An area station manager working between Watford and Tring has spoken about how the pandemic has affected her work - and what the train company is doing to ensure passengers safety.
Amanda has worked for West Midlands Trains (WMT) - operator of West Midlands Railway and London Northwestern Railway - for four and a half years but only took up her current role two months ago.
She has explained some of the changes that she has seen since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. One of the biggest challenges has been coping with staff shortages due to railway staff and drivers having to self-isolate.
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Amanda said: “I’ve worked for WMT for four and a half years but over the last year and a half I’ve seen a lot of changes - mainly to accommodate our commuters and keep them and our staff safe during Covid.
“I feel very lucky to have been able to work throughout the pandemic, but one of the main areas I deal with is staffing, so that has been a bigger part of my role than usual - there’s been a lot of staff shortages and staffing rotas have had to change regularly due to Covid!”
Working on the railway
Amanda's first job of the day is to go through the emails and queries from the night before and deal with them.
She said: “I attend a lot of planning meetings where we look at upcoming events to help us stay as prepared as possible.
"I was recently involved with extra staffing for the Euros, and we always have to plan ahead for Watford Football Club home games.
“Recently, my role has gone to the extreme of variety as I have had to assist with the dispatching of trains and supporting conductors in their role in order to prevent train cancellations due to staff shortages.
“My responsibilities are mainly performance related. I have several groups of employees which I have to organise, delegating a lot of tasks to managers who then oversee large station teams.
"I also have to ensure I keep up-to-date with their performance through one-to-one meetings.
"There is a lot of inter-departmental communication I deal with, looking after the operations team, managing any delays and keeping an eye on them.
"My role supports and organises each department to ensure we are working together as efficiently as possible.”
For Amanda, every day is different and she says she loves that about her job.
She added: "There is always something for me to sort out - train issues and even passenger issues!
"Sometimes I have to drop everything and make difficult decisions without being afraid to do so. Staff and customer safety is paramount – I enjoy decision-making and thinking on my feet.
“The staffing issues we’ve faced during the pandemic have definitely been very challenging. People have caught Covid or had to isolate, so that’s been tough.
"However, the teamwork I’ve experienced has been great - I feel we’ve all really pulled together!
“With the changing rules around face masks and social distancing we have tried extra hard to look out for vulnerable passengers who may be nervous when travelling to offer help and reassurance.
“I really think though as an organisation we have put in place enhanced hygiene processes that are giving customers the confidence to travel again.
"The staff are brilliant – they are sanitising everywhere, and the trains are spotlessly clean. I have noticed that the majority of people are still wearing face masks - it is becoming more normal, and like our enhanced cleaning, it has become routine.”
Outside of work, Amanda has been volunteering at a vaccine centre for almost a year.
She said: "I saw an advert on TV and thought I’d give it a go. At the time I was in a role with WMT where once a month I had five days in a row off, so I felt I had time to help out.
“I book in shifts as and when I can still, they’re usually four-to-five hour slots. I either do stewarding - taking people to where they need to be or pointing them in the right direction - or front of house.
“It’s really rewarding. Everyone is extremely friendly and keen to pass on a smile and say ‘thank you’.”