"Addressing this capacity issue is a priority,
which is why our upgrade programmes are so important."
Network Rail manages 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and viaducts, thousands of tunnels, signals, level crossings and rail timetabling in England, Scotland and Wales. These demands require a devoted workforce of 34,000 to ensure all these are carried out. At the moment, the company are in the process of the biggest and most ambitious upgrade on the UK's rail network in over 150 years. Beginning in 2014 and continuing through to 2019, the Railway Upgrade Plan has been devised in response to the tremendous growth of Britain’s railway. It’s a comprehensive programme of improvements to provide more capacity on the rail network and relieve crowding and congestion. The key benefits are hoped to be: longer, faster, more frequent trains; a better, more reliable infrastructure; and better facilities for passengers, especially at stations. This week our reporter Sarah Wright, spoke to Peter Guy, the Group Business Continuity Manager for Network Rail to find out more about what inspired him to join the rail industry after 16 years of service in the Army and why he's never looked back.
Sarah Wright (SW): How did you get into the rail industry?
Peter Guy (PG): Prior to working in the rail industry, I served as an Army Officer for 16 years, leaving in 2005. I didn’t really have any inkling of where I wanted to work, be that in what industry or where, but I had a reasonable idea that my skills and experience were better aligned to organisational resilience and/or programme management.
I did the usual things of registering with job banks, networking and using recruitment consultants, however, it was a job bank that landed me my first role with London & Continental, working as the Security Manager for the High Speed 1 programme. It was whilst I was doing my interview preparation that I had my eyes opened to the huge responsibilities and complexities of owning and running a rail infrastructure, and it was almost quite by accident that I began working in a very challenging and rewarding industry.
At this year's SmartRail Europe, Network Rail's Principal Engineer Digital Railway, Vish Kalsapura will be joining 50 expert speakers in a two day conference in Amsterdam!
SW: What do like most about your job?
PG: That’s easy! – being part of something that delivers a service for a rail operator which passionately wants to transform the railway to provide a modern and passenger-focussed transport system. It’s about what and how we contribute to improving the service for others and how this can support economic growth, jobs, and housing. Our railway has been growing by three or four per cent for 20 years, representing the fastest level of growth since the Victorian era – and passenger numbers are expected to double over the next 25 years. Who wouldn’t want to be part of the team that delivers the solution to that challenge?
A very close second are the people. Network Rail ( @ ) has great people working for it – they are the backbone and the eyes and ears to its success and future. And, we also make sure we have fun – you have to enjoy something you spend a lot of time doing!
SW: What’s the biggest challenge in your role?
PG: As mentioned already, we have experienced a significant rise in passenger numbers and with this comes rising congestion. Though our infrastructure is the most reliable it has ever been, each incident on the railway now has a bigger impact, causing more knock-on delays than they did in the past. Addressing this capacity issue is a priority, which is why our upgrade programmes are so important.
Designing a Business Continuity Management Framework that allows us to recover effectively from the more impactful incidents is key to Network Rail meeting its obligations to its business partners and the travelling public. Giving those teams ‘on the front line’ and the various levels of management the right tools and processes to be part of the recovery solution is both vital and challenging, especially when they have to continue to run an operational railway at the same time!
SW: What will be some of the biggest differences between rail now and in 10 years’ time?
PG: Foremost - harnessing and engaging technology. We have quickly realised that traditional enhancement methods alone cannot meet the capacity challenge Network Rail faces now and in the future - we need to continue to find innovative ways of squeezing more from the existing network. By harnessing relevant and targeted digital technologies, we can solve critical capacity issues on the railway and journeys will be safer and more environmentally friendly, as well as more frequent and more reliable.
Another key development will be our relationship with customers. We have deliberately taken the view that solutions to improving the railway can only be successful if undertaken in partnership with our Train and Freight Operating partners. Hence why we have devolved more authority and accountability to our routes and have created ‘Alliances’ that promote a unity of purpose between us and the operators. This devolution and alliancing will increase over the coming years.
SW: What’s your favourite rail journey?
PG: Many years ago, I travelled from Inverness to Edinburgh at the height of summer. The views and the changing countryside were spectacular. I used to spend many of my holidays travelling around Scotland, mostly by car, but the rail journey allowed me to sit back and just enjoy the views. I remember driving the same journey once in late autumn – it wasn’t even the same sport. That’s one of the beauties of railways – you can switch off and relax instead of concentrating on the road or worried about being in a metal tube at 30,000 feet…!
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.
The last 5 minutes with... 5 minutes with... Helga Nes, Executive Vice President for Infrastructure and Construction at Bane NOR.
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