A career based on a love for transport

Rebecca Rathore is Director of Operations at Stagecoach Manchester. She talks about her career to date and her recent win at the everywoman in Transport and Logistics Awards.

Everywoman in Transport and Logistics Awards 2023. The Londoner Hotel Wednesday 28th June 2023. Photography by Steve Dunlop www.stevedunlop.com

Rebecca Rathore has worked in transport for 22 years, starting with a Saturday job with National Express while she was at university and rising to her current position as Director of Operations at Stagecoach Manchester. “I have always loved transport,” says the single mum of two. “I studied law, but I fell in love with transport.” Her career, which spans trains, buses and airports, has given her the experience she needs for the enormous responsibilities associated with her role at Stagecoach, a role which she has developed in less than a year to embrace a range of community support in her bid to attract more young people into transport.

That work has won her the Customer / Passenger Award at this year’s everywoman in Transport and Logistics Awards.

Rebecca has worked her way up over the years and says becoming a single parent was when her career really took off.  After working for National Express on graduation she moved to the Go Ahead Group as a management trainee and as a franchise bid executive working on bids for large train franchises. As part of that role she helped the company win the Department for Transport’s South Central Franchise. In 2006 she moved to Southern Rail where she worked as a service delivery manager and then station manager where she was in charge of operations at busy stations including London Victoria and Brighton. At that point she was ready to start a family and wanted to move back to Manchester where she grew up and had a good family support network.

In 2012 Rebecca took a role as Passenger Services Introduction Manager at Transport for Greater Manchester where, among other things, she was customer lead for the introduction of Metrolink system expansions. She went on maternity leave in 2014 with her first child and then again in 2016 with her second when she switched to the role of Customer Experience Improvement Manager.

Single parent

During her second pregnancy she became a single parent and, although it was a difficult time, she says that it spurred her on in her career. “I suddenly had this drive to show the kids that even though I was on my own I was a really strong individual and could still achieve what I wanted to,” she states. “That was when my career really started. I was always good at what I did, but that was when I thought I really wanted to succeed and progress.”

She says that on her return from maternity leave she felt under pressure, like many women, to be a perfect parent and a perfect work colleague, a tension which resulted in lots of feelings of guilt.  She was lower down the career ladder at that point so it was harder to flex her hours. She says she felt like all she was doing at that point was working and childcare. “It was like Groundhog Day,” she says.

Her own experiences have fuelled a desire to help other women and to be a good role model and mentor for other working mums. “I am very aware of the need to normalise the demands of being a working mum,” she says. “I’m doing it for my younger self. It’s especially important in an area like transport where there is a lack of female leaders.”

Rebecca is hopeful that things are improving, however, and feels Covid has made it easier as it allowed managers to see into people’s home lives. “It gave people the confidence to say this is how I come and that they don’t have to be something they cannot deliver on,” she adds.

Covid was very challenging, however, particularly in transport. Rebecca had started working at Manchester Airport in 2018 and stayed until 2022, working her way up to Head of Ground Transport and Landside Support. Alongside her work she was also a Justice of the Peace. During the early part of Covid there were mass redundancies at the airport and Rebecca was put at risk twice.

Stagecoach

Last year she successfully applied for the role of Director of Operations at Stagecoach Manchester. She started in July 2022 and is in charge of a team of around 2,000 bus drivers and 100 managers and supervisors. Her role is to oversee a safe, reliable, punctual and profitable bus service in Greater Manchester.

Stagecoach Manchester is the company’s biggest bus operation outside London. “It’s not just a bus service,” she says. “We do a lot of work with the community, we drive the local economy by connecting people to work and address issues like sustainability and social mobility.” The company has recently won three new franchise contracts which means Rebecca will soon be in charge of 1,000 more workers.

In addition to working with local politicians to build patronage, she is also trying to bring more young people into the transport sector. She works with Girls Out Loud, a social enterprise running programmes to buddy professionals up with young girls to grow their confidence and to help them understand their options and opportunities. “It’s about opening their eyes to different opportunities and giving them access to strong, confident women,” says Rebecca. Another organisation Stagecoach now works with is Access Sport which runs inclusive sport programmes that aim to transform the lives of underserved young people in local communities.

The bus service was heavily hit by Covid and at one point was struggling to retain drivers.  Since she has been in charge, Rebecca has slashed turnover rates from 28% to 10%. She has done this by her outreach efforts and by encouraging employee engagement. Her emphasis is on being both a good employer and a good service provider as well as a valued member of the community. She really enjoys, for instance, the community work Stagecoach does, such as visits to children in hospital and  supporting disability groups.

Rebecca also personally supports women in transport. Stagecoach has a confidential single parents network and women’s network, for instance, with which she is involved and she herself will be buddying a young graduate from September.

She says she hopes the everywoman award will help to change perceptions about who runs bus operations and to build on her achievements so far. “It will give me the credibility to build and reach a wider audience in logistics as well as transport,” she says.  “I think women are reaching a tipping point. I hope we are getting to a place where there is no glass ceiling for women and that nothing work-wise is not achievable for us.”



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