Client: Railtrack Group plc
PR Team: Hedron Consultancy
Campaign: Creation of a corporate internal communications programme
Timescale: June 1997-ongoing
Cost: pounds 650,000-pounds 700,000
By spring 1997, the British rail system had moved into private hands and
Railtrack had taken responsibility for operating the nation’s track
network. As Railtrack was now an established listed company on the Stock
Exchange, director of corporate affairs Philip Dewhurst decided the
company needed to address the internal impact of such changes.
Railtrack has 10,500 employees, from signalmen to board level
At a regional level, there was already a local communications
The challenge was to help employees on a national level adapt to the
challenges of becoming a radically different transport supplier and to
help them work with new audiences, such as industry regulators and
shareholders but, at the same time, uphold safety and efficiency.
Hedron and Railtrack began by establishing two communication
The first was to ensure that every employee understood the new business
drivers (such as commercialisation and the regeneration of Britain’s
railways) within the organisation and how these would affect them.
The second was to create a structure whereby staff could offer input
about business performance. The overall strategy was to encourage modern
communication practice allowing employees to initiate communication and
be pro-active in discussions.
One of the first projects for Railtrack following its flotation involved
holding a series of roadshows across the country. These were headed up
by board directors last July and addressed 10 per cent of staff.
Since October 1996, a company newspaper has been sent to employees at
their homes. Called Track Record, it gives a mixture of news and social
Every office-based employee now has e-mail, and faxes have been
installed in 70 per cent of 1,100 signal boxes around the country.
Railtrack is split into seven zones and regional, one-page newsletters
are faxed or e-mailed on a regular basis covering current performance
In addition, board members and senior executives hold monthly
Topics and key decisions from those meetings are passed down through the
This year, Railtrack is developing proposals for two new communication
methods. The first is a magazine covering business issues affecting
Railtrack, such as industry regulation and training and development. The
second will create another forum for two-way communication with
employees through an intranet.
A survey last year showed that staff satisfaction on communication
increased by 12 per cent, to 49 per cent. Hedron and Railtrack say they
have a long way to go to improve that rating. But the massive shift in
communication focus may pay off with a second survey next year.
The task of refocusing Railtrack employees to understand their new
environment and to lessen the communication gulf is starting to pay
Hedron believes last year’s roadshows involved too much one-way
Later this year, in August, a bigger version of roadshows will focus on
all seven Railtrack regions. The aim is to reach more than 50 per cent
of employees, involve more senior executive participation and encourage
two-way dialogue between management and employees.
The new Railtrack CEO Gerald Corbett has identified the importance of an
internal communications programme and next year its budget is set to
rise above pounds 1 million.