• “Inspirational” and “thought-provoking” conference hosted by Patrick Verwer, GTR Chief Executive Officer, David Statham, Southeastern MD, and John Halsall, Network Rail Southern region MD 
  • Guest speakers including Diane Lightfoot OBE, CEO of the Business Disability Forum, and Blessing Buraimoh, Diversity Adviser for Business in the Community, shared how the industry can better reflect the customers it serves

The first joint Rail Diversity and Inclusion conference in London was a resounding success, with feedback on the day ranging from “inspirational” to “thought-provoking”.

The conference highlighted how the industry can do more to improve diversity and inclusion, which includes engaging with schools, advertising jobs in BAME networks and ensuring that the industry offers a safe and inclusive environment for people.

Paul Harwood, Director of Route Investment at Network Rail, said: “We’re working hard to ensure our workforce better represents our customers and society as a whole. Women now represent nearly 25 per cent of both our board and executive leadership committee. We’re also growing gender and ethnicity diversity in our early entrant programmes, especially our graduate programme.

“There is more to do, but we aspire to make the best use of our people’s talent and capabilities and provide real opportunities for their professional development. We must make the organisation truly attractive to all, then we will best represent the community that we serve.”

In a keynote speech, Robert Nisbet, Rail Delivery Group Director, shared examples of best practice and highlighted the challenges facing the industry. Diane Lightfoot also talked about accessibility challenges faced by the passenger transport sector.

The day featured two panel discussions, one of which was on gender equality, chaired by Anthea Hague, Head of Sustainability and Chair of Inspire (Network Rail's employee network promoting gender equality).

Also on the panel were Sarah Shirley, Programme Manager at Southeastern, Angie Doll, Managing Director at Southern, Emily Blackwell, Scheme Project Manager at Network Rail, Elodie Brian, Chief Financial Officer at Go-Ahead Group and Blessing Buraimoh, Diversity Adviser at Business in the Community (BITC).

The second panel took as its subject ‘Inclusive Behaviours'. This was chaired by Robert Nisbet and featured as its members: Tom Moran, MD for Great Northern and Thameslink, Sharon Salmon, Chair of Cultural Fusion Employee Network, and Mark Smith, Head of HR (South East Route), both from Network Rail, Ellie Burrows, Train Services Director at Southeastern and Richard McKenna, Director at Inclusive Employers.

GTR announced a new Women’s Network Group as part of its commitment to change internal workplace practices to ensure that more women join and crucially, stay within the rail industry. Both Great Northern and Southern have seen trainee driver courses with 50:50 gender splits for the first time ever.

Patrick Verwer, GTR Chief Executive Officer, told the conference: “We impact many lives, whether that’s the travelling public or our employees and what brings us all together is that we are all people, all unique with our own backgrounds, interests, experiences and passions. So, it is only right that we all commit to ensuring we provide opportunities for all, no matter your background, race, gender or if you have access needs.”

In the past year, Southeastern has set up three entirely new colleague network groups for women, LGBT+ colleagues and mental health.

David Statham, Southeastern Managing Director said: “I’m really proud at Southeastern of some of the steps we’ve taken over the last few years on the road to a more diverse workforce. We set up colleague network groups, we launched our brilliant #Trainbow, and we signed the Time to Change pledge.

“But our challenge is to make sure the future of our organisation doesn’t look entirely like its present. Diversity makes for better businesses – we’re a customer service business at Southeastern after all – and widens the pool of talent we can draw from.”