Three Network Rail employees recognised in Queen’s Birthday Honours List

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Three Network Rail employees have been recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, published on Thursday 2nd June.  

Christian Irwin, Lydia Fairman and Bill Cooke have been recognised for their services to the railway as well as charitable and voluntary services. 

Andrew Haines, Network Rail’s chief executive, said:

“Huge congratulations to Christian, Lydia and Bill for receiving these honours from The Queen. It is so wonderful that in Her Majesty’s Platinum Jubilee year, three colleagues from Network Rail have received recognition for their selfless contribution to society and the rail industry. 

“They have each gone above and beyond to help bring a positive change to the railway or to their local communities. I am hugely proud to see their generosity and hard work being rightfully celebrated.”  

Christian Irwin OBE- for services to the rail industry. In his former role as Industry Programme Director for the South West, Christian oversaw the restoration of regular passenger services on the Dartmoor line in Devon for the first time in nearly 50 years as the first project of the government’s Restoring Your Railway initiative. Using the Project SPEED (Swift, Pragmatic and Efficient Enhancement Delivery) principles aimed at delivering schemes in a faster and more cost-efficient manner, the line was re-opened in just under nine months, two years ahead of schedule and more than £10m under budget. The reopening of the line transforms connectivity for the region and boosts the local economy.  Passenger numbers are already over 200% of those predicted in the first year despite opening in the winter months during the Covid pandemic, with considerable further growth predicted. 

Christian Irwin said:

“I am incredibly humbled to be recognised in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.  I have had some wonderful experiences in my time in the rail industry but standing on the platform at Okehampton on the 20th November last year, watching passengers arrive to take their first regular journey on the Dartmoor Line for the first time in nearly 50 years was the proudest moment of my career; an amazing atmosphere, busy trains, unlocked opportunities and a community re-connected.” 

“I am incredibly proud of all the people and teams who have collaborated to make this project happen, working as a seamless partnership between the rail industry, local authorities and the local community as one Dartmoor Line Team and I accept this honour on behalf of them all.  This is a true testament of what can be achieved and the benefit that rail can provide when local partners work together with a common goal, and I am determined to ensure the learning from the Dartmoor Line can be repeated time and time again.” 

This video showcases some of Network Rail’s best case studies where  time and money have been saved by using new technology, innovation and working smarter. They have all been run to the SPEED principles. 

Lydia Fairman- British Empire Medal (BEM) for her work in STEM throughout the pandemic and leading a team of volunteers who gained Network Rail’s accreditation with White Ribbon, one of the leading charities aiming to end violence against women. Lydia and her team developed online materials for teachers and children at the start of the pandemic to support children and teachers struggling with the new world of learning from home, and her work has had a huge impact on Network Rail’s ability to engage with young people, reaching 170,000 people with vibrant and innovative STEM education in two years. 

In addition to gaining accreditation with White Ribbon, who can provide the support and knowledge to help employees who may be suffering, Lydia has helped to develop training for staff on how to spot the warning signs of abuse, so managers are better prepared to help their teams reach out, signposting to where further support can be found for managers, HR and the teams involved. 

Lydia Fairman said:

“It was a huge and wonderful surprise to receive the nomination for a BEM. My Mum got a BEM for the work she does in the community in my hometown of Boston and I suspect she’s the best role model there is, I can’t believe I am even in the same category! 

“I work with a fantastic team of people who all pulled together through the pandemic to support parents who were balancing parenting and working as schools were closed. The work I have the opportunity to do in STEM gives me life, we see the impact it can have on young people almost every day and it’s vital we make sure young people know just how many opportunities really sit at their feet.”  

“Separately, achieving accreditation with White Ribbon was a huge achievement. The murders of Sabina Nessa and Sarah Everard show just how much work there is to do to improve the safety of women. Covid-19 placed anyone trapped in an abusive relationship in great danger where they were isolating with their attacker, so many people in Network Rail and across the industry worked together to raise awareness of the issue and I was just one of those people lucky enough to be in a position to make an impact.” 

Bill Cooke BEM for services to the railway and charitable services. Bill has been a driving force behind ever-improving standards in safety through his previous role as head of workforce health, safety and environment on the North West & Central region. He has also been honoured for his prolific fundraising, supporting charities including Cancer Research UK, NSPCC, Barnardo’s, Railway Children, Young Lives v Cancer, Action for Children and The Foundation for the Study of Infant Deaths (FSID). 

Bill Cooke said:

“It is truly humbling to be honoured in this way, to be recognised for my work in both workforce health and safety and my other true passion; raising money to help sick and vulnerable children across the country.  

“My fundraising started back in 2001 on a very wet day at Shirley Golf Club where industry colleagues got together in an attempt to raise just a few pounds for the Birmingham Children’s Hospital. I was absolutely staggered at the success- a massive £18k was raised that day and the Regional Director suggested that this really should be an annual event. This year will see the 21st anniversary of this now fabulous celebrity event. 

“Over the years I have also managed to coax others to join me in non-golfing events such as trekking through the Grand Canyon, the 3 Peaks challenge and a 500-mile treadmill walk to name a few, all of which has raised well over £700k in 20 years.  

“As I say to everyone, I’m only the conductor, our rail industry colleagues coming together to actually donate money are the orchestra!” 

Photo credit: Network Rail

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