Proud – celebrating our transport leadership journey

Cohort 1 of UTG's Leadership Programme
Saila Acton

In the words of Heather Small, ‘What have you done today to make you feel proud?’. Well today, I am reflecting on the past 12 months of the Urban Transport Group’s Leadership Programme and how proud I am of the first cohort for participating and completing the course, and how proud I am to have had a major part in bringing it all together. 

Last Tuesday, was the seventh and final session of the first cohort of the brand-new programme which was the vision of Tobyn Hughes, Managing Director of Transport North East, and one of our Board members.  

The purpose of the programme is to equip the next generation of senior transport leaders with the skills, networks and knowledge to progress in their careers. 

However, it has been a three-year journey to get to this point. Tobyn brought the idea to us in October 2020 and I will admit that at first, as a team, we were slightly reluctant as we had no experience in the world of learning and development. We didn’t know where to even begin. We were also unsure whether we could have people meeting together face to face given the Covid restrictions that were still in place at the time. Tobyn - who believed that we were the right organisation to lead the development of this programme persevered and kept pressing us into action.  

Tobyn said: “It’s really important that as the Urban Transport Group we invest in the next generation of leaders who have all of the skills, competence and expertise, as well as the networks, necessary to allow them to effectively lead their organisations into the future.”  

I am glad he encouraged us so enthusiastically. We did our research, we spoke to everyone we could who had knowledge in this area and we interviewed prospective participants to design a bespoke programme based on their responses. 

Then, after a thorough procurement process, we found the right facilitator to take on the task of delivering the programme content. Iain Smith of Network for Skills took on the job and from the first session in October 2022 (Covid restrictions a thing of the past!), the group warmed to him instantly. There was never a dull moment, as Iain is not only able to deliver full leadership theory and content but is thoroughly entertaining and funny too. 

We also set out to include a special guest speaker at every session and I am proud of our achievements there too. Speakers included Heidi Mottram, Chief Executive of Northumbrian Water, Tracy Brabin, the Mayor of West Yorkshire, Vernon Everitt, Greater Manchester’s Transport Commissioner, Frances McAndrew, a world expert on equality, diversity and inclusion, as well as civil servants, a former MP, and other members of the UTG’s family of transport authorities.

It was fantastic to see the cohort blossom over the 12 month programme – from beginning as a group of strangers to developing a tight bond as a collection of transport leaders, creating a supportive culture in the process.

I am personally proud of this group (and the organisations they work for) as they were the pioneers who took a chance on the programme and on us, and it worked. I am so grateful to all of them for being a part of it and for being so engaged with the teaching, bringing enthusiasm and an open mind to each and every session. 

To name check them all, the cohort included Anne Shaw (Transport for West Midlands), Gary Evans and Matt Goggins (Liverpool City Region Combined Authority), Melanie Corcoran and Mick Bunting (West Yorkshire Combined Authority), Tim Taylor (South Yorkshire Combined Authority), Philip Meikle (Transport North East), Simon Elliot and Rosalind O’Driscoll (Transport for Greater Manchester), Christina Calderato and Helen Wright (Transport for London), Tom Painter (West Midlands Rail Executive), and those who moved onto new pastures along the way (Malcolm Holmes, Dave Pearson, Fiona Bootle and Marlon Osborne). 

And finally, thanks to former UTG colleague, Clare Linton, and our Assistant Director Becky Fuller, who both worked tirelessly to bring the programme to fruition. 

Thank you - I am very proud of you all.

Saila Acton is Business Coordinator at the Urban Transport Group

The second cohort of the Leadership Programme is now underway.