalybridge expected to hit the tracks around the middle of the decade.

Funding will also facilitate Northern Powerhouse Rail potentially doubling the amount of direct construction jobs from 2,000 to up to 4,000, taking thousands of lorries off our roads and delivering better journeys, sooner for passengers across the north.

Shapps said: “Through our record-breaking integrated rail plan, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to redesign the railways and it’s only right that we deliver this in line with the best quality technology at our disposal.

“By trebling the overall investment in the TRU, I’m ensuring the north is at the forefront of the government’s Levelling Up agenda and guaranteeing passengers gold standard services set to deliver greener, faster and reliable services through Northern Powerhouse Rail, electrification and additional train tracks.”

Once complete, the TRU is expected to deliver multiple benefits, delivering an extra two passenger trains every hour and additional hourly freight slots. Upgrades are expected to service more reliable journeys and slash journey times by up to 40%. Northern Powerhouse Rail will be fully electrified, improving the local environment and air quality across the north.

The TransPennine route upgrade, announced in November 2021 as part of the integrated rail plan, will be hitting the tracks from 2025 − boosting economic growth and creating local skilled jobs.

Image credit: istockphoto.com

Keltbray Rail welcomes Dave Speakman as Engineering Director

Keltbray Rail is pleased to announce the appointment of Dave Speakman as Engineering Director with Managing Director responsibilities for the Wentworth House Rail Systems Limited (WHRSL) OLE design office based in Preston Brook.

WHRSL was established in 2012 to provide consultancy, design and development for Overhead Line Electrification (OLE) in rail infrastructure. Since then, WHRSL has developed exceptional OLE design experience, having worked on major projects both within the UK and Australia such as Crossrail, West Coast Mainline Power Upgrade, GWRM, Great Eastern, Norwich Victoria Sidings, TRU and MTMS2 (Australia).

Dave is a civil engineer by profession with design/construction and engineering management experience spanning a 33 year career within the rail electrification industry. During this time, he has worked overseas in Hong Kong and throughout the UK on several high profile multi-disciplinary electrification projects for a range of clients, most recently working for the TRU Alliance.

In his new role, Dave’s immediate priorities are to establish a consistent competency framework within the rail engineering business whilst providing support for the development of technicians, graduates and engineers alike to help fulfil their potential.

Commenting on his appointment, Dave Speakman said: “This is an exciting time for Keltbray with a significant potential future workload and plans for company growth. I will be prioritising consistency and competency within the rail business and intend to enhance the WHRSL brand through investment in the workforce, recruitment and development including a plan to modernise the office and the implementation of agile working in readiness for the planned transition to a tier one rail industry supplier.”

Photo credit: Keltbray

RBF offers school holiday support

Industry charity Railway Benefit Fund (RBF) has created a children’s fund specifically to help families who are struggling with the costs of living over the school summer holidays.

The fund is designed to provide support for the increasing costs of childcare, school uniforms and meals during the holidays.

You could be eligible to apply for a grant if you currently work in the industry, your gross household income is less than £40,000 per annum, and you are in receipt of child benefit.

Railway Benefit Fund services manager, Ryan Morgan, said ‘This fund has never been more important than it has this year, with the rising cost of living across the board, railway families are really feeling the squeeze. Our aim is that children have what they need to get back to school in September well equipped, healthy, and having had the childcare and support that they need during the holidays.’

To apply for support, you will need to complete a short application form outlining how the fund could help you and your family, your latest payslip and a bank statement. The maximum amount that can be awarded is £300.

RBF is a UK charity solely dedicated to supporting current, retired and former railway employees and their families through tough times. Founded in 1858 it has been supporting the rail industry for over 160 years.

If you are worried about providing for your child this summer, please get in touch with the Railway Benefit Fund today to see how they can help. Telephone lines are open 10am-3pm Monday to Friday.

Email: [email protected]

Tel: 0345 241 2885

Image credit: RBF

The Rail Safety Summit Returns – September 2022

The Rail Safety Summit, returns on 13 September 2022 at Holywell Park Conference Centre, Loughborough University. The conference has brought rail safety professionals together for the last ten years and provides a unique opportunity for them to network and discuss the latest concerns and developments, while hearing from those involved with developing new systems to drive safety up and risk down.

The event sees expert industry professionals present the latest information and developments within their field of expertise alongside companies exhibiting the most innovative products and services within the rail industry. Leaders in rail safety, academics, and hands-on safety specialists learn from each other, and no topic is too difficult for the well-respected expert panel to tackle.

Confirmed speakers for 2022 include: 

  • Colin Wheeler – Rail Media, Civil Engineer / RailStaff Writer and Your Host
  • Andrew Hall – Chief Inspector, RAIB 
  • Marian Kelly – Head of SHE, London Underground
  • Rupert Lown – Chief Health, Safety & Wellness Officer, Network Rail
  • John Jebson – OHSE Director, McGinley Support Services (Infrastructure)
  • Nick Millington – Safety Task Force Director, Network Rail
  • Ali Chegini – Director – System Safety & Health, RSSB
  • Prof Sarah Sharples – Chief Scientific Adviser, Department for Transport (DfT) & Professor of Human Factors, Nottingham University
  • Ian Prosser – HM Chief Inspector of Railways and Director of Railway Safety · Office of Rail Regulation
  • Peter Dearman – Independent Consultant, Dearman Engineering and (Former Engineering Director, Atkins)
  • James Le Grice – Head of Rail Safety and Standards, Department for Transport (DfT)

As the industry bounces back after a challenging few years and tirelessly strives to meet the challenge of net-zero, the maintenance and construction of rail assets in a sustainable and resilient manner has never been more important. But safety must remain at the heart of these activities. 

Protecting our passengers and the people who keep the rail running is a central concern and must be the priority when work is being planned on the railway. With this in mind, the Rail Safety Summit is an event that cannot be missed! 

For tickets visit: www.railsummits.com/event/Safety-2022/tickets

Please feel free to contact us to discuss promotional and sponsorship opportunities: [email protected]

Renfe offers free rail travel in Spain from September till end of 2022

If you’re planning to travel to Spain later this year and looking for a cheap way to travel, the country’s national operator, Renfe, is offering free travel on a number of services.

The scheme, announced by Spain’s prime minister Pedro Sánchez on 12 July, comes as part of a set of price cuts made to reduce the impact of inflation and the war in Ukraine on Spanish consumers.

Under the terms of the scheme, all Cercanías (commuter train), Rodalies (commuter routes in Catalonia), and Media Distancia routes (mid-distance regional lines) run by Renfe will be free of charge from 1 September to 31 December 2022. These services had already been discounted to 50% since last June.

For travellers visiting Spain, the free Media Distancia trains offer amazing value, allowing you to hop between cities for absolutely nothing at all.

Unfortunately, the 100% discount does not apply to single tickets, and several types of transport voucher are also ruled out, including AVE vouchers for Spain’s high-speed trains.

However, the 100% discount on multi-trip tickets will make travel much cheaper for anyone looking to travel around and explore the country.

The promotion starts from 1 September.

Image credit: istockphoto.com

LNER Appoints First Female Engineering Director

London North Eastern Railway (LNER) is pleased to announce that Dr Linda Wain has been appointed to the role of Engineering Director.

Dr Wain, who has been Head of Engineering and Assurance at LNER for five years, will oversee all aspects of LNER’s fleet, future procurement and major engineering projects such as the adoption of digital signalling to ensure customers receive the world-class, punctual service that customers expect from LNER.

Speaking about her new role, Dr Wain said: “I’m delighted to be taking up the role of Engineering Director at LNER, and in doing so following in the footsteps of many great people who have worked in the business in the past. Ensuring that our fleet is well maintained and is constantly improved to take advantage of new technology is incredibly important as we look to deliver an exceptional experience to our customers.

“I’m also pleased to be the first female Engineering Director at LNER and I hope to use my position to challenge perceptions and encourage more young women to consider engineering as a worthwhile and rewarding career.”

Dr Wain brings with her 30 years of experience in various roles in rail, in engineering, reliability improvement, fleet and depot management. She has previously worked at the Royal Air Force and Ford Motor Company.

David Horne, Managing Director at LNER, said: “Linda is already an incredibly inspiring leader within our business and I’m confident that she will use her considerable expertise to successfully drive forward our exciting portfolio of engineering projects. She brings a huge amount of passion and energy to her role and I am delighted she will be leading our Engineering team.” 

Photo credit: LNER

Network Rail controller retires with a locomotive named in his honour

After 50 years of service across the railway, Network Rail Kent controller Stephen Eaves retired on 8 July and over 50 friends, colleagues and family gathered at Blackfriars station to pay tribute and see a GB Railfreight class 73 locomotive named in his honour.

Stephen said: “It feels unreal, when I found out about it I thought ‘have I heard right’ – it’s a dream turned into reality.

“This 50 years has passed in a flash, I can remember my first day at Liverpool Street in room 128, and my colleagues, and it doesn’t seem like 50 years. I will certainly miss it. But I think my family ought to have a little bit more of my time now, less of me getting up at four in the morning . My wife has been a rock to me and I couldn’t have done this without her.”

In a speech marking the occasion, Network Rail’s Kent route director Fiona Taylor said: “Steve, the service, commitment and friendship you have given to the railway, our freight and passenger customers and your colleagues has been and will always be greatly valued and appreciated by us all. We wholeheartedly thank you for your service.

“We wish you all the very best for the future and the cherished time you will have going forward with your family in retirement and with the knowledge your still be running around somewhere on the network in the form of this locomotive.”

John Smith, chief executive officer of GBRf, said: “As a company we’re heavily involved in the Kent area so when I was approached about naming a train after Stephen after 50 years in the industry, and someone who’s always been an ally of freight, it seemed the obvious thing to do and celebrate someone special.”

In his career, Stephen worked in many areas of the railway, including time as a Locomotive Controller at Liverpool Street and Swindon, and deputy chief controller of Network South East’s operations, based at Waterloo.

Loco 73212 Stephen Eaves was built in 1965 and is based on Network Rail’s Southern region, where it works test trains, rail head treatment trains and other freight services for GBRf.

Image credit: Network Rail

GWR celebrates final BBC Make a Difference Superstar

Great Western Railway (GWR) has staged the last of its train-naming events celebrating BBC Make a Difference Superstars who went above and beyond to help others during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Jo Prosser, who masterminded a project in Bicester to provide one million meals for NHS frontline staff, was honoured at Oxford Station on 12 July.

GWR joined forces with the BBC in 2020 to celebrate Make a Difference Superstars from nine BBC Local Radio regions. Jo is the last of 18 heroes to be awarded train-name fame for selflessly helping others at the peak of the pandemic.

Jo left behind her husband and much-loved dog in Lincolnshire for four months to spearhead a Salute the NHS project in Bicester co-founded by Ron Dennis CBE, founder of the F1 team McLaren.

As lead operations director, she worked tirelessly to coordinate 800 volunteers to deliver one million meals, boxes, bags, and 75,000 soothe and care packs to the NHS. She showed her full array of skills, from driving a forklift to managing orders, packing boxes and liaising with all the teams involved.

Always working with a smile, Jo proved an inspirational leader, setting up visits with potential partners, key celebrities and even a Royal guest.

After being nominated by listeners on BBC Oxford, Jo was selected by judges as a BBC Make a Difference Superstar, with her name now featuring on Intercity Express Train 800034.

“Jo is a true unsung hero,” said Victoria Prentis, MP for Banbury (including Bicester). “It is because of the efforts of people like her that we made it through the last couple of difficult years. Jo worked tirelessly to deliver over one million meals for NHS frontline staff in Bicester. It is brilliant to see her honoured in this unique way by GWR and the BBC.”

Great Western Railway Managing Director Mark Hopwood commented: “It was a privilege to partner with the BBC Make a Difference campaign and the stories which featured on BBC local radio were truly overwhelming.

“Jo went to incredible lengths to support her community during the pandemic and we’re thrilled to add her name to the side of an Intercity Express Train. 

“The GWR has a long and proud history of naming trains after Great Westerners – past and present heroes from across our network – and it’s a real treat to add her to that list.”

Image credit: GWR

SLC appoints new non-executive director

SLC Rail has announced the appointment of Neil Micklethwaite as its new non-executive director.

Neil, who is chief operating officer for CMAC Group, will join SLC Rail’s board this month.  

Neil has held several senior positions in the transport sector, both within operating businesses and at group level.  This has included being the commercial director of Chiltern Railways, commercial director at First Great Western, customer experience & commercial director at East Midlands Trains, and more recently group business development director of Stagecoach. 

He also serves as vice president of the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT), which aims to promote professional development and sharing of knowledge and best practice. 

Ian Walters, managing director of SLC Rail said: “We are pleased to welcome Neil to the Board. 

“Gaining access to his vast business development and commercial experience will be invaluable to SLC Rail as we continue to grow the business. We look forward to working with him.” 

Commenting on his appointment, Neil added: “It’s impressive to see what Ian and the rest of the team have achieved in such a short period of time.

“The company has made a positive impact on the rail industry through supporting third party projects and I’m excited to be working with them as they continue to make a difference to communities up and down the country.”   

Image credit: SLC Rail

RIA North announces new vice chair and additions to Leadership Group

The Railway Industry Association (RIA) North, which represents over 150 rail businesses based across the North of England, has announced David Maddison as its new Vice-Chair and several appointments to its Leadership Group.

David, who undertakes the role of regional director (North) within Alstom’s Digital, Infrastructure and Systems (D&IS) business unit, will work with RIA North Chair Justin Moss to set the strategic direction of the group. David is a Chartered Project Professional and a Fellow of the Association of Project Management, with over 20 years’ experience of delivering complex multi-disciplinary projects within the rail environment.

RIA North’s Leadership Group also welcomed several new faces, including:

  • Jason Marbeck, commercial director at AmcoGiffen
  • Emma Pattison, portfolio lead major projects (rail) at Jacobs
  • David Westcough, senior consultant at Atkins
  • Richard Sykes, CEO at Rowe Hankins
  • Dan Lee-Bursnall, CEO at Incremental Solutions
  • Stirling Kimkeran, director at Classone Systems

They will join the current group, consisting of: Innovation Lead David Taylor; Decarbonisation Lead Julie Carrier; and Value for Money Lead Ken Kyle.

David Maddison, RIA North vice-chair, commented: “It is a pleasure to join the RIA North Leadership Group and I am proud to be appointed vice chair. It is an exciting time for rail in the North, with significant investment through the Integrated Rail Plan and plans for intra-city transport across the various combined authorities. However, there are also some real challenges for the rail industry, whether that is uncertainty of promised investment, delivering the full benefits of HS2 or continued efforts to decarbonise and drive innovation on the railways. I look forward to working with colleagues and partners to be the voice of the rail supply community in the North.”

Justin Moss, RIA North chair, added: “We are very pleased to welcome David as our new vice-chair and Jason, Emma, David, Richard, Dan, and Stirling as leadership group members of RIA North, congratulations to all. David brings years of expertise in the industry, and will help us make the case for members right around the North East and North West. The group has lots of exciting plans for the months and years ahead, so stay tuned for more from RIA North!”

RIA North runs a range of activities throughout the year, with upcoming events including an event to mark the one-year anniversary of the Integrated Rail Plan on 19 November 2022 and an Annual Conference on 1 December 2022. It will also continue to lead projects through its working groups on Innovation, Digital, Skills, Decarbonisation and Value for Money.

Find out more about RIA North’s work at www.riagb.org.uk/north.

Image credit: RIA

Lee Paxton joins GCRE as director of rail operations

Business partnership meeting in office

The Global Centre of Rail Excellence (GCRE) has announced the appointment of Lee Paxton as director of rail operations.

Lee began his career with Network Rail in 2005 before going on to hold a number of positions with Arriva Trains Wales, East Midlands Trains (EMT), and CrossCountry Trains. He joins GCRE from CrossCountry Trains where his most recent role was industry projects director. He was previously network services director and customer service director.

Lee Paxton

Simon Jones, chief executive of GCRE, said: “Lee is an experienced and highly motivated railway industry professional with a strong track record of leading operational teams and managing the development and delivery of significant infrastructure change. He is a great asset and a very welcome member of the senior team as we continue to attract some of the best talent in the rail industry.”

Lee Paxton said: “I am passionate about putting the customer first and transforming the passenger experience on Britain’s railways. As a major infrastructure project, GCRE will provide much-needed state-of-the-art rolling stock testing, infrastructure testing and storage and maintenance for the UK and international railway industry. It’s a really exciting project that has got the potential to transform our rail industry hence my enthusiasm to get involved and help make it happen.”

GCRE was established by the Welsh Government as a Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) in 2021 with an initial commitment of £50 million. The UK Government is expected to confirm a further £10 million for research and development along with capital funding of £20 million. An investment prospectus to attract private funding for the project is also in development ready for launch in the autumn of 2022. 

Image credit: istockphoto.com

Women in Rail: working for all

Women in Rail trustee Mohanad Ismail spoke to RailStaff about the importance of ethnic representation within leadership, how ethnicity and nationality can impact career opportunities, and how this must change.

Women in Rail (WR) was established in 2012 to improve diversity in the UK rail industry by providing networking opportunities for women. The organisation, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in April, includes representatives from a wide range of undertakings and stakeholders across the UK rail industry. In its 10 years of operations, the remit of WR has expanded to include the broader issue of Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) in the workplace. Along with the Rail Industry Association (RIA), the charity co-founded the EDI Charter. Representing WR on the EDI Charter working group is Mohanad Ismail.

Mohanad, a chartered engineer, became a WR board trustee in 2020. Born and raised in Saudi Arabia, with Sudanese heritage, Mohanad moved to Ireland at the age of 10 before relocating to the UK in 2012. His diverse background gives him a terrific perspective on the challenges faced by ethnic minorities in the western workplace.

Championing the rights of women in the workplace industry is crucial, says Mohanad, but, he adds, diversity is wider than gender alone. “There is no hierarchy in diversity,” he says. By this, he means that the term ‘woman’ is not monolithic – it encompasses a vast array of individuals and each of these has a different personal experience. The role that ethnicity, culture, and religion plays in the experience of women must be considered if all women are to benefit from EDI initiatives. “What about the experience of Black women, Indian women, Muslim women?” he asks. “They all have a different experience that does not fit neatly under one umbrella.”

Mohanad’s experience of growing up in different countries gives him an insight into the pressure that non-native people face to adapt to cultural norms. “When you come from my kind of background, you’re constantly in reflection mode, because, for instance, certain things I may say or do in the UK may not necessarily be suitable in Sudan, or in Ireland, or Saudi Arabia. You’ve always got to be conscious of what is going on around you, and that shapes you as a person.”

He’s also used to having to going the extra mile to make himself noticed by employers. “Growing up in Ireland, I was the only black student out of 700 in my school. And even at that age you start thinking, ‘if there are X number of ‘local’ jobs on offer, what are the chances of me getting one when I’m up against 699 ‘local’ kids?’ That plays on your mind. But because it’s more difficult to progress, you end up working that bit harder to make yourself more attractive to employers.”

This belief is partly what led Mohanad to study for four degrees. He holds a BEng in electronic engineering; a BEng in embedded systems & design; a BEng in electronic and computer engineering; and an Msc in Digital Systems. “I had to do something to make myself stand above other candidates in some way,” he says.

But even then, he found it difficult to break into engineering, and it was only after a year and a half and many rejections that he landed a job in the rail industry.

A common problem

Mohanad thinks his experience is representative of most people from minority ethnic backgrounds. “I personally feel that the opportunities for minority groups are not there and, if you’re not a white male, you have to take any opportunity that comes your way. I see people from minority ethnic backgrounds work hard to differentiate themselves from their white colleagues just to get the same types of opportunities. I see people who are ‘overqualified’ for the role they’re in, but they have to get those qualifications otherwise they’ll be overlooked.”

The way in which we think about EDI could be improved, says Mohanad. He believes that placing inclusion at the forefront of any EDI strategy will improve the lot of minority groups.
“EDI is a huge topic and people approach it in different ways but, for me, inclusion is the most important aspect. Change will not happen until everyone feels that they’re a real part of an organisation or industry. Inclusion is the enabler, I think. It precedes and allows equality and diversity.

“The problem is that it’s difficult to quantify. Equality and diversity can be proved with numbers. How many women does a company have? How many minority groups are represented? What positions do they hold? Do men and women get paid the same? But inclusion is difficult to quantify. It’s up to leaders to ask themselves how they can make their companies more inclusive, how they welcome minority and marginalised groups into the organisation and operate in their own way.”

Visibility is key

Representation at the higher levels of management is key, says Mohanad. Very often, he argues, that when companies claim to be supporting minority groups, they are often unconsciously discriminating against them. “Although companies may claim ‘we’re supporting you’, that often doesn’t apply to people like me, because the person who’s saying it has never experienced any of the things I’ve gone through. Minority groups need to be represented by people who share their experiences and the challenges they face.”

By neglecting representation, companies simply perpetuate the inequalities they may otherwise be working to correct, he argues. “Ethnic minority employees often feel they need to change themselves to fit in with the workplace culture of their country of residence. They do this to improve their chances of progression as they think the only way up is to conform. But in doing this, they lose a little bit of who they are.”

Companies that don’t adequately represent minority groups also risk apathy among their workforce. If staff don’t believe that meaningful progression is possible, why would they chase it?

“I think this is a risk,” says Mohanad, “especially for people who don’t have experience of working in other countries and cultures. I’m fortunate in that my background means I see the world through a middle eastern lens, an African lens, a western lens. In Africa, I see people like me who are CEOs. I see them as ministers and as presidents. If you don’t see that within the culture you’re brought up in, it could really impact on your ambition.”

Acknowledge the issue

Equally, says Mohanad, leaders must acknowledge the limitations on career progression among minority and marginalised groups. In addition, their approach to leadership will need to change if they are to fully realise the potential of their workforce. “Leaders need to understand that the westernised corporate approach may not be appropriate to addressing the problem. I would like to see leaders at UK companies start to work with their contemporaries in other countries or cultures that have representation in UK societies, to get an appreciation of how they manage their staff and how those ideas can be brought to the UK.”

Ultimately, says Mohanad, EDI will be an ongoing challenge. And this stems from the fact that we’re all only human. “There will always be work that needs to be done. We are only human and we have a tendency to take the easy option. Even if the issues of gender equality and minority inclusion are ironed out, new challenges will emerge. Humans will continue to have biases, and we must constantly challenge them to remain inclusive, we need to develop a sense of empathy and we can do that by reflecting on our own experiences relative to those from varying backgrounds.”

Image credit: WR / istockphoto.com

Expert commentary – Paul McGunnigle-White, treasury manager and EDI member at Trenitalia c2c

LGBT pride or LGBTQ+ gay pride with rainbow flag for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people human rights social equality movements in June month

Paul McGunnigle-White is an experienced finance manager and team builder, with a passion for diversity and inclusion. He is a driving member of the EDI group at Trenitalia c2c and represents the company on the RIA / WR EDI Charter working group. RailStaff caught up with Paul to talk about the broad subject of diversity and inclusion, his experience working in the rail industry, and his vision of EDI for the future.

Hi Paul, thanks for joining us. To begin could you give me a brief overview of your work at Trenatalia c2c and what led you to join the company’s EDI committee?

I’ve worked in finance for about 20 years now, but only joined the rail industry in 2017 when I became treasury manager at Trentitalia c2c. I manage all bank accounts and payment related company relationships for c2c and Trenitalia UK Limited. I also manage the Station Accounts functions and my job as treasury manager, can sometimes be very demanding.

One of the main reasons I wanted to be a part of the EDI committee, is because I wanted to be active in trying to make a more inclusive workforce. For me, as a gay man, I sometimes still get looks of disapproval if, for example, I’m out in public holding hands with my husband, and it makes you feel so unwelcome. There are still places – pubs and bars for example – where I can walk in and instantly feel ‘this isn’t the right place for me’.

When the Black Lives Matter movement became big news, there was a lot of talk here at c2c, asking whether we were doing enough to support people of colour. Were we making our staff’s voices heard? I remember that really lit a fire underneath me and I was really encouraged by the company to pursue my passion for diversity and inclusion.

At times it’s a juggling act between my role as treasury manager and my EDI commitments, but I’ve been given the freedom and autonomy to work on projects for the EDI group and I’m really proud to work for c2c because of the company’s commitment to this area.

What does EDI mean to you?

For me, EDI means being able to be proud of who you are. And not only being proud of it but showing it too. You often find that when people are not at work, when they’re with their friends and their family, they may be a completely different person to the one they portray around their colleagues. I feel like EDI lets people be exactly the same person inside and outside of work. It’s about celebrating ourselves, celebrating the differences between people and different cultures, and learning from one another. It makes us all better people if we open ourselves up and share our experiences. It makes life much richer.

What does a good EDI strategy include and what makes an inclusive employer?

I think it’s important to constantly look at your staff and the people who represent your company, it’s about empowering them, making sure they have a voice, and feel that they’re listened to. You need to look at the makeup of your workforce. Is it diverse? If not, how do you change that? If you have EDI initiatives in place, are they having a positive impact?
I feel like it’s making sure that you’re always listening to all different sides of the business and not just concentrating on one area. Your company may be diverse in one aspect, but not in another. And also if you do have a diverse workforce, is the company as whole inclusive? It’s important to understand the difference and find the balance between the two. The best EDI strategy includes and empowers everybody.

It’s also about educating staff. On the one hand, some people are uncomfortable about EDI issues because they don’t understand them, or they’re afraid to say the wrong thing. On the other hand, you also have to accept that sometimes it can happen and often that person is not intentionally trying to cause harm, so you have to focus on how to move forward and educate. There is a lot of change happening at the moment, and you have to understand that some people will be slower to adjust to that. Ultimately, we all need to be respectful to one another.

In your opinion, does the rail industry pay enough attention to LGBTQ+ issues?

A lot of people today are very knowledgeable and very passionate when it comes to inclusion, and I think that’s because of the progress we’ve seen in the last 30 years. Due to that, the younger generation seems to be so much more empowered now, and they’re driving change across all industries. Rail has perhaps trailed other industries slightly, but you have to understand the context.

We have a commitment to our customers – we need to do whatever it takes to get them from A to B, we need to make sure that trains and stations have the required facilities so they can travel comfortably, and we need to keep trains running on time. With so many things to juggle, it’s understandable that EDI issues have not received the same attention as in other industries.

That said, we do have a very inclusive workforce and that’s something I want to shout about. I want to show that the railway industry takes Pride seriously. I want to fly that flag. When you look at other industries, there are lots of LGBTQ+ networks that span companies across the sector. My husband works in insurance, and he’s part of his industry’s network. That’s something I’d like to see more of in rail. Since joining the RIA/WR Charter working group, that is something we are focusing on and I would love to achieve it. We are all there to bring a unique perspective and try to make a difference in the industry.

But we do have this limited budget and compared to other industries we have a greater challenge. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t go for it – we just need to approach the issue from a different angle and be more creative. The rail industry can’t just throw money at EDI initiatives, but we can continue to have conversations among ourselves and continue to talk about LGBTQ+ issues.

We can continue to speak to our colleagues across the industry, share our experiences and collectively learn from them.

With EDI being such a high-profile issue, do you see some companies treating it as box ticking exercise, or to generate good PR? What differentiates the companies which are truly committed to EDI?

I think there are a lot of companies that treat LGBTQ+ issues as a tickbox exercise. You can see it when the Pride flag appears everywhere in June but disappears straight after Pride month. I feel like a lot of people see through that now, though − they can see when something has real heart and intent.

But don’t get me wrong − it’s not that people shouldn’t be flying the Pride flag. I love seeing it everywhere. Instantly, it makes me feel included and accepted, like I am welcome. But the intention is also important, and companies that take the extra step are those which talk about the issues and connect with members of their workforce who are LGBTQ+, rather than just pink-washing logos.

There are many people who don’t feel able to come out, even today. Some people find it easy and come out during their school days, but others can really struggle with their sexuality and feel like they can’t talk to their friends or family. No matter how far we’ve come as a society, people are still suffering, and it’s so important that workplaces offer an inclusive, welcoming space. I think if you join a company where LGBTQ+ issues are discussed and celebrated at a senior level, that can make a massive difference. It can be an open door into the community for some people who’ve never felt able to express themselves.

The use of correct pronouns is a highly visible aspect of gender identity and trans rights. Do you see push back against this and, if so, what do you think generates this?

I’ve talked a lot to people about the use of pronouns, and I’m all for including them on emails, etc. However, it is the sort of thing that, unless you’re genuinely interested in learning more about it and why it’s important, can become a box-ticking exercise.

There are so many different identities under the LGBTQ+ umbrella, and even though I’m part of that community, I’ll admit I struggle to keep up with them all. But I want to learn more, and this is how we become more inclusive.

I want to hear from trans people and non-binary people and others why the use of pronouns is so important. I would like to see them educating people on what are all the different gender identities? How are they different from one another? I feel that inclusion relies on education. The more educated people become, the more accepting they will become. And I think that works both ways. You see people getting flack for not using correct pronouns, but it’s a difficult concept for some people. There’s a lot of change at the moment, and it’s understandable that it’s sometimes difficult to take on board and some resistance to it.

The key to breaking down these barriers is education. You often see it with younger people; they’ve grown up with all of this change and are much more accepting. It’s just normal to them. But anyone who doesn’t know much about gender or sexuality, shouldn’t be made to feel ashamed for asking questions.

Do you think we’ll ever get to the point where we don’t have to discuss inclusion anymore, or do you think that EDI is a continual process of change and will continue as new aspects of identity surface?

Everyone comes from different backgrounds and we all have our own views and opinions. Even though there has been a lot of progression, there’s always going to be someone who doesn’t like you for who you are.

Personally, that doesn’t bother me. I’ve got to the point where I don’t really care if you don’t approve of the way I live my life. I don’t care whether you approve that I have a husband. The problem is when people go out of their way to make their point or cause harm. There’s nothing I can do about who I am. The same goes for people of colour, people with disabilities, and so on. You can’t change the way you were born. And to feel like someone is against your very existence because of the way you are is a really awful feeling.

I’d love to say one day we’ll live in a world where you won’t see those looks of disapproval. But, if I’m really honest with myself, I don’t think it will ever fully go away. However, I do feel that with the help of EDI groups and the continued progression of education in school and in workplaces, things will get better and better. I feel that young people are so much more empowered now, and have more knowledge about these kinds of issues, that society can only continue to progress.

I have a son, and he is completely comfortable with having two gay dads. I know that he has friends who have gay parents as well. He talks about racism and asks why it happens, why anyone should care about the colour of someone’s skin. He’s much more aware of diversity and inclusion than I was at his age. There is still change to be made, and eventually we’re going to hand the baton over to the younger generation, but I feel very confident that they’ll take it and run with it.

Image credit: Trenitalia c2c / istockphoto.com

CML: an equal opportunity employer

Founded in 1986, CML is a principal contractor to Network Rail, operating throughout England and Wales. The firm delivers multidisciplinary building and civils projects, with expertise in the reconstruction and refurbishment of buildings, structures, and earthworks. With an excellent track record, CML takes great pride in its work as well as its commitment to equal opportunities.

“I’ve worked in the Rail industry since 2003, moving to CML in 2018,” says Amanda Higgins, a works delivery manager at CML. “It’s a very male-dominated sector and there’s a lot of stereotyping and gender discrimination. Traditionally, you have to shout loudly to make your voice heard, though that’s not the case here.”

Just one example of the everyday discrimination faced by women is the fact properly fitted PPE – one of the many luxuries that male colleagues take for granted – has only recently been introduced to the industry, but CML now has its female staff fully kitted out.
“The sleeves were the problem!” says Natasha Steele, also a works delivery manager. “I’m quite small, so putting on any PPE used to feel like I was wearing my dad’s clothes. Thankfully, we now have proper PPE that fits, so we’re comfortable and safe.”

Progressive employer

Against this background of historical discrimination, CML strives to foster a progressive work environment that provides opportunities, flexibility, and care for all of its employees, and is conscious of the difficulties women can face in the workplace.

“The company has great fairness, inclusion, and respect policies as well, and treats everybody fairly,” says Natasha. “CML concentrates on ability regardless of gender, regardless of race, and will help you develop that ability, as much as you are willing to do so. Women in Rail is also a big thing at CML and they really push membership”.

The firm also emphasises a good work / life balance, offering hybrid working for those who want it. “As long as the work is done you can leave early or you can work over to make up the time,” says Natasha, “and it’s not just aimed at women – it’s there for everyone to use. We have a few single dads here who also have to juggle their workload around caring for children.”

“We’re encouraged to take our annual leave too,” says Amanda, “especially if we have days remaining coming to the end of the year. It can be a stressful job, so breaks are really important.”

Mental wellbeing is a major concern for employers in the rail industry, and failure to properly manage work-related stress can lead to ill-health and human error. CML is a partner with Mates in Mind, a leading UK charity raising awareness and addressing the stigma of poor mental health. Mates in Mind aims to provide clear information to employers about the available support and guidance on mental health and wellbeing, and how they can address this within their organisations.

“I’m one of the people delivering the training on that,” says Natasha, “making the on-site and office teams aware of what help is available, what to look out for, and who to speak to about mental health. We also have some mental health first aiders in the company.”

Breaking barriers

While the industry is slowly evolving and becoming less male-centric, there is still a long way to go. Career progression remains a concern for many women in the sector but CML aims to provide an environment where everyone can thrive. The firm wants its staff to have everything they need to succeed.

“Professional development at CML is really good,” says Amanda. “CML offers a lot of training, including NVQs in engineering and degrees, and we have regular performance reviews where we can discuss what training we feel we need.”

“The company is really good at helping you schedule that training as well. Obviously, COVID meant that a lot of us put training on hold but, now that we have the time, we can pick our training back up.”

Importantly, the company also provides great role models for its female staff, with women holding a number of key roles, providing the inspiration needed to bring down the glass ceiling.

“If you look at the structure of the company, two of the five board members are female,” Natasha says, “and there are quite a few women in management roles – including my boss, Amy. It’s becoming more and more commonplace to have women in management positions these days.

“I’m also in the process of becoming a STEM ambassador, to actively promote STEM industries and jobs to women. With engineering being seen as heavily male-dominated, one of the most important things is recruiting women who are qualified in STEM subjects.”

Equality, diversity, and inclusion is a crucial concern for modern companies and CML tackles the issue head-on. It challenges the way the engineering sector has operated in the past and continually questions its own operations to ensure its staff are represented and supported. Women looking to enter the engineering sector would be wise to consider CML, where they can progress and continue to break down barriers.

Image credit: CML

Shedding the stereotypes and taking centre stage

Lisa Hogben has over 15 years of experience in rail and is a board director with the NAWIC Australia. The fight for equality in rail is not yet over, she says.

Research carried out in Norway looking into women’s representation on boards has found that 33% is the critical mass. When you get to one-third, the culture changes.

“If the percentage is lower than this, the effect is little more than symbolic. It is when women feel that there are several of them, that they are not sitting alone at the table, that they begin to exercise their power” Siri Terjesen, 2016.

It’s reasonable to surmise that the same principles apply outside of the boardroom, and that means that there are exciting times ahead for the global construction industry.

Focus on the intangible

In Australia, women’s representation in the construction industry is tracking at 13.4% according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, which means there is a world of opportunity ahead of us. But big results require absolute unwavering commitment, and in the rail and construction industry when it comes to becoming more gender diverse and inclusive, our women are telling us that we are not always focusing on the right things. And the National Association of Women in Construction (NAWIC) is listening.

There’s no doubt that the rail, engineering, and construction industries are getting better at talking about equality, diversity, and inclusion (EDI), but when trying to ‘fix’ the underrepresentation of women in the workplace, we often default to the tangible, like the lack of women’s toilets on site, or ill-fitting PPE. Of course, these topics are hugely important but these are basic human rights – we shouldn’t be debating these things anymore.

What we see less of in our industry, is a focus on the intangible – the culture, values, and behaviours that create the (sometimes difficult) lived experience of women and other minorities in construction – this is often in the ‘too hard box’, because we’re much more comfortable building stuff, right?

But is a failure to acknowledge the importance of what it feels like to work in construction for women holding us back from meaningful change? I asked a group of brilliant women who work in rail, to talk to me about their experiences – all wished to remain anonymous, and their names have been changed.

Workplace culture

Victoria works in passenger experience and she has considered leaving the rail industry multiple times in her career, always because of the culture:

“It was tough to adjust to a field that saw me as different from my male colleagues; where I received feedback on my personality not my performance. I’ve stayed because I want to make rail a better place for diverse people. I’ve been able to earn my place at the leadership table and I want to use my voice to make the industry more inclusive”.

Victoria now forms part of the leadership team for two major projects and loves the fact that her work enriches communities, connects people from all walks of life, and leaves a legacy.

In her view, the industry needs to work on being more inclusive, creating the space and culture for diverse people to achieve their potential and have brilliant careers in rail, and she is not alone.

Proving yourself

Elizabeth has worked across multiple major rail projects, but went as far as actually handing in her resignation due to the culture of her workplace, although she was persuaded to stay by her male colleagues.

“I didn’t feel valued, respected or supported, in fact I was actively undermined,” she says. “My role and responsibilities were unclear and I didn’t feel like I was working as part of a team. It was my male colleagues who persuaded me to stay. They were unwaveringly clear about my value, and I un-resigned.”

This feeling of needing to ‘convince’ people of your competence and skills is a common tale among women in male-dominated environments, with many women feeling that they have to work harder and do more than their male colleagues to even be noticed, let alone to be given a chance to do something new or different, or considered for a promotion. Women in male-dominated environments are often seen as a risk or an experiment, or a troublemaker.

Family matters

For Amy, a qualified civil engineer and lawyer, the feeling of being held back from opportunities turned into outright discrimination when she started her family:

“I have worked as an engineer in various male-dominated industries in the planning, design and delivery of infrastructure projects, and as a woman the focus for me has always been on trying to ‘fit in’ and not be seen as ‘different’.

“After having my first child and coming back from parental leave part time, I was told that I needed to ‘kick some goals in order to be seen in the same light’.

“I was told I was no longer eligible to return to my previous role as a Team Manager, because I worked part-time and was instead given short-term projects to manage.”

Penalising women, whether overtly or covertly for having children is an ongoing problem in construction, and it means that we are missing out on the wonderful talents and contributions of such a huge proportion of our female working population.

How different might workplaces and policies be when it comes to families, if women held the critical mass in decision-making and leadership roles, or more radical still, if men were the ones who went through pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding? I’m pretty sure many women would be quite willing to pass over the responsibility!

The cost of inaction

I would love to tell you that these stories are rare, but they’re not. I would place a bet that every woman in rail, engineering, and construction, from the site to the office to the boardroom, could tell you tales that would make you gasp. And whether we want to face up to it or not, there is a cost of doing nothing.

In fact a 2021 BIS Oxford Economics report, named just that, found multiple potential benefits to improving female representation in construction such as bringing about cultural and behavioural change, decreasing aggressive behaviour and bullying, and improved attention to detail and communication. Conversely, if we do nothing, these are the potential costs of failure.

So where do we start? How do we attract and retain women in our organisations and tap into the amazing knowledge, skills and experience they have to offer? Well, here are some suggestions:
Do better than you must when it comes to policies which disproportionately affect women, like flexible working and parental leave. Bare minimum isn’t enough.

When bullying, harassment and other unacceptable behaviour is happening, don’t just move the persecuted and consider it resolved. Deal with the bad behaviour, even if the perpetrator is “really good at their job”.

Don’t base a salary on some arbitrary uplift on their previous earnings – this perpetuates the gender pay gap. Pay what the role is worth.

Pass the mic because it doesn’t always have to be you. Create a safe environment for women and other minorities, and give us a platform. We have some things we want to say.

Create, encourage, and support gender equality networks in your organisation, and allow them to be led by passionate people. If that’s not what you have now, change it.

And finally, if you find yourself irritated, uncomfortable, or intimidated by the change happening around you, check yourself before you check others – a changemaker is not the same as a troublemaker.

National Associations of Women in Construction (NAWIC) exist all around the world and are led by passionate volunteers working hard to create the change we need to see.

We’re transforming the industry in more ways than one, why not come and be a part of our network?


Image credit: NAWIC / istockphoto.com

RAIB annual report highlights recurrent themes

RAIB released its annual report in may, the first under its new chief inspector, Andrew Hall. Following its investigations, 31 recommendations were made to 36 organisations and seven recurrent themes are identified. All are worthy of note to the industry.

RAIB’s seven themes or areas of concern are: (i) track worker safety; (ii) the safety of people getting on and off trains; (iii) railway operations; (iv) management of bad weather operations; (v) freight wagon maintenance; (vi) user worked crossing safety; and (vii) management assurance.

I agree with them all but would suggest that there is also work to do in respect of many signalling-centre-worked level crossings, due to signaller workloads and the information with which they have to work. Recent incidents indicate that signallers, regularly and under unusual circumstances, may have scant information for safe decision making.

Valued reports

Back in 2019 RAIB began issuing ‘summary of learning’ reports. These continue and are valued for their use in the industry. In his foreword to his first report Chief Inspector Andrew Hall highlights the Salisbury accident on 31 October when two passenger trains travelling at speed collided. He notes that 14 people, including one of the train drivers, were hospitalised as a result. That accident is still under investigation.

“The latter half of 2021 saw a number of very serious and some fatal accidents interactions between people and trams which are now subject to investigation” is the bald statement made in the report. Trams are an area where I forecast that we will see increasing activity. Although the audit of the Light Rail Safety and Standards Board concluded on a positive note, there is more to do to improve the safety of trams, metros, and light railways.

In the conclusions to his first annual report as Chief Inspector, Andrew Hall comments that: “there are numerous examples where data that provides evidence after a railway accident could, if known about and used to drive action, have been used to avoid the accident happening in the first place. The data may be there, but the managerial wherewithal to best use it to reduce risk, is not always present.”

Meeting the challenge

The report features good use of specific examples of investigated accidents covering all seven of the identified current themes. But what is missing, which would reduce accidents and improve performance, is the introduction of sufficient ORR inspectors with cab and signalling centre access, as well as others with ballast-scratched track boots. They need to be located around the system in sufficient numbers to allow them to make both scheduled and, most importantly, unannounced site, train, and location visits.

To meet the challenge this would pose for front line management, I recommend that supervisors and all managers with authority to agree work plans and to stop unsafe working should spend the majority of their time visiting places and sites of work, speaking with and listening to those who are at work.

Image credit: istockphoto.com

Big fines and permanent injuries – where are organisations going wrong?

There have been a number of successful prosecutions recently, resulting in big fines and legal costs far exceeding the expense which would have been incurred by ensuring the safety of the working environment. I have been shocked and dismayed to read the details. The time delay between the accidents and the court trials is also a real concern.

Crushed worker permanently disabled

One accident happened back on 19 September 2018, on a 19-mile stretch of track between Crewe and Chester. A worker was crushed between the conveyor of a 25 tonne ‘Superboss’ ballast distributor and a Kubota people carrier. The injured worker suffered life changing catastrophic injuries to both his legs and spine. He has lost 12cm of bone in his left leg and 4cm from his right. Tendons and nerves in his right leg were irreparably damaged resulting in permanent disability. A second worker suffered minor injuries to his wrist and shoulder.

The prosecution following an investigation by the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) was under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Network Rail pleaded guilty on 11 May in Chester Magistrate’s Court and was fined £1.4 Million. ORR found failings in Network Rail’s management of the worksite, poor planning, inadequate supervision, poor communication at all levels and a “failure to provide adequate information, instructions and training to safety critical staff”.

‘Superboss’ ballast distributor.

Following the judgement by District Judge Sanders, Ian Prosser, chief inspector of railways at ORR commented that: “The incident was caused by totally inadequate supervision of tasks at all levels. Nobody was making sure that those under supervision had been following safe working practices, which led to this incident that could easily have been avoided.”

Burnt out substation at Godington

On Wednesday 14 April Network Rail was fined £696,666 and ordered to pay costs of £33,647.45 at Folkestone Magistrates Court. ORR’s investigation of this accident found that the condition of the DC Substation at Godington that burnt out was well known and unsafe.
Network Rail failed to prevent water from leaking in and dehumidifiers had not been maintained. The temperature inside was described as being “like a sauna”. The result was an electric arc resulting in a fire while Network Rail staff were working inside the substation on 20 December 2018. One employee was seriously injured, receiving third degree burns.

After the judgement, Ian Prosser, HM Chief Inspector of Railways at the ORR, commented that: “Network Rail knew of the water leak at God Minton for nine months and, despite the concerns raised by staff and contractors, the required work was repeatedly delayed. This was a known risk and the failure to deal with it effectively led to staff working in unsafe conditions resulting in serious injuries to one employee.”

Trench collapse at Stoke-on-Trent

Another prosecution brought by the ORR was heard at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court. Volker Rail was fined £550,000 after pleading guilty to an offence under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and was ordered to pay costs of £85,415.94.

The accident happened on 6 July 2014 when the contractor’s employee was working in a trench near to Stafford Station. The unsupported wall of the trench collapsed, burying the worker who suffered injuries including a broken pelvis and broken ribs. He underwent surgery on his pelvis, stomach, and lungs. By 2021 he was still in pain and no longer able to work full time.

Burnt out substation.

The ORR investigation found that the construction team were not adequately briefed and were not following their own methods. Poor management meant that failings were not corrected and complaints were not fully acted upon. In his remarks at Crown Court, Judge Smith said trench supports had been delivered to site but were not used, and proper consideration was never given to the use of temporary works. He also said that concerns were raised during the work and, while some steps were taken following these concerns, the methodology was not fully adopted.

MEWP runs away with valve open

Given the importance of gaining acceptance of the findings of Rail Accident Investigation Branch (RAIB) investigation, the year-long gap between the accident at Belle Isle in north London on 16 May last year and the publication of their report 04/2022 this May is perhaps acceptable. At around 03:30 a road/rail vehicle (mobile elevated work platform or MEWP) ran away while being on-tracked at a road/rail access point. The machine travelled for 600 metres before coming to rest in a tunnel. The brakes failed to work because a valve in the braking system had been left open following maintenance of the machine.

The report states that the possibility of the valve being left open had not been recognised during a risk assessment of the braking system, nor during operation and regular in-service testing. No damage was caused and nobody was injured. The area was under possession for maintenance work at the time and no train services were running in the vicinity of the runaway. Braking system maintenance was carried out on 2 March including the monthly braking test. A further brake test was done on 8 April but the early May brake test had not been done. Between 2 March and the incident, the steepest gradient on which the machine had been used was 1 in 99.

Test before touch on the OLE

On 9 May, Network Rail’s own safety website, Safety Central, issued a “safety bulletin”, titled “Test before touch on the OLE”, following an incident at Wolverton in the early hours of 14 May 2021. Track renewal contractors were working on a Network Rail managed worksite, checking and adjusting the overhead line electrification (OLE) infrastructure so that a temporary speed restriction could be lifted. A work group using a MEWP unknowingly strayed outside the area of the isolation. A lineperson touched the live OLE when using a tool to take a measurement and received burns from an electric shock of up to 25 kV. The bulletin repeats the “test before touch life saving rule” to be implemented whenever anyone works less than 600mm from the OLE.

Trench collapse worksite.

Safety barriers with gaps

On 11 May, Safety Central issued a safety advice about rigid worksite fencing used to protect workers, relating to a fatality that occurred on 8 April 2021. Network Rail’s own investigation found that the safety barriers were not put up correctly. The barriers had gaps, “more than required for safety refuges which meant workers could get onto the running lines too easily”. The track worker was walking between two of these gaps when he was struck by a train.

Track worker hit by underground train

At 09:31 on Friday 15 April this year, a London Underground track worker was struck by a train near Chalfont and Latimer Station sustaining injuries requiring hospital treatment. The train was a Metropolitan Line Underground service travelling between Baker Street and Chesham. It was travelling at 25mph on track used by trains running in both directions. The maximum permitted speed is 35mph and at the location of the accident there are also two other lines.

The injured track worker was one of a group of three undertaking a scheduled track inspection. The work had been planned to take place whilst the lines were open to rail traffic, “with a system in place intended to keep staff away from moving trains”.

RAIB says its “investigation will identify the actions of those involved, the planned system of work, the management and competence of track workers, and any underlying factors.”

Passengers thrown from their seats

Rigid worksite fencing.

On 11 May, Network Rail announced its investigation of an over speeding incident that occurred at Peterborough Station on 17 April. At around 10:20, the 08:20 Newcastle to Kings Cross Lumo train service passed over three sets of points at the north end of the station at 75mph. The maximum permitted speed for the points is just 25mph. The train suddenly lurched sideways as a result. Some passengers were thrown from their seats and luggage fell from the overhead storage areas. Minor injuries were sustained by passengers. The train came to a stand at the far end of the station and was not derailed.

The train was not due to call at Peterborough and had approached the station on a fast line before being routed onto a slower line via the points where the overspeed occurred. The route onto the slower line was being displayed on the signal at the approach to the points.

RAIB’s investigation will consider how the train was driven, factors influencing its driver, condition of the signalling at the time, reported injuries, and underlying management factors.

Responsibility and accountability

I recall the early days of the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act when responsible managers and supervisors were classified as being safety critical staff who could, should an accident occur, be held personally responsible for their actions. I recall uncomfortable interviews were carried out by local inspectors from Her Majesty’s Railway Inspectorate that could result in personal prosecutions. Even at headquarters levels the need for professional indemnity insurance was discussed.

Nowadays, companies who operate, maintain, and renew our railways, including Network Rail are prosecuted, rather than individuals. Is the current process the best way forward? As the format for the Great British Railways of the future is developed, I recommend a review of the underlying responsibilities and accountabilities. The total fines referred to in this article amount to £2,646,666 plus costs being paid by Network Rail and a contractor. Would the prosecution of responsible individuals be more effective? Presumably, when budgeting, organisations are including financial provision for the payment of fines!

Balfour Beatty appoints UK Health, Safety and Environment Director

Balfour Beatty, the international infrastructure group, today announces the appointment of Lee Hewitt as UK Health, Safety and Environment Director. Lee will take up his...