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Hynes: ‘Untapped opportunity’ for ScotRail Alliance collaboration levels

The new boss of ScotRail Alliance is keen to exploit the leftover “untapped opportunity” in the organisation, arguing that there is still “more gas in the tank” in terms of what it can achieve.

Speaking to RTM, Alex Hynes, who took up the top job in June after a successful spell as Northern’s managing director, acknowledged that there is a lot of positive work taking place across the alliance, but emphasised his desire to take the organisation one step further.

When he took over the role, ScotRail Alliance had just begun feeling the effects of an ambitious transformation plan drafted in response to a performance drop last year. As Hynes said, the 7,500 people at the company “worked bloody hard to turn around last year’s performance to great effect.”

“I’ve been really impressed by the speed of the bounceback in terms of punctuality and customer service,” he added. “I joined Northern when we were the worst TOC in Britain, and we finished my three-and-a-half-year tenure there with our best overall customer satisfaction, best ever people engagement and best ever stakeholder satisfaction. Here [at the alliance], I’ve inherited a stronger base.

“But I think I can help take this business to the next level by getting better at involving our people in the running of the businesses; by becoming even more customer-focused than we already are; and by building even stronger relationships with our stakeholders.

“And of course, one of the things we have to do here is deliver the investment programme really well, so we have electrification going on, the introduction of brand-new electric trains, the creation of an intercity network in Scotland, and that all has to be really well managed.

“One of my skills, I hope, is operational execution, and there’s lots of that to do here.”

A major benefit of working in a partnership between an operator and Network Rail is tight-knit integration, he noted; for example, there is a single communications director, a single head of performance and a single head of control. But there is more work to do.

“I think there’s more gas in the tank in terms of the alliance, if I’m perfectly honest, and that’s a message I’ve given my team,” said Hynes. “I want the level of collaboration to go up because I think there’s more untapped opportunity here.”

One of the ways through which this could be done is working to increase awareness levels – outside the rail industry, and even sometimes inside of it, not many people are aware of what ScotRail Alliance actually represents.

“There’s a relatively low level of awareness about the alliance,” the managing director agreed. “One of the things I need to do is educate Scotland on what the alliance is. I was meeting MSPs in Parliament the other day and halfway through a meeting with one of them, the MSP said: ‘oh, you have Network Rail on your business card as well, why is that?’ And I had to explain to her what the alliance was, and there wasn’t a high degree of awareness about that.

“I see the alliance as being very simple. It’s a partnership between Abellio ScotRail and Network Rail Scotland, and together we deliver most of Scotland’s railway. And I want the 7,500 people across the alliance to talk to one another, to understand the big picture and where we’re heading as a railway, and to come up with improvement ideas.”

As part of this, Hynes already assembles the alliance’s ‘top 50’ together every month, and there are “really good employee communication networks” in both ScotRail and Network Rail – such as via Yammer, the enterprise social networking service.

“But we’re going to create a Yammer group for the alliance, so we can get train drivers talking to signallers and station staff at locations like major stations such as Edinburgh Waverley and Glasgow Central talking to each other and coming up with improvement ideas,” he explained.

“And if we can tap into the pride and passion of the 7,500 railway men and women who work for Scotland’s railway and listen to their ideas and implement some of them, I think we can take Scotland’s railway to the top of the league table.”

Read our full interview with Hynes in the upcoming edition of RTM (October/November), set to hit desks on 31 October. Receive free digital and print copies by subscribing here.


Ben   31/10/2017 at 16:16

Whilst I admire the spirit and rallying call of Alex Hynes, he needs to be mindful of Clear Communication. Signallers have probably the greatest specialism on the rail network; I'm genuinely not sure how anyone else within the network could / should communicate with them other than through official channels. Yammer is something that Network Rail have pushed on their employees, but some subscribe to it more than others - so it'll end up being the same people giving the same feedback to the same audience. A bit like certain people who spend far too much time replying to articles on RTM. Oops, I'd better end there!

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