Interview with Angie Palmer

Customer Service Route Manager responsible for the Great Northern Route, First Group

How did you get into the rail industry?

I left school and went to join a local sales firm, I helped out in lots of roles. Liaising with customers was great but there was little opportunity to develop in my career. Two opportunities opened up – one as a trainee accountant in the vehicle industry and the other a clerical officer in what was the British Railway Board Infrastructure Unit. I decided to be brave and joined the railway sector in April 1992 in what was then called British Rail

What do you do?

I started my career working in the Infrastructure service unit responsible for secretarial duties as well as the allocation of work to the in-house maintenance teams.

I then moved into a co-ordinator role with joint responsibility for Service Delivery Managers and Retail Managers on what was known as the ‘West Anglia & Great Northern Route’   This role gave great insight into two key areas of the business, operations and stations and it was at this stage I decided that I wanted to become a Station Manager.

In 1996 I was absolutely thrilled to be appointed to my first management position as Station Manager on the Cambridge Branch. I thrived in this role with so much to experience and learn. I remained in this position until 1998 when I became Group Station Manager.

In 2006 I became an Area Manager for First Capital Connect responsible for the North end of the Great Northern Route; and finally in 2009 I was appointed to my current role of Customer Service Route Manager responsible for the Great Northern Route

What is a typical day/night?

The teams that I have responsibility for are all 24/7 i.e. do shifts around the clock. Anyone in this role or these teams needs to be prepared to be adaptable. In any day I can be dealing with strategic management decisions but then be involved in the front line when there is a major disruption.

What aspects of the job do you find the most challenging?

Where there are major infrastructure related disruptions – these can be power lines down, cable theft or similar significant disruptions to the service. Signalling issues are more prevalent just now but unfortunately disruptions can also cover accidents at level crossings. The reason it is most challenging is because it is a moving feast – often it is unknown immediately as to how long it will take to resolve.

What do you like the most about your job/the rail industry?

Actually what I like is the fact that no 2 days are the same. In this sector there have been a number of franchise changes and each change brings a positive difference to the customer.

What made/makes you stay in the rail sector?

It has never become boring and particularly in my role, there is always a new challenge to deal with.

What do you think could be improved within the rail industry for you personally?

Actually for me, there isn’t anything. There has been significant change since I joined back in the British Rail days.   In this sector, as a woman, I have a voice and it is heard so I am very happy with that.

What do you think the rail industry should start doing, stop doing or continue to do to support women within the rail industry?

Within my teams, what has really helped has been flexible working (and actually this is great for both men and women) and certainly within First Group, the introduction of the option of childcare vouchers has had a substantially positive impact to helping working mothers return to work.

What about to attract more women within the rail sector?

Within First Capital Connect, when the company first launched in the rail sector, there was an equal number of women to men in Executive and Senior Management positions.  That gives a great example to women at all other levels and gives them confidence about being able to fill any role.

What would you say to a young graduate/woman considering a career in rail?

Absolutely go for it! The sector is not what it might seem. Certainly as a station manager, the world is your oyster and it is such a broad role giving a great insight into various areas such as HR, safety and property plus others. Station managers can then have a great option to either stay in these broader roles (as I have) or actually can specialise.

What would you say is the biggest achievement of your career to date?

Definitely progressing to the position I am in today; but additionally it was also being part of the Olympic delivery team in 2012. With such a huge number of travellers, there were risks in the service not being maintained but all passed by without any problems.

Why did you join Women in Rail?

Having only just found out about the group recently, I confess I am not a member but will join! I am joining because I think it will open up new networking opportunities with women within the industry.

 

Interviewed August 2014