Case study

Head of operations and performance — Andy Castledine

Andy enjoys the variety of work, operational regimes and geographical locations that come as part of the job when working in rail transport management

How did you get your job?

As part of my degree in transport management at Aston University I did an undergraduate placement in rail freight and was able to secure a role in passenger rail performance.

From this position, I moved into station, train crew and operations via internal audit over a number of years, before being headhunted by an external recruiter to my current role as head of operations and performance, rail business development, with the Stagecoach Group.

How relevant is your degree to your job?

Very. I wouldn't be employed had I not attended Aston and completed a relevant degree.

There were specific modules on operational planning/research, transport modelling, vehicle scheduling, economics, financial management and different sectors of the transport industry.

Having a wide variety of modules gave me the breadth of understanding to enable me to progress my career. The fact that Aston is recognised by employers, especially in the transport sector, is a bonus.

What are your main work activities?

As I now work in rail franchise bidding, the role is peaks and troughs so there is not a typical day.

At present, a 'typical' day for me is to close off any odd items that were not critical to the last bid, and start developing ideas and initiatives for the next one.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

The role was mine to define as it was an amalgamation of two posts. My ambition is to be part of a winning bid team, having led a critical part of the submission, shortly followed by obtaining an executive-level appointment.

What do you enjoy about your job?

The sheer variety of questions, queries, discussions, ideas and concepts that seem to land with us on a daily basis, not to mention the variety of working in different geographical areas, and the different operational regimes of rail.

I also enjoy dealing with rail operations every day - it's a pleasure. I'm also employed by a wonderfully supportive business with a great team.

What are the most challenging parts of your job?

When we're approaching bid submission deadlines, with work to do, and the Department for Transport is waving the sword of Damocles.

Any advice for someone who wants to get into this job?

Ask questions, network and get in touch with the industry. It's a good idea to join an industry group such as the Institution of Railway Operators, which has a student grade, and the Young Rail Professionals.

Show that you are keen by attending Railway Study Association lectures, reading Modern Railways and Roger Ford articles. Get an internship or an undergraduate placement.

For those coming in from a non-transport related degree, don't just limit yourself to rail operations and don't think 'I don't know anything about trains'. We need more than a driver and a signalman to make a railway work. We need people from every discipline and every background. If we don't, how can we have a business that represents the communities we serve?

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