CIRO graduate turned tutor Toby Rackliff has a well-rounded view of railway operations, one of the perks, he says, of the courses and the tutor role.

Toby, who has been working with the industry since 1996 graduated with Distinction from our Railway Operations Management BSc course 10 years ago and values the knowledge and experience he gained not only from his degree course but as an ongoing benefit of teaching.

He said: “I joined the CIRO course, not for the qualification but to expand my knowledge. I already have a Masters in Transportation Planning and Policy and before the course with the CIRO, I was the Rail Contract Manager at Centro (West Midlands PTE), managing the performance side of the franchise contract with the then operator Central Trains.

“Centro’s role in franchise contract management was coming to an end and I wanted to broaden and deepen my understanding of the rail industry as a whole which is exactly what I got from the CIRO course.”

The degree course in Railway Operations Management is a three year work-based learning course aimed primarily at those with existing experience in the rail industry. At the end of the degree course students are able to demonstrate a high level of understanding in a range of railway operations disciplines and apply this knowledge in their day-to-day work. The discipline required to complete a degree level qualification will also enhance their leadership skills and potential.

Toby still uses the knowledge acquired in his role today and added: “It’s a really interesting course that provides a detailed overview of how the whole rail industry is structured and functions.

“It address the fact that it can be all too easy to focus solely on your own role and responsibilities and not see what happens or how other parts in the industry actually operate.

“Running the course, you have tutors that have a wide variety of expertise and it gives you an insight into other aspects of railway operations such as health and safety, railway control systems or legal frameworks with which you may be unfamiliar.”

When Toby graduated he moved from contract management into a senior customer services management role, and the course helped him to understand and prepare for that job which was much more focussed on front line service delivery managing travel centres, ticket retailing and migration to smartcard concessionary passes. This hands-on experience led to his appointment as a tutor and later lead tutor on the CIRO’s Customer Services diploma module.

Toby has since switched roles again to concentrate on planning strategic long term rail network development and his current role is as Strategic Lead, Rail Policy for the West Midlands Rail Executive. The information and skills he picked up through the degree course and his time in performance monitoring and customer services means he is able to take a more holistic view in strategy and planning, which always comes back to focussing on the requirements of the customers.

He added: “The degree gave me a broad brush appreciation for the different functions of the rail industry which I am still exposed to as a tutor.

“The support through the course was good and there were a lot of people there who were experts in their field. Another great element of the course was meeting and learning from other students with their own knowledge and experience and seeing everyone gain a wider understanding of the industry as well as achieving a formal qualification.”

Toby has been a tutor/lead tutor for railway customer services for nine years at certificate and diploma level and a tutor on the degree level railway economics module for almost as long.

He added: “It’s great having the chance to add new aspects to a course and the fact that the industry is constantly evolving and changing means that you also have a duty to ensure that your own knowledge is still relevant and kept up to date.

“The courses with the CIRO are great because you don’t get all of this knowledge about our industry in one place anywhere else. This is supported by other CIRO managed events such as seminars and site visits. The CIRO can be a real help in plugging the gaps in your own experience and in giving people a route to an academic qualification that they might not otherwise have.”