"I enjoy working with people and making a difference every day. Our services can make or break a passenger’s day so the responsibility is something I’m very much aware of and thrive on."
Just a month into its franchise, South Western Railways is the UK train operating company serving London, Surrey, Hampshire, Dorset and Berkshire that took control of the route from South West Trains.
South Western Railway’s operations director, Jacqui Dey, speaks with Dave Songer about the general excitement felt by all at the company now it has taken the reins for at least the next seven years. In the interview, Jacqui explains why she is so passionate about the industry, what the operator has planned for the future and the most beautiful parts of the country she's yet to visit by train.
Dave Songer (DS): Hi Jacqui, may I wish you belated congratulations for being selected to head up South Western Railway’s operations. What first attracted you to the rail industry?
Jackie Dey (JD): I’m the third generation of my family to work in the railway so I think it must be in the blood! My grandfather was a painter at Glasgow Central and my father was a fitter at Queen Street. I started out as a clerical assistant before moving in to personnel as an employer relations manager at Scotrail’s freight depot. I’ve loved every minute of my time in the railways, which I’m sure has helped me to progress and have a varied career.
(DS): What does your job, operations director, entail?
(JD): I’m responsible for the delivery of South Western Railway’s service which involves working with our control team and our team of drivers. Resourcing, planning, performance and operational standards come under my remit and I also liaise with our industry colleagues at Network Rail to ensure the service delivery is as smooth as possible.
(DS): What do you enjoy most about the role?
(JD): I enjoy working with people and making a difference every day. Our services can make or break a passenger’s day so the responsibility is something I’m very much aware of and thrive on.
(DS): When did you begin working in the rail industry; how has it changed since then?
(JD): When I first joined the railways it was a public service and now we have the franchising system, so a huge amount has changed. The biggest changes have been around the investment in new trains and staff development. There’s also been considerable works on modernising stations and investing in new technologies to improve the customer experience, such as smartcards and Wi-Fi on trains, in stations and at retail outlets.
(DS): What are the key business priorities for South Western Railway 2018? Are you able to give specific details on a project or target?
(JD): Between now and 2024 we will deliver more than £1.2bn of investment in South Western Railway which will bring significant changes. Our priorities are about enhancing the timetable for passengers and bringing in new trains and fleet to expand capacity. The forthcoming December 2018 timetable will mean passengers can expect more services and quicker journeys. This is just the start of the improvements we have planned for across the network.
(DS): What is the biggest professional challenge you’ve faced?
(JD): I worked at ScotRail during the Commonwealth Games, which was a logistical challenge as we welcomed many visitors from around the world. We were all determined to promote a friendly and open Scotland to the world so we pulled out all the stops, which involved lots of long evening and early morning shifts. It was very rewarding and we all look back on that time with great fondness.
(DS): What will be some of the biggest differences between the passenger journey today and in 10 years’ time?
(JD): Things have changed so much in the past ten years, for instance the acceleration of new technology which has revolutionised the way we do things. Thinking back to 2007, Twitter had only just emerged and wasn’t being used by train companies in the way it is now: as an instantaneous way of relaying information and communicating with passengers. I think the next 10 years are likely to bring similar changes and bring industry and passengers closer together.
(DS): What’s your favourite rail journey?
(JD): My favourite rail journey has to be Glasgow to Mallaig via the Glenfinnan viaduct. On a lovely crisp autumn, nothing beats it. I may only have been with South Western Railway for a month, but I’ve heard all about the breathtaking places on our patch which I am yet to see. I hope to get out and about to see them for myself very soon; I can’t wait to see the Jurassic Coast, the New Forest and beaches of Bournemouth.
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