Our Channel 5 Documentary Stars - Episode 1

Thursday 11th June 2020

Our documentary series The Railway 24/7 showcases life at TransPennine Express and our colleagues that keep the North moving. Get to know some of the wonderful stars of Episode 1 below.

You can watch the series Wednesdays at 9pm on Channel 5, or on catch-up.

 

Billy Vickers

Hi Billy, let’s find out more about you. How long have you worked for TPE, and what roles have you done in that time?

I’ve worked for TPE for 15 years, my previous position was Service Quality Manager based in HQ.

What did you do before joining the TPE team?
I previously worked for Virgin Trains as an Area Customer Service Manager based around the North West.

What does a typical day look like?
Up early, start checking my emails, then arrive at the station for just after 7am, where I meet with the local team to check that everything is ok and to find out if there are any issues that need to be dealt with. I then make calls around the area to speak with the Duty Team Leaders, it’s important to understand what’s going on. I usually attend a meeting with Network Rail or Manchester Airport, these are very frequent meetings as we all have a role to play in each other’s success. I spend a small amount of time in my office at Manchester Airport Train Station. Also, I travel on the network meeting staff across all routes, spending most time of my time at Leeds and Manchester Stations.

What sort of things make you excited to go to work?
New challenges or future projects, it’s always good to get involved with others and share the best practices for working effectively as a team.

And what frustrates you?
People who don’t share the same vision for getting things done.

What’s been your career highlight?
Meeting Princess Anne to receive an award.

What are your career aspirations?
It’s difficult to answer that question, but a more senior role would be a real challenge.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your role?
Build up a large network of people who can support and advise you.

What’s the biggest learning experience you’ve had?
It was a long time ago, but it would be my first supervisory role, it was the biggest challenge for me. I have been lucky over the years to be able to work with and learn from some excellent managers - they have given me so much advice and support.

What do you like to do to unwind away from work?
I like to spend time with my wife Helen and family. I have a young grandson and a new grandchild on the way so my focus will be on them when I’m not at work.

Tell us something people don’t know about you.
I had my picture in the Manchester Evening News running the egg and spoon race. I may have won.

Quickfire Round
Favourite Nova? Nova 1 
Favourite train station? Glasgow Central
Your favourite city in the North? Liverpool
Best holiday destination? We have a little dog so Ireland is the only place for us - easy to travel with pets hassle-free.
Podcast or book? Podcast
What song can you listen to on repeat? Anything by the Travelling Wilburys. I like all the members of the band individually so having them all together is a real bonus.  
Favourite artist of all time? Leonard Cohen. I only started listening to him in last 10 years but a great artist, sadly no more.
A film you could watch over and over? Monty Python's Life of Brian.
What’s your guilty pleasure? Sneaky bar of chocolate straight from the fridge.


Kathryn OBrien

Hi Kathryn, let’s find out more about you. How long have you worked for TPE, and what roles have you done in that time?
I joined TPE in 2012 as the Head of Franchise Development which was a role I did until 2014 when I was promoted to Customer Experience Director. 

What did you do before joining the TPE team?
I’m a railway woman. I’ve had a career in rail since 1992, where I joined British Rail. I’ve had a variety of roles, mostly operational running the local railways in the North.

What does a typical day look like?
The endless variety is what made me fall in love with this industry and never leave it. No two days are ever the same - it can often start with some visibility across the business, chatting to colleagues and customers through to chairing a meeting, writing a report or presenting to our Board. 

What sort of things make you excited to go to work?
The ability to make a difference every day, developing our people and seeing them grow, wowing customers.

And what frustrates you?
Running the railway is complex, with so many things that need to come together to deliver the plan. I get frustrated when things I can’t control get in the way of our service to customers.

What’s been your career highlight?
In 2017, I was lucky enough to be nominated and win the Institute of Customer Service (ICS) leadership award against a strong field of fabulous men. As a result of this I was invited to become one of the Vice Presidents of the ICS, a role I am still proud to hold today.

What are your career aspirations?
I am actually doing my dream job. I’ve worked super hard to get here. I love leading large teams so maybe one day I’d like to be the big boss. 

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your role?
Don’t underestimate your impact. Be available, consistent and genuine in the way you treat people. Try not to take things personally, which is hard if you care. You’re often in the spotlight, which can be tough at times, particularly when things go wrong!

What’s the biggest learning experience you’ve had?
Relationships are important, as is building and playing my part in a strong team. Feedback - it’s a gift.

What do you like to do to unwind away from work?
I love to travel and the theatre. My son lives in London so I like to visit him when I can. Both involve drinking wine!

Tell us something people don’t know about you.
Probably that I won a Princess Diana lookalike competition when I was 14 and I’ve met (and stalked) several members of the Royal Family.

Quickfire Round
Favourite Nova? Nova 2 - I was wowed the first time I stepped on board and still am. Many customers and colleagues love them too.
Favourite train station? Manchester Airport - it’s where my career first began almost 30 years ago, and it’s been amazing to watch it develop and grow. I worked alongside some great colleagues, a few of whom are still working there today.
Your favourite city in the North? Newcastle. It became my second home when I spent a few years working there with the most amazing team. The people are just the warmest, friendliest and kindest, and I was lucky to make some lifelong friends.
Best holiday destination? Perpignan – the best French/Catalan culture combined with fab food, people, wine and sunshine.
Podcast or book? Good old book - I’m quite old fashioned in many ways.
What song can you listen to on repeat? Desperado by the Eagles. It reminds me of my dear Mum who passed away many years ago.
Favourite artist of all time? George Michael. I was obsessed with him as a young teen and I never stopped loving his later music. 
A film you could watch over and over? Erin Brockovich. The true story of a strong, inspirational and frankly amazing woman.
What’s your guilty pleasure? Listening to Love with Steve Wright every Sunday.


Nikki May
 
Hi Nikki, let’s find out more about you. How long have you worked for TPE, and what roles have you done in that time?
I've worked for TPE for 7 years - I’m in my 8th now, I've always worked as a conductor.

What did you do before joining the TPE team?
Before that I was a bus driver for First Group in York, driving the park and ride bendy buses which is where a passenger mentioned trains and that I'd be good on board! So here I am!

What does a typical day look like?
A typical day is dependent on the time, peak hour crush or tipsy/sleepy party time. I work from York depot so have a 24-hour rota between York and Manchester Airport. 

What sort of things make you excited to go to work?
My day can be very varied but always exciting, you never know what will happen from moment to moment - it’s awesome!

And what frustrates you?
My frustrations are the same as my passengers; delays probably the biggest, followed by lack of information, which is why I make it my mission to tell people everything I can to try and alleviate their journey frustrations.

What’s been your career highlight?
My career highlights have been many. I have been highly recognised by my peers at TPE and also received a national railway award for customer service which I found out whilst stood on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on my honeymoon! Wow, I am very humbled by anyone who uses their precious time to recognise people who do their jobs well and it has taught me to be more complimentary of others and less complaint centred, so thank you!

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your role?
I would advise anyone who joins the railway to embrace the sometimes-dysfunctional family atmosphere, wear a smile and have a skip in your step.

What’s the biggest learning experience you’ve had?
People have been my biggest learning curve and how we judge each other based on seconds' worth of information, usually visual, and how wrong you can be. So I approach every day and every person with the same affection I would a friend or relative, and 99% of the time people are kind, generous and leave my train with an infectious smile which they pass on.

What do you like to do to unwind away from work?
Away from work I have two Labradors who keep me busy and I'm a gamer, so will take some time on the PS4 to blow away the cobwebs.

Tell us something people don’t know about you.
I'm a motorcycle instructor and have ridden every kind of motorcycle from 50cc Two Stroke to Yamaha R1s and 1300cc Suzuki Hayabusas. All within the speed limits of course.

Quickfire Round
Favourite Nova: Nova 1
Favourite train station/city? York is my favourite station and city.
Best holiday destination? Anywhere in the world with space, fresh air, water, streams, river or sea doesn't matter which.
Podcast or book? Book.
A film you could watch over and over? Any Disney Film with a moral to the story and a happy ending of course. 
Favourite song? Have It All by Jason Mraz or Be Our Guest from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast.


Sarah Olma

Hi Sarah, let’s find out more about you. How long have you worked for TPE, and what roles have you done in that time?
I have worked for TPE for just over 2 years now. I started as a Customer Ambassador to help customers during the busy May timetable change in 2018. I thoroughly enjoyed this role as I got to meet and help so many different people. Working in different stations across the network, it was a varied role, from helping customers who had difficulty boarding the trains, finding the right platform for their onward journey, to handing out popcorn on board. I loved it. This was a temporary role, and from there I moved onto the gateline at Manchester Piccadilly. I love the atmosphere working within a station. I am now a Customer Advisor, still helping customers on the platform or at home with their queries, but from the warmth of an office.

What did you do before joining the TPE team?
Before working for TPE I worked in healthcare before starting my Railway career with Northern at my local Buxton depot.

What does a typical day look like?
Working shifts, a typical day can start at 6.30am, end at 10.30pm or consist of a 12-hour day on a weekend. In our job, you don’t know what will be in store from one day to the next. The likes of Storm Ciara and Dennis certainly brought us a lot of contact, as did the December timetable change. 

What sort of things make you excited to go to work?
Knowing that hopefully I will be able to help someone. We’re all customers ourselves and know what it’s like when we need help so if I can provide that help on a daily basis, then I’m satisfied I’ve done my job.

And what frustrates you?
That sometimes, as much as you try, you can’t give people the answers they want unfortunately.

What’s been your career highlight?
Meeting my partner. The railway is one big family, and it’s a lovely place to be.

What are your career aspirations?
I enjoy the operational side of the railway, being able to help people and provide information. I spend quite a bit of time in the control centre and find it very interesting. I’m quite new to this role though and still getting stuck in.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your role?
Don’t take anything personally and cherish the nice messages you receive. We’re all human and customers’ emotions can come out in different ways. Put yourself in the customers’ shoes and treat people how you’d like to be treated. If they get personal, bite your tongue.

What’s the biggest learning experience you’ve had?
I think working through the timetable changes and the storms have taught me a lot.

What do you like to do to unwind away from work?
Spend time with the people I love.


You can watch Billy, Kathryn, Nikki, Sarah and many more in The Railway 24/7 Wednesdays at 9pm on Channel 5 or on catch-up.

Fancy joining the team? To see our latest vacancies please visit our dedicated careers site.


 

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