Southeastern Railway - input to passenger and train performance

Our work with one of the largest and most complex rail franchises in the UK. 

Southeastern Railway operates the one of the largest and most complex rail franchises in the UK. Its network covers over 170 stations from which around 500,000 passenger journeys are made each day. These include services to and from the following London termini.

Collectively, these services are delivered by 4000 ‘frontline’ staff comprising drivers, conductors, station staff and engineers. Sustaining this capability is dependant not only on Southeastern’s resources but also the successful engagement of Network Rail, who provide the core infrastructure including track and signalling capability.

In July 2016, Train Performance and Passenger Satisfaction survey results had dropped and were failing to meet the strategic targets set by the Executive Team. The correction of these inter-related failures was critical to delivering the best possible passenger experience. The client recognised the need to bring in external resource to bridge a capability gap and provide an objective challenge to existing practices.

Our task was to source two interim managers, each of whom would manage a Change Programme. One manager would focus on Passenger Satisfaction, the other on Train Performance. The current performance shortfalls dictated that we needed to work very closely with the Change Director to deliver an effective, fast-track resourcing solution.


Given the range of activities to be covered by the interim team, we took a more detailed brief from the client. At an early stage it was recognised that the team did not necessarily have to come from a rail background. What was paramount was the ability to work together to rapidly engage individual elements of Southeastern operations and external providers, including Network Rail.


We sourced a range of potential candidates with diverse experience gained in both rail and unrelated industries. A long list was presented to the client for their consideration.

A shortlist of preferred candidates was selected for interview from which a preferred and back up choice was made. The ground work Penna completed in pre-screening and meeting interim managers prior to submitting their details was a key ingredient in this process and ensured we delivered a good cultural and specification ‘fit’.

The client selected one candidate with significant customer, rail and transport experience, the other appointee had more general change and programme experience gained across a range of business sectors. Each interim manager was appointed to lead a substantial change programme that engaged significant elements of Southeastern’s operations and external providers, including Network Rail.

Once appointed the interim team quickly established strong relationships with their respective client base to develop a programme of change activity that featured clearly defined outputs, milestones and accountabilities. The plans and targets established were reviewed in a weekly briefing provided by the interims to the Managing Director and his team. Objective ‘two-way’ challenges and decision making were key features of these sessions.

Successful delivery of targets in the early/mid stages of the assignment resulted in both interims being extended: They each successfully delivered their goals with the net result that Train and Passenger Performance Survey results improved.

Feedback from the Client

“Both Stephen Lumb (Interim Head of Performance) and Mike Zaloga (Interim CRM Senior Customer Project Manager) brought energy and enthusiasm to drive the change required at Southeastern.  They did this through excellent stakeholder engagement which enabled them to understand the needs of the business, as well as the capability to change at the necessary pace.  Their experience and ability to flex, to suit the sector challenges was invaluable, ensuring they took people with them on the journey whilst robustly challenging the status quo.

They quickly built confidence in the Executive team by delivering against their plans, as well as giving visibility of potential issues and risks.  They also built confidence in the delivery teams by actively listening to and acting on feedback, and doing what they said they were going to do.  Colleagues have felt involved and engaged throughout the programme which has encouraged ownership and accountability throughout the organisation.

Southeastern has extended Mike’s contract to ensure we retain the energy, enthusiasm and commitment needed to create sustainable improvements in what we do and how we do things.”   

Diane Burke - Commercial Director Southeastern


To read the testimonials from the Penna interims at Southeastern, click here