"We have ambitions that go beyond transporting people from A to B – we want to connect and grow sustainable communities."
MTR Corporation is one of the most fascinating companies in our industry, originally operating Hong Kong's Mass Transit Railway (that’s where the MTR comes from) it has now expanded its interests into running railways in different parts of the world including London, Beijing, Shenzhen, Hangzhou, Melbourne, Sydney and as we will find out more about today – Sweden. Our interviewee works for MTR Nordic, which operates across the country through its four subsidiaries MTR Tunnelbanan, MTR Tech, MTR Express and MTR Pendeltågen. And today, its Head of Corporate Communications Åsa Elm tells our Editor Luke Upton about her path into the industry, the challenges of explaining complex issues and of course her favourite rail journey...
Luke Upton (LU): Thanks for the time today, so how did you get into the rail industry and what drew you to the role?
Åsa Elm (ÅE): Firstly, I was interested in the company MTR. I had been in Hong Kong and over there the MTR brand is seen everywhere and people use the phrase “take the MTR” instead of “take the metro”. Secondly, I have always been interested in politics and issues of societal importance. When I started at MTR we had one single operation in Sweden, Stockholm metro, and being the heart-beat of the capital city, it affects more or less everyone in Stockholm. Today, we have broadened our scope and have become an important player in changing the whole railway industry in Sweden as the first major competitor to the incumbent operators in over 150 years. We have ambitions that go beyond transporting people from A to B – we want to connect and grow sustainable communities. As Head of Corporate Communications in our Nordic group I embrace all kind of stakeholder engagement and am lucky enough to have skilled colleagues around the world to share experiences with.
LU: Sounds busy. What do like most about your job with MTR Nordic?
ÅE: The variety and the opportunity to work cross any organizational barriers. I also like the combination of strategic and operative work – you never get bored!
LU: What’s the biggest challenge in your role?
ÅE: The railway industry is very much engineering driven. The understanding for communications as a strategic management tool is generally quite low. It sometimes make the job for the communication department more of a “cleaning job”, e.g. try to fix misunderstandings about a re-organization by an article at the intranet instead of a continuous flow of planned communication throughout the whole process.
LU: What will be some of the biggest differences between public transport now and in 10 years’ time?
ÅE: Well, looking at some of the key buzzwords at the moment like “seamless transport” and “transport as a service” I think we get an idea. I believe the connectivity between different modes of transports will be better. Let me give you an example - you only need to book one ticket and have one timetable, no matter have many operators you may use. We will see transport 'hubs' that offer commerce, services and amusements so that the interchanges themselves add something to the travel experience. Public transport will have an even more important role in the coming decade, since there will be so many more limitations for driving your own car – higher costs for fuel, decreasing spaces for parking or even driving a car within the city centre are just a few.
LU: What’s your favourite rail journey?
ÅE: For me it would be Stockholm-Skövde with MTR Express. I have my daughter in a volleyball high school in the vicinity of Skövde so when going there I always look forward to seeing her and enjoying a comfortable ride with a nice cup of Nespresso coffee in my hand.
LU: Great, many thanks Åsa.
5 minutes with… You? Each Friday the team here at SmartRail World bring a 5 minutes with... interview. This fun, fast-paced feature will help you get to know more about personalities across the industry, their ideas and experiences and of course their own favourite rail journey! Want to take part? Email: firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.
Last week's edition: 5 minutes with... Peter Guy, Group Business Continuity Manager at Network Rail.
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