The rail review gathers pace

Keith Williams, together with his expert challenge panel and the team at the Department for Transport continue to beaver away to develop an innovative, practical solution to the more intractable issues of the rail industry. The industry has some really positive achievements under its belt: growing passenger numbers, upgrading infrastructure and rolling stock, offering a more inclusive service…the list goes on. And yet – there are still significant problems and we are seeking creative, cost-effective and practical solutions. The call for evidence is still open, so if you haven’t yet contributed your two penn’orth, please do! Keith will be setting out his initial thoughts in his George Bradshaw address at the end of February, but the work will go on. So have your say and help us make a lasting difference.

Rethinking our rail system

I’m really looking forward to working with Keith Williams and the other members of the expert challenge panel on the rail review, and colleagues at DfT, to rethink our railways so that they really work for passengers.  It’s such an important issue – unless we can move around freely and easily, we can’t work, enjoy time with distant friends and relatives, travel to new parts of the country and expand our horizons…

Today you can join in – there is a call for evidence on the DfT website.  Please do!  We need to hear from those who use the railway, those who would like to but don’t or can’t, and those who think it’s just not for them.  Most of us would agree something fairly radical is required…so let’s get those ideas in!  But it’s not just the innovative ideas that I want to hear.  If there’s something in particular that causes you problems, whether or not you can suggest how to solve it, please let us know.

Thanks in advance for your contribution.

Tackling poverty in Milton Keynes

I’m honoured to have been appointed a Trustee of Milton Keynes Community Foundation this year.  Our ‘Vital Signs‘ report highlights the strengths and challenges for Milton Keynes and a key issue for us is poverty.  On 28th March we held a workshop to explore how the voluntary and community sector in Milton Keynes can work together to address the challenge.  There was some really useful and innovative thinking and it was good to meet people from around the sector.  I am looking forward to seeing progress on the issue going forward.

Annual reception at No 10

Alice with Theresa May and Sir Ian CheshireI recently attended the annual Government nonexecutives reception at 10 Downing Street. It’s always interesting and very useful to meet other non-execs in an informal setting to share experiences. Gaining insight into how other departments and other non-execs work enables me to broaden my understanding of different aspects of government so that I can bring even more to the Board table and add more value in all my roles.

New year, new challenges

I wish you all a happy New Year and I hope that, like me, you have a varied and exciting year ahead of you. I am privileged to work in interesting and challenging environments alongside very talented and dedicated people. I know that some of the things that we will be dealing with this year will involve knotty problems (tax and Brexit come to mind!) but they will also be stimulating and I’m looking forward to it all.  I am particularly looking forward to the publication of the NICE guideline on improving the experience of adult social care users.  This is the culmination of over 2 years hard work by the guideline committee who have dedicated themselves to drawing up guidelines that, once implemented, will make a big difference to those who use social care.  Watch this space around February!

Telling my leadership story

IWF LogoA few years ago I was privileged to be invited to join the International Women’s Forum UK, a network of women with who have all demonstrated substantial achievements in the widest possible variety of fields, from business to media, science to charity.  I am delighted to have been asked by the Forum for my ‘leadership story’ for the newly launched website. It was a real treat to take the time out to think about the questions they asked and understand what has really made a difference to me throughout my career. I recognised that it’s often the small stuff that makes the biggest difference, but I don’t always reflect on those things. So thank you, IWF UK, for prompting me to do so!

Discoveries in the USA

Boston refuge areaI recently spent a very interesting 3 weeks on holiday in the USA – although I couldn’t resist doing a little work while I was there.  Whilst visiting the cities of New York, Washington and Boston, I met with the transport professionals responsible for accessibility.  They were very welcoming and I shared ideas from London, and picked their brains about US provision.  Using the public transport systems to get around was fairly straightforward – the subways in particular worked well for us and we found at least one ‘little gem’ in each city.  In New York, overhead signs showed the best place to board for level access; in Washington, platform edge lights flashed when a train was approaching, giving plenty of warning to board; and in Boston we found refuge areas for wheelchair users in the subway (pictured).  My companion and I sampled most forms of transport – including Amtrak, which made our National Rail services look quite good!

Rewarding good governance

It was my very great pleasure and honour once again to present an award at the Charity Governance Awards on Wednesday, 24th May. The event was held in the imposing and beautiful Clothworkers Hall in the City. This year, my fellow judges and I judged one category: Managing Turnaround. The level of dedication and commitment of the Trustees in each of the entries was quite phenomenal. The winner was Off The Record from Bristol, a mental health service and movement for children and young people aged 11-25 who live in Bristol and South Gloucestershire.  You can read the story of their turnaround here.

What if you can’t use public transport?

On 29th March some of my fellow Transport for London Board members and I were taken on a fascinating visit to Dial-A-Ride to see the operation in practice and learn more about it. Public transport in London is becoming increasingly accessible, so many of us are able to get out and about using mainstream modes. But for some, it will never be possible to walk to a bus stop and wait for a bus, or walk through a tube station and board a train, for instance – and for some their ability to do that will depend on how they are feeling that day, or what the weather is like. So ‘social needs transport’ is key to ensuring everyone can get out and about, reducing isolation and increasing mental and physical wellbeing. The dedication of the staff was impressive and I felt proud to be part of an organisation that recognises different needs and tries to meet them well.

A masterclass in the prospects for business

On 14 March I was privileged to attend a Masterclass dinner hosted by Grant Thornton with Carolyn Fairbairn, Director-general of the CBI, as the speaker. She gave a commanding and fascinating speech covering a wide range of issues ranging from Brexit to inequality of productivity across the UK. I learnt far too many things to list here, but I won’t forget her comments about the number of import/export challenges businesses will face if we don’t handle things well when leaving the EU.  I know there’s a great deal of work going on behind the scenes in government departments from my various roles across the public sector. We need to keep that up for the good of British business!