Working through lockdown: Network Rail

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Train graphic with Network Rail logo

Staff at Network Rail – which runs the UK’s railway lines – are still at work making sure our trains are running.

In today’s interview, three Network Rail staff talk about how coronavirus has affected their day-to-day jobs - and even created opportunities to get involved in amazing projects like the Nightingale Hospitals programme.


Job title

Charlene Wallace

National Passenger and Customer Experience Director

Nick Millington

Director, Safety Task Force

Martin Frobisher

Group Director, Safety, Technical & Engineering

What does your job look like on a daily basis?


Charlene from Network Rail

To lead and direct day-to-day operations of a national business to deliver world class services for national passenger, charter and open access operators and provide the national focus for national operators. Lead and direct activities associated with being Network Rail champion for passengers, enhancement of the managed station portfolio and the development and delivery of customer service excellence strategy. Developing the Network Rail National Customer Proposition and delivery strategy.


Nick from Network Rail

As Director, Safety Task Force I lead a of 200 people delivering a nationwide safety improvement programme that will reschedule our 28 million annual railway maintenance tasks into safer systems of work. The programme will also involve a significant deployment of safety technology and a much greater exploitation of technology to remotely monitor and inspect our infrastructure. The primary focus of our programme is to keep our front line engineering teams as safe as possible when on, or near the railway.

Martin from Network Rail


As a member of the Executive Leadership Team, I provide leadership & strategic direction including assurance for safety, health & engineering on the railway infrastructure.

How does the coronavirus outbreak affect your job and what new challenges do you face during the crisis?


Having joined Network Rail earlier this year, the COVID pandemic has had an immediate impact on my work and areas of focus. One big change has been the role I’ve taken leading Network Rail’s new ‘Transport Taskforce’, set up to coordinate our resource and volunteering support for the Department for Transport and other government departments. Through this work I’ve seen first-hand the fantastic contributions our people are making to keep the country moving and help other key workers to do their jobs. From supporting the new NHS Nightingale hospital in Manchester, to providing vehicles and drivers to move vital resources across the country, we’re ready to do our bit wherever possible to help in this crisis, and have overcome well the initial challenge of coordinating support in an organisation of more than 42,000 people. The rail industry has risen so strongly to the national challenge, and the dedication, efforts and spirit of colleagues has been nothing short of inspiring.


The railway system is vitally important to the UK – It transports freight that keeps our supermarkets stocked, medical supplies delivered, power stations fuelled etc. It also transports a number of key workers, such as hospital workers, to work and back each day from home. COVID has turned our whole world in the industry upside down. We have had to change many things. We have had to redefine, temporarily, what activities we can stop i.e. what work is not mission critical, so that we can keep the railway safely operating, but with less people. We have to re-examine all of our tasks and put in place social distancing measures so that our teams feel confident that they can do their work. We have had to modify our maintenance road vehicles so that physical barriers are installed. We have had to extensively communicate with our 40,000 employees to provide reassurance and generate confidence  that, as a company, we are taking this situation very seriously indeed. We have had to innovate quickly, worked with one of our suppliers to manufacture 30,000 face visors from a production plant that normally makes lemonade bottles!


My job has been varied and interesting throughout the crisis. I have been involved in the set up of NHS Nightingale Hospital in Manchester (which I was incredibly proud to have been part of), my team and I have been involved in sorting out emergency standards for the railway and looking innovatively at research and development. I am currently looking at how we begin returning to work in Network Rail buildings when the lockdown is lifted. I can definitely say no two days are the same.

Thank you to Charlene, Nick and Martin for speaking with us. Our #CrisisCareersHeroes campaign highlights workers looking after us during the coronavirus crisis - check out the series here.

Images: Lead image by Freepik



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