Our people are vital to the success of GTR, everyone has an important role to play in delivering a great service to our customers. Here are some of their stories:
East Croydon’s apprentice station manager and mum-of-two Ramla Abshir-Slevin, 33, has been proud to help key workers during the pandemic.
“We’re very busy here. I used to work at Victoria station and thought that was busy, but it’s nowhere near as busy as East Croydon. We have over 250,000 people coming through the station every day usually. Even when we were on complete lockdown, we were one of the busiest stations with key workers coming through – about 300 to 1,000 people an hour. You could see who the NHS workers were and the food shop workers; you got to know them.
“We’re doing our bit here to make sure everyone can travel safely. There are floor stickers and signs to remind people to socially distance, and we have over 100 hand sanitisers across the station. We’ve taken a couple of the ticket vending machines out of service so that people don’t end up shoulder to shoulder with each other when using them.
“I feel it is an honour to be making sure key workers are able to get to work, and we make sure they receive the best customer service. We take the time to talk to them and say, “thank you for what you’re doing,” and they often thank us for being here. There’s been a sense of pride across the station.
“I have worked on the railway for over 10 years now. When my current job came up, I instantly knew I wanted it. I applied and fortunately got it. For me, my greatest achievement in the railway has been to get where I am now. I started cleaning trains and now I’m responsible for 40 members of staff. Not only do I get to do what I love, but I’ll get a qualification at the end of this.
“Before working in rail, I lived in Switzerland and worked as a dental nurse.
“I have a daughter who’s seven, and a son who’s two and a half. They love trains, especially my little boy. They like hearing about my day, but also really love hearing about my husband’s – he’s a Southern train driver based at Selhurst. As a family, we love to take train rides, especially when we go to Switzerland through the mountains.”
My role is absolutely fantastic, I work in a safety critical role dispatching trains and providing customer service, so I have to be focused and display a duty level of care. I aim to provide a first-class service to customers, I aim to be smart, professional, and empathetic.
I absolutely love the dispatching, it feels so good to send a train out on time for our customers. When assisting customers, I try to put myself in their shoes and treat people with patience, understanding, care, and respect.
My lifestyle has become so much better because I used to work really long hours for a lower salary. Since working for Great Northern I get to spend more time with my partner, can afford a better lifestyle and am able to make more regular visits to the North East to see my family, which I really enjoy.
Great Northern is a great company to work for, as there are so many opportunities out there in this company. I have joined the Rail Care Team which specialises in dedicated support to customers that require some emotional or practical assistance, I am working as part of our LGBT+ Network group participating to build float for Brighton Pride, and have just been recently made a Yammer (company social media) champion. The company is really supportive, you can choose to be part of many projects or step up the career ladder.
Coming from a completely different industry, I decided to apply for the Trainee Train Driver because I knew someone that was a driver for another train operating company and saw what a great job it could be for me. There were rumours of redundancy in my previous job, so I started looking for something new. I timed it well, as Southern had just released vacancies online.
The Trainee Train Driver role is a huge responsibility. With that responsibility comes job satisfaction as you are providing an important public service. My focus is getting people from A to B safely and I hope to have a positive impact on peoples’ journeys. My job satisfaction comes from doing my job as best I can and providing a valuable service. I also really enjoy not having to take it home with me and having good work/life balance.
I enjoy working in rail, it’s like a big family. As a woman in a predominantly male environment I’ve found Southern to be welcoming and supportive. I was aware of Southern’s tough few years prior to me joining. I underestimated how much goes on behind the scenes and I’m really proud to be a part of a company that puts its customers first.
I’d like to see more women join the Railway, because it’s an industry for everyone, train driving is for anyone that is committed enough to the job. It’s a great job! There are obviously the perks of a good pension and stability but it’s also a rewarding job. Knowing you’ve got thousands of commuters to work on time is satisfying. It’s always nice when someone says thank you.
Having worked in the hospitality industry for 7 years before joining GTR, I was always fascinated by how the rail industry operated. It wasn't until when the London Bridge redevelopment work started as part of the Thameslink Programme, my interest in the railway grew which prompted me to search for a new career. I've never looked back since.
The Customer Experience Team Leader role provides customers with detailed and concise information when their journey is disrupted, so they're enabled to make the right travel choices tailored to their journey. As well as updating our websites and apps, I'll work with my colleagues to ensure instant updates are available using various other channels useful to our customers. I must be ready to take charge and gather as much information as I can about a problem, keeping the customer at the heart of every decision I make.
What I really enjoy about the role is doing everything I can to guarantee a positive experience for our customers from start to finish, letting them know that we're doing everything we can to put things right when the unexpected happens.
GTR really cares for their employees and they recognise the potential in all of us who work here, listening to our feedback and doing what's best for both employees and customers. We also receive great perks (including a gym on the ground floor in the Control Centre!)
You should consider working within Control If you're passionate about wanting better for our customers, able to work under pressure, and want to contribute towards building a high performing organisation.
Coming from the airline industry, I was looking for a similar customer-based role. My Dad has been a driver with GTR for over 20 years and told me about the OBS position. I applied, and before I knew it I was hanging up the wings and settling into my training for the OBS role.
The OBS role puts you in the forefront of customer service, whether that is helping someone carry their luggage onto the train or assisting them with a ticket for their journey. It is fast paced and requires high levels of communication between not only yourself and the passengers, but also co-workers. I am often a first point of contact for those people travelling to or from the airport, which can be a stressful and confusing time for people who are first time visitors. By being approachable and available I can make their journey that little bit easier.
I love that every day is different! New people coming and going every hour of the day! I get the pleasure of meeting different people from all over the world and being able to be the first to welcome them, or give advice on places to visit, is what I enjoy most.
It's a pleasure to work for Gatwick Express. We are a tight knit team of people who are always there for each other should anyone need support in their roles. I am proud to represent a company who is dedicated to bringing a fantastic premium service and experience to all our customers.
I was previously in a customer service role and was looking for a change. I always had an interest in the railways, so I applied for the Trainee Train Planner role. I never assumed I would be seriously considered due to not having worked in the industry before, but this turned out not to be the case, and I was offered the role and taught all the required skills I would need.
As a Trainee, you will be taught all the basic skills required to prepare you for all possibilities. You will quickly gain an understanding of the ways of working within the rail industry, and how it impacts Train Planning. Once you have gained a good understanding of the basics, you will be placed on a team with a vacancy that is deemed most suitable for your strengths. In my case, this was the Southern & Gatwick Express amended Timings & Rolling Stock team. There I learned more in-depth skills to do this specific task, which involved a lot of one to one training. I was quickly able to get involved for real due to the fast training process and was signed off as a full Train Planner earlier this year.
Train Planning has a huge impact on our customers. My favourite part of the role is planning for a demanding weekend with complex engineering works and then seeing it all go to plan on the day for our customers. It gives you a huge amount of job satisfaction!
GTR is a good company to work for from my personal experience. The train planning office is a very fun and friendly place to work, with many interesting and hardworking people.
I work as a Rail Enforcement Officer based primarily on the South Coast. Prior to joining the railway, I was in the higher education sector and before that an immigration detention centre background. So, the railway was a completely new experience for me.
The role of a Rail Enforcement officer is a varied, rewarding and versatile role, no two days are the same. As a Rail Enforcement Officer each day you are faced with many different challenges, whether it be fare evasion, a vulnerable person, or low-level crime such as anti-social behaviour. The approach to dealing with each situation requires a broad skill set and good communication, you have to regularly think on your feet and assess situations to keep everyone safe.
I am a social able person, so a highlight for me is engaging our customers and building rapport with regular passengers. I also really enjoy delivering our ‘Safety in Action’ presentations for Primary School students which provides knowledge of how to keep themselves and others safe in the railway environment.
Southern is a good organisation to work for. In terms of the shift pattern you get great work/life balance which I feel is important within any career. There is also a solid support network of colleagues and management always available along with plenty of benefits, like free travel.
I never thought that I would ever work in the rail industry or stay in the same industry as long as I have. I came from Nigeria into the UK in 2011, to study for a master’s degree in Human Resource Management. I have spent 6 years now in the railway and still counting!
In the summer of 2012, after completing my master’s degree, I was jobless, and searching for a role in HR, which was incredibly difficult with no work experience in the UK. A friend who worked part-time as a train presentation member in Luton spoke highly of the rail industry, as a reliable and friendly environment and that the perks she received for herself and her family were really attractive! She encouraged me to apply for a part-time role as a Customer Service Assistant and Train Dispatcher. Due to the disappointment from other applications, I reluctantly applied. I was shocked and excited at the same time when I got an email and letter inviting me for my assessment and interview, both of which I passed and was offered the role.
Two years after, I was offered 6-month secondment role as a Recruitment Administrator in the HR department. After my secondment, I moved on to a new role in commercial training as a Vocational Learning Specialist where I got involved in training various courses for our frontline employees, as well as running safety training for Managers. Presently, I work in the Safety Department as a Safety Risk Specialist, GN & TL based at Kings Cross.
My role as a Safety Risk Specialist (stations) looks closely at ensuring the safety our customers and staff whilst at the station and on the train. Not only do I to assess risk at stations, but I also suggest recommendations for improved safety and infrastructure.
GTR has an amazing record for personal development, you can choose to pick up knowledge from any department if you’re willing to learn and progress.
I couldn’t pinpoint where my interest in rail came from, but I have always wanted to work in this industry. Throughout my education, the end goal has always been to work in Rail. I participated in work experience with GTR in 2017 and 2018 and have just joined GTR in a Station Management Trainee placement.
GTR’s work experience is handled very professionally and applying for it is done the same way as applying for a paid role. The dedication of staff to enriching the younger generations with their knowledge is admirable and I’ve stayed in contact with several staff I met working on the program. You’re not restricted, even though you’re on work experience, there was no tea making. I spent my time touring depots and stations, speaking with passengers and staff and gaining insight into the recruitment and training processes for different roles.
My favourite part was working with the stations team, I enjoy the busyness and the buzz of a commuter hub, my main interest has always been customer focused and I enjoyed the satisfaction of being able to assist customers using prior knowledge and local information.
I studied Transport Management at Loughborough for my degree. Work experience really gave me a grounding and cemented my passion for the station environment. When the opportunity to join GTR as a Station Manager with full training arose it was the dream come true. I’ve always seen GTR as a diverse and forward-thinking company. I felt welcome from the get go and witnessed the passion the staff had for the job and the care they showed for each other. I knew that is the kind of organisation I want to be a part of.
If you’ve always had an interest in rail, or maybe you’re just curious to find out what working in the railway might look like, GTR is the operator to go for. Not many companies do an official work experience program and this unique opportunity will give you a good grounding with varied activities to help you find the best place in the railway for you. It certainly did it for me.
After spending what seems like most of my living memory on or around trains, I decided I wanted to take my career a step forward and apply to a role in the railways that I was passionate about. After checking the GTR Careers page for a few months, this Apprenticeship role came up and I applied straight away as it sounded like the perfect job as I knew I wanted to get more into Design as a profession.
My role has many different elements to it! Some days, I can be travelling all around the network taking photos for departments, other days I can be in the office creating leaflets and posters for customer information campaigns or assets for internal communications. I recently got to design our #trainbow to celebrate Brighton Pride for our LGBT+ Network which I really enjoyed.
I think my favourite part of the role is the people that I work with, both in my immediate team and further afield. Due to the breadth of work that is briefed to us, I get to talk to and meet so many people from across the business. It means that I can get a real understanding of what other people do, which in turn helps enhance the quality of work I produce.
Working for GTR is very rewarding and fulfilling. You really feel like you're making a difference to customers, no matter what role you're in as at the end of the day they're the heart of our business. I’ve had lots of opportunities to explore other aspects of the business including supporting our station staff and gaining my Train Dispatch Licence which has been enriching for my experience here.
I think an apprentice role is a perfect bridge between leaving school & the world of work, or even if you'd like to try something completely new and change your path! You get to earn while you learn and get a qualification to show at the end of it.
I saw the role for a Station Manager advertised in 2011. I knew nothing about trains, or even much about the network, however when I looked at the role profile realised I had several transferable skills which were being sought after including: customer service, communication, management, negotiation, and interpersonal skills.
When I came in for my Assessment Centre, I was the only female, surrounded by middle aged white males and seriously didn't think I stood a chance! I made it to interview and was successfully appointed as a second manager at St Pancras in August 2011. This year I was promoted to Area Station Manager, Thameslink Core.
The Station Manager role is a busy one. A lot of time is spent looking after the needs of our customers and how we can deliver a better service to them, but also looking after our teams through sufficient training, improvements in processes, and ensuring we are consistently performing at our best. Behind the scenes we are ensuring our stations are safe and well maintained, that our staff are equipped with all the tools and equipment to undertake their roles effectively, and that we lead our people to perform at their best.
What I love about the role is the people, I always learn a lot from my staff. I also enjoy the variety; no two days are the same!
Working for Thameslink is exciting. In this role I have seen the transformation of London Bridge, the new class 700 trains, level platform access at core stations and we are working towards the successful implementation of 24 trains per hour through the core; no matter what your role everyone has a part to play in its successful implementation.
If you enjoy engaging with people and developing them to perform at their best then you should consider a management role within GTR.
Some years back a good friend of mine, explained a little to me about working in rail. He informed me about the types of work available and the long-term career prospects that were achievable.
My current role as a service engineer is diverse. One day, I could be changing head lamp lenses on the front of a train and repairing any defects, the next, I could be learning a new skill in servicing the train. The work I complete needs to meet rigorous safety standards. Repair work should be completed in a timely manner, to a high standard, ensuring customer satisfaction. It’s good to see how your work has a direct impact on the service we provide to our customers. When a job has taken time to complete and all areas have been successful, it’s a good feeling, knowing I have completed the tasks required.
I feel GTR is a good company to work for. They take your training and development seriously and there is ongoing support in your daily role, whilst you are still learning. I feel staff opinions matter to the management team.
I can honestly say that from my experience so far, GTR has a lot of positives. Engineering jobs tend to be secure, because, engineers are always needed in some capacity. The skills learnt in engineering are important and transferable. There is a clear development programme available to engineering staff. Hard work and determination pay off.
“My career has come full circle,” says 56-year old Southern train driver, Lisa Gibbs. “I first applied to be a train driver when I was just 21, but back then it was all paper-based and quite technical, so I completely doubted my ability and walked straight back out of the assessment centre. I never pursued it after that and took a different path instead.
“Before I joined the railway I was working at a bank and I was just having a general chat with one of my customers who was working on the railway at the time and said I should give it a go. The conversation happened just at the right time when I was looking for change so I applied for a platform assistant role at Tulse Hill station.
“I was 49 when I changed careers. Some people might think that’s ridiculous, but I’m used to moving about and if I want something – I go and get it!”
After working on the platform for six months, Lisa was keen for the next step and moved up the ranks to becoming a train conductor, something she did for two and a half years.
“I was approached about going down the supervisor or management route, but that’s not what I wanted to do. I knew at that moment that my next move would be to train as a driver. There weren’t any vacancies at that particular point in time, but I was determined to be fully prepared when the next job came up. I know that amongst other skills, you have to have good memory to be a driver. I did lots of brain training and memory tests and even got into video games, spending time playing the games that simulated the driving experience!”
The practise paid off for Lisa and she started her journey to becoming a train driver.
“I’ve been qualified and driving on my own now for about a year and I absolutely love it. I cover London Victoria to Selhurst and I still have about five routes to learn. There’s not a particular route I’m desperate to try but one thing I’d definitely love to do is drive one of the Thameslink Class 700 trains one day!
“I’m glad things didn’t work out when I was 21 as I feel a lot more prepared to be a driver at this stage in my life. I joined the railway before turning 50 so I’d encourage others not to be bound by age. The railway is open to everyone young or old!”
As a full time mum to three children, as well as being a grandparent, Yvonne Baiden has a lot on her plate – and she decided to add to it even more in September by starting an apprenticeship. She’s sharing her story for #NationalApprenticeshipWeek.
“I’m a qualified electrician but finding a job was getting extremely difficult”, says 51-year-old Yvonne.
“I became a foster carer, which was very demanding but rewarding too. I did this for a few years but knew I was destined for something different. Whilst I was job hunting and looking at ways to improve my skills, I came across GTR and the mechanical engineering apprenticeship.
“As a mature student, parent and grandparent, I will say that doing an apprenticeship at my age isn’t without its challenges! But I’m pleased to say I’m on track. Although we can’t have practical lessons at college right now, we’re focusing on the theory side of the course and I’m managing to do a lot of independent study.”
Learning at home is a challenge in itself for Yvonne, as she’s also juggling home-schooling too.
“My youngest daughter has just started secondary school but of course she can’t go in at the moment either so we’re both stuck at home trying our best to study! It’s certainly an interesting situation.
“I’ve loved electricals since I was a child and I’ve always been interested in engineering, but my lifestyle didn’t allow me to pursue it in earlier life. It’s something I really wanted to do so I never gave up. One thing I loved about training to become an electrician was even though I was in my late thirties, there were people older than me on the course too. Some were doing a refresher and others were having a complete career change and that helped me believe that you really are never too old to try something new.
“That’s why I didn’t worry about starting an apprenticeship now, even though I’m over 50. I think if you get an opportunity to do an apprenticeship later in life, you should grab it by both hands!”
“I’ve been working on the railway for 11 years and in that time I’ve tried my hand at lots of different roles from ticket office and gateline, to train dispatching and on-board services. I’ve wanted to become a train driver for the last six years and I’m so excited to finally be doing it. I am a firm believer that if you put your mind to something – you can achieve it, no matter how long it might take.
“Alongside my trainee driver course, I am also completing an apprenticeship which includes Maths, English and IT qualifications. It’s quite daunting learning all these things at 39 but I appreciate the opportunity because in my home country of Indonesia, you have to be between 18 and 25 years old to be a train driver.
“It’s also quite strict over there – there’s minimum height restrictions for men and women and you can’t have tattoos or piercings or anything like that. People may also be shocked to know that there are only three train companies that operate across Indonesia and there are practically no female drivers; I think currently there’s about 10! Friends and family back home are so proud of me for being on the railway and I hope to be of some inspiration to them. I really hope they will update the rules on who can become a driver as I’d love to see more women drivers over there.”
Rina moved to the UK from Central Java in 2003 and lives here with her husband and children.
“My children are very excited that I’m training to be a driver, they say they want to do it too when they get older and I’d be happy for them to follow in my footsteps. It’s nice to see that restrictions are finally easing so that we can get everyone back on our trains – but please remember to follow the rules.”
Senior Customer Service Control Manager Tina Owusu, 32, joined the railway six and a half years ago and has gone from working in social media to being an integral part of the control team. Recently, she has been appointed as the co-chair of GTR’s new Black and Minority Ethnic (BME) Network.
“I joined the BME Network to help build an inclusive organisation where everyone is given a fair chance. For me, it’s about greater education, understanding and representation and providing a safe space for our colleagues to have open conversations.
“I'm passionate about promoting race equality and I felt it was important to step-up and contribute positively to the experience of Black, Asian and minorities within the company. I love working here and I want to make sure that we continue to attract broad talent by giving interested candidates the confidence that they can grow and develop, just like I did.
“I love being involved in an industry that impacts people’s daily lives – it gives my job real meaning as I’m responsible for coordinating the messaging that the control room puts out. It’s my duty to provide our customers with reliable, up-to-date information. We’re changing and evolving the way we interact with customers online and I’m involved in delivering the strategy for this. We continuously look at how we can improve and advance.
“When I first joined the control room I was one of only a handful of females, so it’s nice to see things developing and moving on. Change is good!”
“I have been working throughout lockdown, which gave me a sense of normality and routine; I’ve spent any time off with my eight-year-old daughter. We put her through a home-schooling programme where she would join classes on video, but I had to remind her a few times that she was at school and shouldn’t be playing on her Nintendo Switch!
“I found out I was going to become a father during my first year of university – and that made me more determined than ever to finish the course and get my degree. I studied finance accounting and although I enjoyed it, I realised when on a placement at Canary Wharf that it wasn’t where I wanted my future to go. I carried on studying and juggled my degree with a full-time job, which is when I first joined the railway family as a platform assistant. I completed my dissertation whilst already working in the industry I would go into after university!
“Working on the platforms at Moorgate and Finsbury Park helped me get to grips with the network very quickly. People would need help with timetables and routes, so you have to know your stuff; if you accidentally get someone on a wrong train they will definitely come back and tell you about it the next day!
“Having a good memory served me well moving into the train driver role. There are days when it’s pitch black and foggy and you might not be able to see very far ahead, but you get to learn the track and you can sort of feel the route with your body. On trickier routes, I introduced a slightly quirkier technique to help my memory. I imagined myself as part of the Jamaican Bobsled team in ‘Cool Runnings’ leaning left or right, depending on the track – and it really helped! I did it in my final driver exam, I don’t think the manager had ever seen anything like it and it certainly made him laugh.
“I’ve always wanted to work on the trains and I love being a driver. I can honestly see myself doing this job for as long as humanly possible. Normally, the process from applying to starting can take anything from a year to two years but it took me just six months. I think I completed it so soon because I was really committed and dedicated – I just knew it’s what I wanted to do.
“To people returning to rail, my advice would be check before you travel and try and travel outside of the peak. Face coverings are compulsory so please make sure you carry one at all times.”