Emma signed on to become a trainee with Pacific National in 2010. She spent two months as a trainee, and five months as a drivers assistant. “It was a very intense 7 months with so much to learn and I still feel like as a driver there is always something new to learn.”
She would go on to spend more than a year as a driver before an opportunity to move into service delivery. Emma saw the new role as a chance to share her operational knowledge with others and to learn a new skill.
Emma spent four years working in service delivery in Mackay, starting out as a crew scheduler before moving up to Superintendent. She then moved to Sydney for her role, where she spent another four and a half years as a team leader before moving into her current role as SPAD (Signal Passed at Danger) prevention program manager.
“Everyday in the Planning and Delivery team is different. You need to be able to think on your feet and be prepared for anything. It requires a lot of thinking outside the box and great communication,” she says.
“The Service Delivery and Planning teams operate much like the control centre of the rail corridor. Without them, train schedules and crew rostering would be chaos. They are the eyes and ears of Pacific National, the main communication point between the network operators, drivers and operations which helps everything run safely and smoothly.”
The Service Delivery and Planning teams operate much like the control centre of the rail corridor. Without them, train schedules and crew rostering would be chaos. They are the eyes and ears of Pacific National, the main communication point between the network operators, drivers and operations which helps everything run safely and smoothly.
Preventing a SPAD is akin to stopping trains from passing through a red light. Passing a signal at danger can lead to collision with people, other trains, infrastructure, or vehicles. Now as the program manager of SPAD prevention at Pacific National, Emma co-ordinates programs such as rail resource management with the training and operations teams, analyses data, creates reports and travels to depots to meet with drivers and other staff.
“Rail collision is one of Pacific Nationals top 10 critical risks so preventing them is essential as we want every worker and the public to get home safely every day. SPADs can lead to collision which can lead to fatalities, injuries, impacts to our drivers’ health and damage to equipment. Currently different technology systems to prevent SPADs are in trial but they are some years away from being implemented. Until then we are focusing on safe driver behaviours.”
SPAD mitigation is an industry wide challenge. Each company is taking a different approach to prevention but sharing similar challenges and underlying factors.
Some of the areas that are focused on include specific speeds to their stopping location, communication with network and their co-driver, stopping at a certain distance from signal, and focusing only on safety critical tasks in a safety zone.
“We are embedding these behaviours with our Rail Resource Management training. This course covers the essential non-technical skills needed to do our jobs safely and effectively. We are also involved in SPAD awareness week each year, which helps us to renew our focus with fresh eyes on either a single point of concern or a wholistic view of prevention. It allows us to have open and honest discussions with drivers and operations and to bring awareness to other parts of the business that may not be aware of the need to make it a priority.”
As a mum, Emma says the flexibility of her role allows her to be there for her daughter when needed, while the variety of work keeps her stimulated and makes it fun. “Running trains and keeping everyone safe has given me a sense of purpose and development in both a personal and professional sense. I have learned how to be able to be flexible with plans and pivot when needed. I have also met a great bunch of people and lifelong friends across Australia which is amazing and helps to come to work with a smile!”