Profile: Dr Elizabeth Hayward, ATOC - ATOC is no poisoned chalice for Hayward/Elizabeth Hayward is confident that PR can improve UK rail travel’s image

For many, being appointed head of public relations for the rail industry would be like being handed a poisoned chalice, but former Confederation of British Industry director, Dr Elizabeth Hayward, fully intends to drink long and deep.

For many, being appointed head of public relations for the rail

industry would be like being handed a poisoned chalice, but former

Confederation of British Industry director, Dr Elizabeth Hayward, fully

intends to drink long and deep.



In an ironic twist Hayward was late for her first interview with the

Association of Train Operating Companies because of the horrific

Paddington rail crash last year.



Arriving at ATOC’s offices in west London that day, she recalls the

sense of disbelief that swept the 100 members of staff and added that

the tragedy’s repercussions will be felt for many years to come, ’The

industry certainly spent a period in shock. It was very tough. Both

Southall and Paddington were tragic and horrifying,’ she says.



ATOC was created following rail privatisation seven years ago. It

employs more than 100 staff and has an annual turnover in excess of

pounds 100 million.



It is owned by its members and was set up to represent the interests of

the privately-owned train operating companies.



Immediate response to the rail disasters has, according to Haywood, been

hampered by Britain’s archaic railway track system and a shortage of

money.



However she sees great hope for the future - passenger numbers have

increased 25 per cent over the last four years and are expected to have

risen by another 50 per cent in the next ten years.



She is all too well aware that her task is formidable with public

perception of rail safety at an all time low. But perhaps not

surprisingly she is quick to point out that lessons have been

learnt.



’Clearly the railway companies have sat down and agreed that certain

things have to change. They showed they had learned after Southall when

they brought out their ten-point plan. They see that passenger safety is

the key, passenger safety has got to be the focus,’ she says.



The 44-year-old says that safety is now the number one priority as far

as the industry is concerned. ’Yes, there are other issues that people

worry about, like value for money, but if we don’t get safety right then

there is a serious problem.’



To be fair the good doctor has only just been appointed and is beginning

to fully realise the complex nature of the privatised rail system that

Britain now has. ’My task in essence is to make sure there is a wider

understanding by the public of the issues surrounding rail. To get them

to have a more favourable attitude to rail travel.’



Her brief would, at first sight, send even the legions of Tony Blair’s

spin doctors into a cold sweat, but Hayward is convinced that there is a

solution, both to the lack of public confidence and to a rail

infrastructure that has suffered from a chronic lack of investment.



It is a Herculean task for anyone, but Hayward, born in Glasgow and

educated with a degree from Cardiff University in economics and a PhD

from Swansea in French politics, has an impressive track record. She

worked in New York for three years writing for trade journals such as

Petrochemical Journal and Diesel Engines before joining the European

Parliament transport committee in Luxembourg.



She then left to join the Welsh Development Agency in Cardiff and her

last job was as the director for Wales for the CBI. In her first year at

the CBI, she was named Welsh Woman of the Year by HTV and the Western

Mail.



Although her successes at the CBI included being instrumental in

changing business legislation in Wales through the new assembly, Hayward

felt that it was time to move on.



’I had been there for six years and I felt I had achieved most of the

things I wanted to do. A recruitment consultant told me about ATOC and I

guess challenges don’t come much bigger than this,’ she says.



Director of CBI membership, Tony Bird said: ’She has done a very good

job for us in Wales at a time of considerable transition there. She was

respected on all sides and I’m sure she will be equally successful at

ATOC.’



Another former colleague is Chris Piering, who heads the European

Parliament’s offices in London. He said: ’She is tremendously talented

and seems to have the Midas touch. She is very forceful, but also very

charming.’



When not lobbying the Government on issues, or working out a new

strategy, the unmarried career woman likes nothing more than rushing

back to her home near Cardiff. ’I’m finding that pounding the streets of

London is difficult. London has a lot to offer but I still tend to be a

country girl at heart.’



Laughingly she added that her first week commuting to London had been an

ordeal as Connex, the train company she uses, had gone on a fare

strike.



They must have seen her coming.



HIGHLIGHTS

1989

Business development director, Welsh Development Agency

1994

Director of CBI, Wales

2000

Director of public communications ATOC



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