The number of passengers using Britain’s railway has doubled since the mid-1990s, and at peak times on the busiest parts of the network, Britain’s railway is full. It has been estimated that there will be an extra one billion journeys by the mid-2030, meaning that new capacity is urgently required to meet the continued rise in demand. Conventional ways of providing this capacity by building new railway infrastructure would be hugely disruptive, costly and probably unachievable. This is where the Digital Railway Programme comes in to enable the transformation of the network by supporting the deployment of modern signalling and train control technology to increase capacity, reduce delays, enhance safety and drive down costs.
I’ve been working with Network Rail for the last 18 months on the Digital Railway Programme, as the Head of Programme Management Office. The Programme is an industry-wide programme to support the roll-out of digital signalling and train control to meet the needs of passengers, freight customers, funders and to benefit the wider economy. The boost in efficiency should lead to fewer delays, provide the capacity for more services and improve performance whilst improving safety to passengers and staff on the Rail Network. But it’s not going to happen overnight…For this transformation to be successful, it’s not just the trains and infrastructure that need to be upgraded, but a shift in behaviours, ways of working and training is needed to support this transition.
It’s this transformational change mentality that needs to be applied to the industry as a whole to move us in the right direction towards creating an inclusive environment that will to attract new talent and retrain our existing superstars. If we don’t act now, it’s likely that this change will be something trigger from an external influencer rather than within the sector. Technology may be moving forward at a fast pace, but I’m not sure if the industry is keeping up in terms of its attitudes and ways of working. I do believe we have the drive and capability to make this happen ourselves, but it’s not happening fast enough.
The challenge is that the best way to attract a diverse work is by having a diverse workforce, and this is just another ‘chicken and egg’ scenario that we need to avoid. Changing behaviours and creating a more inclusive working environment needs to be a focus, and there are so many who are willing to fight the good fight to change this from within. This isn’t about creating roles for women to meet quotas, it’s about creating balance and a better working environment for all, so everyone is comfortable in bringing their whole selves to work.
The main thing I love about working in Major Infrastructure Programmes and specifically the Rail sector is the variety. No day is the same, no two projects or programmes alike. But working in the Rail Industry can be tough for anyone, and historically it’s not been a very welcoming environment for women. The sector can feel a bit old-fashioned in its attitudes at times. As a woman and a relatively young professional in a senior position, it’s important to me to be a real role model. I am working on opening up the industry to more talent, and it’s exciting to see a younger, more diverse contingent now joining. Resilience is key in this industry, along with a passion to succeed and some patience. Once you get past the technical jargon and start to understand the different acronyms, it’s an exciting place to be and it’s motivating to be part of something where you really are making a difference.
I want to continue to challenge stereotypes and perceptions, creating excitement around the industry and opening doors for women and future generations. It’s a great time to be in the industry, I am truly passionate about what I do, to me that’s more than just the ‘day job’. I’ve been working closely with institution like the RICS and groups like Women in Transport to address the balance bring about change from the inside. The momentum is massive, the motivation is clear, but we still have a long way to go.
By Bryony Goldsmith, Director, Arcadis
Bryony is a Director at Arcadis leading the Programme Management Office (PMO) for the Digital Railway Programme, a rail industry-wide programme designed to benefit Great Britain’s economy by accelerating the digital enablement of the railway.
Winner of the 2016 Woman of the Future Award in Construction, Real Estate and Infrastructure and current finalist in the 2019 WICE Awards for Best Woman Consultant, Bryony has worked across Europe supporting the development of the Arcadis Global Corporate Strategy, and later relocated to Qatar to join the £7 billion Ashghal Programme of Works.
Bryony went on undertake a Global Role in developing Arcadis’ Programme Management Strategy before returning to the UK and leading a team of Programme and Project Managers in the Education Sector, working with Higher Education and Local Authority Clients in London.