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
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
’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
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
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
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
They must have seen her coming.
Business development director, Welsh Development Agency
Director of CBI, Wales
Director of public communications ATOC