International Women's Day 2021 - Emma
“Everyone is so motivated to do the right thing for staff and for passengers and without the collaboration or the support of my team, I just couldn’t have done it.”
Emma Watson, Station Manager at Liverpool Street Station
At just 35, Emma Watson is one of the youngest female station managers in the UK. Taking up her position on 20 April – four weeks after the country locked down – it’s fair to say her first few weeks were a baptism of fire.
Emma was expecting to manage Britain’s third busiest station, overseeing 450,000 passengers travel in and out of the capital each day. Instead, she joined the station team amidst a global pandemic which saw passenger numbers drop overnight, an emergency train timetable put into place, and safety measures introduced on a scale never seen before.
This is not the first time Emma has been thrown in at the deep end. Her ten years in rail have seen her work on a series of projects, including the 2012 London Olympics where she was a project manager overseeing transport logistics, using real-time spectator data to prepare stations and manage crowd control as people arrived and departed from the Olympic park.
That said, nothing could have prepared her for what she was about to take on. “Luckily I already knew a lot of the station team from my previous role as a Retail Business Partner for a number of stations including this one” Emma said. “Still, I had to build rapport very quickly.”
One of Emma’s first moves was to bring the team together and enable staff to carry out their duties in a safe way. She introduced briefing sessions which included an emphasis on ‘warm welcomes’ – essentially how to interact with passengers who may not have travelled for a number of months and who may be feeling anxious.
Cleaning efforts were ramped up with increased cleaning hours and the use of new products including hospital-grade disinfectant, and focussing on high touch areas such as lifts, handrails, and ticket machines. Hand sanitiser points were installed, and face masks added to vending machines.
“On the whole, passengers have largely been understanding” Emma says. “We’ve had to completely redesign how the station should operate to meet public health guidance – whether safety measures or introducing one-way systems to prevent crowding. And mask compliance has been high which is great to see.”
Understanding that it might not just be passengers who needed reassurance, Emma issued all station staff with high vis vests that said ‘help me to help you to please keep your distance’ to remind passengers to keep their distance, as well as ‘key worker’ pin badges for the station team to remind them and others of their status.
Asked if her team recognise the importance of their work in such a crisis, Emma says, “No, I don’t think they do. Many of them feel they are just turning up and doing their job. And that’s why I got the pin badges – granted it’s a small gesture, but I want them to understand that as a result of their work over the last six months, and the next six months perhaps, they’ve kept the country moving through a global pandemic. And that’s no mean feat – it’s an enormous achievement and they can be really proud of it”.
When the very same question is put to Emma, and she’s asked how it feel to know she has played a huge part in the country’s response to the virus, she deflects, much in the way she describes of her team when they say they’re ‘just doing the job’. She says “I feel really lucky to have a superb team whether it’s the train operators, Network Rail or the British Transport Police. Everyone is so motivated to do the right thing for staff and for passengers and without the collaboration or the support of my team, I just couldn’t have done it.”