The people behind the wheel: Rebecca Rathore’s story, Stagecoach Manchester
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Posted: 11 May 2023 | Rebecca Rathore - Stagecoach Manchester | No comments yet
For the latest instalment of Intelligent Transport’s exclusive ‘The people behind the wheel’ series, Rebecca Rathore, Operations Director at Stagecoach Manchester, discusses the challenges and opportunities that she has faced in her career within the transport industry to date, and shares how she aspires to change how the sector is perceived by highlighting its importance in connecting communities and shaping society.
Can you tell us about your role at Stagecoach Manchester?
As the Operations Director for Stagecoach Manchester, my role involves overseeing a complex and dynamic transport operation and ensuring that our services meet the needs of our customers, while remaining legally compliant and financially sustainable.
I am responsible for managing a team of 1,800 drivers and 100 managers and supervisors, who work together to ensure that we get our customers to where they need to be”
I am responsible for managing a team of 1,800 drivers and 100 managers and supervisors, who work together to ensure that we get our customers to where they need to be. My operational buses cover 23.9 million miles and enable 106 million bus journeys each year.
My day-to-day responsibilities involve overseeing our six depots that are strategically positioned across Greater Manchester. I work closely with the depot management teams and with our Head of Operations and Operations Delivery Manager to ensure that the company is delivering high-quality services to our customers.
I also oversee the training, recruitment and roadside control operations of the company.
Overall, my role is strategic and involves setting the vision for the organisation, engaging with stakeholders, providing leadership to the team and ensuring that the company is delivering services that are legally compliant and meet the needs of our customers.
What inspired you to seek a career in the transport industry?
Early experience in the industry and a combination of experience and education gave me a solid foundation and the skills necessary to build my career in transport”
My passion for the transport industry was sparked by a summer job with National Express while studying Law at University. During my time with National Express, I discovered a love for the many facets of the industry and decided to pursue a career in it.
I continued to work with National Express on weekends in their Manchester and Liverpool ticket office throughout university and for a year after completing my degree. I then secured a graduate placement with The Go-Ahead Group. This early experience in the industry and a combination of experience and education gave me a solid foundation and the skills necessary to build my career in transport.
Have you experienced any challenges in your role and, if yes, how have you overcome them?
My career in the transport industry has been marked by numerous changes and challenges, both personal and professional. As you move through the ranks, you face new and complex situations that required you to adapt and evolve in order to succeed.
Resilience and humility is key in the face of change, as well as recognising the strength and value of involving and developing the people that are around you”
Throughout my career, I have learned that embracing change and being open to new challenges is crucial to delivering high-quality services and meeting the evolving needs of customers. My advice to anyone in transport is that resilience and humility is key in the face of change, as well as recognising the strength and value of involving and developing the people that are around you.
You also have to be willing to seek out opportunities and take advantage of your strengths, identify and address weaknesses, as well as position yourself to meet future objectives. I acknowledge that this can be difficult, and it would be naïve of me to advise otherwise. The key is maintaining focus on meeting the future, delivering value in the current, identifying the delta and closing that gap to meet objectives while staying true to your values.
Has a career in transport changed your perception of the industry as a whole?
While I’ve always worked in the industry, my experiences in different sectors of transport – including rail, bus, coach, tram, public transport authority and owning groups – has taught me that perception often differs from reality.
Transport is the backbone of a country, connecting communities and revitalising cities and towns”
The outside perception of transport is that it is somewhat dull and unexciting. However, this perception is far from the truth. In fact, transport is the backbone of a country, connecting communities and revitalising cities and towns.
I see the transport sector as a dynamic, agile and innovative industry, with a diverse range of people working together to achieve common goals. It is constantly evolving, with new technologies and approaches emerging all of the time.
I’m passionate about the role that transport plays in shaping society and very much committed to changing perceptions and helping others see our sector in a new light.
What would be the top three highlights of your career in the industry to date?
I recall the moment that I was able to share news of my current role with my dad. I didn’t tell him, I took him for a drive and parked outside of the Hyde Road depot, where he had previously driven buses”
I’ve had a number of highlights over the course of my career, but the three that stand out in particular for me are:
Firstly, I was the customer lead for the team that expanded and improved the Manchester Metrolink system, a project that cost £1.6 billion and trebled the size of the network. This involved designing and implementing new lines, expanding the network’s capabilities and adding new stops, all the while maintaining a live operation.
Secondly, and not necessarily an experience, but the fact that I have been able to switch between various roles within the transport sector (including operations, franchise, specification, strategy and relationship management) has been important to my career. Not being afraid of sideway moves has meant that I’ve been able to see every angle of the transport sector and think more broadly about the outreach and impact of transport initiatives.
Finally, on a personal level, I recall the moment that I was able to share news of my current role with my Dad. I didn’t tell him, I took him for a drive and parked outside of the Hyde Road depot, where he had previously driven buses in the 1960s and 1970s. One of the many great things about the transport sector is that it isn’t ridged, that people can and do progress through hard work and determination, and the way that this sector encourages and supports people to break through the glass ceiling to achieve their goals.
What key pieces of advice would you give to someone who is interested in a career in transport?
My advice to others is to be willing to learn and to not be afraid of doing things differently to gain experience”
My advice to others is to be willing to learn and to not be afraid of doing things differently to gain experience. Experience is essential in transport, for credibility and to make sure that we do things right. I’ve already mentioned being open to following the non-linear path and the benefits that can come in terms of gaining a diverse range of experience and perspectives. I’d also stress the need to be adaptable and resilient, as the transport industry is constantly evolving and faces challenges from changing customer needs and political pressures.
The future requires us to think differently, to be ambitious and to embrace growth and improvements to ensure that we remain relevant and successful.
To those starting out in the industry, I encourage them to take advantage of every opportunity to learn and gain experience, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant, and to build relationships, as these connections will provide valuable insights into the sector.
Finally, I encourage people to remain passionate about their work and to stay committed to improving connectivity and making transportation more sustainable and accessible for everyone.
In an ideal world, what do you hope the future of public transport will look like?
We are at a pivotal point in transport as government policies and franchising emerge. What we shouldn’t lose sight of is the customer experience and our move towards a sustainable transport system that is truly seamless, customer centric, net zero and self-funding.
A successful public transport system should offer customers choices that are not solely based on price or service providers, but rather provide a seamless and customer-centric experience”
I believe that a successful public transport system should offer customers choices that are not solely based on price or service providers, but rather provide a seamless and customer-centric experience. The objective is for public transport to be the preferred mode of travel for people, even when other options are available. Expectations don’t stop growing, and neither should we.
Another important aspect of a successful future public transport system is its ability to adapt to changing needs and technological advancements. This includes the integration of new technologies, such as electric and autonomous vehicles, as well as innovative payment and ticketing systems. In addition, collaboration and partnership between different stakeholders in the industry – such as government, transport providers and technology companies – will be key to achieving a truly seamless, connected and sustainable public transport system.
And, finally, I look forward to a future where we have a diverse workforce that reflect the needs of our diverse range of customers, and how this will ultimately lead to a more successful and sustainable transport system.
Rebecca Rathore is an experienced transport professional with a track record of delivering excellence in challenging and rapidly evolving environments. As the Operations Director for Stagecoach Manchester, Rebecca is responsible for driving high-performance outputs across the company’s operations. With a career spanning over 22 years, Rebecca has worked in both the public and private sectors, gaining valuable experience as both a client and a supplier. Her expertise in the transport industry is multimodal and covers a range of areas including operations, strategy, stakeholder engagement, customer experience, programme delivery, franchising, specification, transformation and business recovery.
Mobility Services, Passenger Experience, Public Transport, Staff & Skills Development, Workforce Inclusivity, Workplace
Bus & Coach
National Express, Stagecoach Manchester, The Go-Ahead Group