Our Channel 5 Documentary Stars - Episode 3

Thursday 25th June 2020
This week saw another brand-new episode of our Channel 5 documentary series The Railway 24/7, where we met even more lovely TransPennine Express colleagues. Get to know some of the stars of Episode 3 below.

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

	TPE Profile Mandy Spencer

Hi Mandy, 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 in September 2016 as a Conductor and in July 2019 became a Conductor Instructor.

What did you do before joining the TPE team? 
Before this, I was a Branch Manager with a bank.

What does a typical day look like? 
Every day is different but the key role to my job is ensuring passengers get to their destinations safely.

What sort of things make you excited to go to work? 
That my job role offers so much variety, the incredible team I work with and the amazing scenery I get to experience whilst working.

And what frustrates you? 
Unruly customers who don’t think about the safety of themselves or other customers using our services. These are the minority and overall, I am fortunate I meet so many lovely people.

What’s been your career highlight? 
Joining the railway family, I love the people I work with.

What are your career aspirations? 
I have now found my happy zone; I enjoy the role I have.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your role? 
Be patient, have pride in what you do, communicate and have fun with passengers. Always think about safety when carrying out any tasks. And welcome to the best job in the world.

What’s the biggest learning experience you’ve had?
All the different training programmes I’ve been on, especially when I first joined. The amount of learning I had to do in terms of signalling, train evacuations in the event of emergencies, and learning all the different routes. All fantastic learning experiences, all of this was new to me when I first started.

What do you like to do to unwind away from work? 
I love spending time with family and friends, pyjama and gin parties, and city breaks with friends.

Tell us something people don’t know about you.
I did an abseil dressed as Spiderman.

Quickfire Round
Favourite Nova? Nova 1.
Favourite train station? Manchester Piccadilly.
Your favourite city in the North? Manchester.
Best holiday destination? Mexico.
Podcast or book? Book.
What song can you listen to on repeat? In a Special Way, Sylvia Teller.
Favourite artist of all time? Bryan Ferry.
A film you could watch over and over? Serendipity.
What’s your guilty pleasure? Haywards Mixed Pickle.

 

TPE Profile Gavin MacLean

Hi Gavin, let’s find out more about you. How long have you worked for TPE, and what roles have you done in that time?
Nearly 18 months and only one role in that time: GPR Incident Controller. However, as part of the job I cover two separate desks in Control; Incident Controller and Train Service Controller and sometimes cover for short notice absence on the Duty Controller Manager desk as well. So, I guess if you squinted you could say I’ve done three roles.

What did you do before joining the TPE team?
Before joining TPE I was at LNER as a Train Manager before being seconded into the operational training team for their new Hitachi trains. Consequently, I know both our Nova 1 fleet and the East Coast Main Line like the back of my hand which has proved very handy on many occasions.

I’ve enjoyed a varied career in rail; I was previously a Conductor for Northern and before that on their planning team producing traincrew diagrams. Before this, I worked as both a Catering Steward and Conductor based in Norwich covering mainly the Norwich-London route but also most of the branch lines around East Anglia.

I also spent several years training to work backstage in the theatre during a break from the rail industry but sadly that didn’t work out, although I gained various skills and experience along the way which have proved invaluable.


What does a typical day look like?
It’s a cliché but no two days are ever really the same. Each shift starts with a handover from the previous incumbent on the desk then it’s normally time to grab a brew and a bite to eat before getting stuck in.

For the Train Service Controller, it’s largely a case of managing service disruption, dealing with uncovered crew turns, attributing delays to the relevant team/depot, answering queries from staff on the ground, and monitoring the performance of any late trains looking at ways to try to recover the delay and avoid them continuing throughout the day. 

For the Incident Controller, your focus is the management of the units rather than the traincrew or service and generally involves planning further ahead, whereas the Train Service Controller is more of a firefighting role. Regular tasks include: ensuring any trains required for specific maintenance today or tomorrow are headed to the relevant depots at the end of the day and if not, finding ways to get them where they need to go, dealing with any in-service failures in tandem with the Maintenance Controller, monitoring fuel levels, amending the units to reflect any service alterations, creating workable plans for any uncovered Drivers, as well as many other tasks.


What sort of things make you excited to go to work?
As I live in central Manchester, I walk to the ROC which takes me about 35-45 minutes and because I’m a keen hiker in my spare time, I look forward to the commute as it allows me to put my headphones in and listen to a good audiobook or podcast. I find it relaxing and a great way to unwind after eventful shifts, or as a moment of respite before them.

What frustrates you?
This is an easy one; lack of consideration shown towards others and people who don’t work as a team. I’m a passionate advocate of the collaborative approach and believe we shine as an industry when we work together, all pulling in the same direction. It’s absolutely one of its strengths, that sense of the railway family, and fortunately most days I get to witness and experience it first-hand. 

What’s been your career highlight?
A highlight of working in this industry is the diversity of its workforce; it attracts people from all social and employment backgrounds, all ages, ethnicities, nationalities and identities.

Outside my rail career, a highlight would be getting to stand on the stage of the Old Vic in London, one of the oldest and most prestigious theatres in the country, in front of a packed auditorium of people from across the entertainment business, mere feet away from Hollywood legend Jeff Goldblum (who is very intense but absolutely charming). My brief moment in the limelight! That and working on secondment for six weeks with the Royal Shakespeare Company which was a dream come true.


What are your career aspirations?
I gave up setting goals for myself career-wise a while back after my hopes of working in the theatre industry sadly didn’t come to fruition. Also because I’m the kind of person who is constantly seeking new challenges and I find myself seeking to move onto pastures new as soon as I feel I’ve ‘mastered’ a role (or if it doesn’t meet my expectations).

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your role?
The rail industry is a vast and unique institution with a history that extends back generations. My advice would therefore be to accept you’ll never know everything (and never believe anyone who claims to!) but be willing to learn, ask questions and admit when you’re not sure of something. You may find it daunting at first but persevere, stay positive and keep an open mind and you will find it one of the most rewarding and nurturing careers you can find.

What’s the biggest learning experience you’ve had?
The three years spent training at drama school working towards my degree was one of the most intensive learning experiences of my life as much as for what I discovered about myself as for the actual skills gained, becoming considerably more self-aware than I was before, understanding my strengths and probably, more importantly, my weaknesses. I don’t think I’d be where I am today without that or, at least, I feel I’d be a far less effective worker and probably would have had a less successful career.

What do you like to do to unwind away from work?
It probably won’t come as a surprise that I love live performances and enjoy going to the theatre in London about once a month catching two or three shows at a time.

I also love travelling and go on a two/three week interrailing holiday once a year, as well as numerous city breaks both in the UK and abroad.


Tell us something people don’t know about you.
In 2002 while at Sixth Form College, I was invited to a garden party at Sandringham to celebrate the Golden Jubilee (an event specifically to thank the residents of Norfolk for all their support over the years). Though I wasn’t picked to personally meet the Queen, I did stand within a couple of metres of her and the Duke of Edinburgh as they went for a walkabout in the garden. She’s shorter than I imagined (isn’t that what they always say?!).

Quickfire Round
Favourite Nova? Nova 3.
Favourite train station? In the North, York. In the UK, St Pancras International. In Europe, Amsterdam Centraal and Berlin Hauptbahnhof.
Your favourite city in the North? If we’re talking just England then it has to be Manchester, but if we’re including Scotland then Edinburgh as well.
Best holiday destination? City, Berlin. Country, Scotland.
Podcast or book? Book (and I’m including audiobooks in that too).
What song can you listen to on repeat? Anything by ABBA.
Favourite artist of all time? Probably Vincent Van Gogh but I was so enraptured by Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss when I saw it in Vienna that I think I stood there for nearly 10 minutes, just taking it in and I had to go back for a second look before I left the gallery!
A film you could watch over and over? Airplane! — and it still makes me snigger every time.
What’s your guilty pleasure? A jar of posh peanut butter.


TPE Profile Rebecca Woodhead


Hi Rebecca, let’s find out more about you. How long have you worked for TPE, and what roles have you done in that time?
I started working for TPE as a Security Assistant at Cleethorpes station in August 2018. An opportunity then arose to work on the trains as a Revenue Protection Assistant which I started in January 2020.

What did you do before joining the TPE team? 
Before working for TPE I worked in various areas of security including door supervising for many years.

What does a typical day look like? 
A typical day is travelling up and down the network to various stations assisting staff and customers, and providing excellent customer service. 

What sort of things make you excited to go to work? 
I enjoy customer-facing jobs and working with the public being as helpful as possible. 

And what frustrates you? 
Lack of manners and unkind behaviour.

What’s been your career highlight?
Being able to give support to vulnerable people on the railway.

What are your career aspirations? 
To progress to a Conductor role. 

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your role?
Punctuality and patience are key.

What’s the biggest learning experience you’ve had?  
The knowledge of timetables and routes.

What do you like to do to unwind away from work? 
Long country walks with my better half.

Quickfire Round
Favourite Nova? Nova 1.
Favourite train station? Cleethorpes.
Your favourite city in the North? Manchester.
Best holiday destination? Disneyland Paris.
Podcast or book? Book; Tim Burton’s autobiography.
What song can you listen to on repeat? Fleetwood Mac – Landslide.
Favourite artist of all time? Stevie Nicks.
A film you could watch over and over? Edward Scissorhands.
What’s your guilty pleasure? Rum.


TPE Profile Lukasz Sambor

Hi Lukasz, 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 been working on the railway for 11 years. I started as a Customer Host in 2009 for Rail Gourmet, then two years later I joined the TPE Revenue Department as a Revenue Protection Assistant and in 2016 became an Revenue Protection Officer.

What did you do before joining the TPE team? 
I was a prison officer for 5 years and also worked as a night shift supervisor.

What does a typical day look like?
I book on at the depot, then check up on all my colleagues and make sure their diagrams have been covered. I’ll then do some onboard ticket inspections and station ticket inspections. I check if anyone has any issues or problems that we can solve.

What sort of things make you excited to go to work?
I like to socialise with all the different customers from all over the world. Also, it’s great to be with all my work colleagues as they’re all very kind and working with them is a pleasure.

And what frustrates you?
Of course, there are both good and bad days when working in the rail industry. I think what frustrates me the most is the ignorance and rudeness of some people who are convinced that they’re in the right and don’t have any respect for the rules.

What’s been your career highlight?
I think my career highlight so far is becoming a Revenue Protection Officer because I knew it would be quite challenging and something outside my comfort zone. I love my job and my goal is to progress and be the best I can be.

What are your career aspirations?
I’m satisfied with my current role at the moment. However, I aspire to have a managerial role at some point.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your role?
The advice that I would give is that there will always be highs and lows. Also, to use any criticism you receive as an opportunity to improve. For frontline colleagues you have to have a positive mindset and not take anything personally. Always try to be the bigger person and keep your cool.

What’s the biggest learning experience you’ve had?
My biggest learning experience was when I got stuck on board a train with customers just outside of Leeds station for two and a half hours, in 30-degree heat with no air conditioning. Some customers started to become abusive and some even tried to get off the train. This situation taught me how to deal with difficult circumstances, whilst delivering excellent customer service.

What do you like to do to unwind away from work?
What helps me to unwind from the day is doing some martial arts and working out.

Tell us something people don’t know about you.
I’m allergic to apples.

Quickfire Round
Favourite Nova? Nova 2.
Favourite train station? Preston.
Your favourite city in the North? Lancaster.
Best holiday destination? Cornwall.
Podcast or book? Podcast.
What song can you listen to on repeat? Hello by Lionel Richie.
Favourite artist of all time? Sir Tom Jones.
A film you could watch over and over? Iron Man.
What’s your guilty pleasure? A good bacon butty.


Watch Gavin, Mandy, Rebecca, Lukasz and loads more of our lovely colleagues in The Railway 24/7 Wednesdays at 9pm on Channel 5 or on catch-up.

Fancy joining the team? See our latest vacancies over on our dedicated careers site. 




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