South West Trains – Principles of Project Management In Practice

South West Trains, a major UK train operator, were looking for support in delivering impactful and relevant Project management training to their staff.  Feeling that off-the-shelf, accredited programmes were often too restrictive, they were seeking a bespoke solution, that could be applied in practice and that could more effectively up-skill their employees.

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As one of the UK’s major train operators South West Trains runs multitudinous routes throughout the country, offering safe and efficient travel to the UK. 

Due to the nature of the industry, the organisation is extremely complex and diverse in its areas of expertise and capability, and with around 4,500 staff supporting the network, the L&D requirements are considerable.  However, the organisation recognises that the ultimate success of its service depends on the skills and abilities of its people, and has implemented a comprehensive people development strategy to ensure this can be managed effectively.



The Problem

As one of the UK’s major train operators the customer organisation runs multitudinous route through the country

Having expressed concerns that accredited project management training felt quite restrictive and irrelevant to the challenges they faced, South West Trains were looking for a more innovative and pragmatic approach to PM training in their teams.  They were looking for something aligned with their specific business environment and needs to ensure it was put into practice in the most effective way.



The Solution

As one of the UK’s major train operators the customer organisation runs multitudinous route through the country

South West Trains approached TLD looking for support in delivering more impactful and relevant Project Management training to their staff. They were seeking something bespoke that would cover all of the necessary elements of project management training, but that would also be more closely linked and applicable to their specific place of work. To ensure this could occur, there were consultations about how to achieve this, and as a result a tailor-made project management course was created: a two day course which detailed all of the background information required to be an effective project manager, as well as using specific content relevant to the context of the organisation. This included the use of a custom case study, bespoke content related to the rail industry, and the customer's own existing project management documentation. This approach ensured that the learning could more easily be applied back in the work place, helping to improve outcomes and achieve the desired objective.



The Training

As one of the UK’s major train operators the customer organisation runs multitudinous route through the country

The training comprised of several core components; the delivery of relevant background information on the general principles of project management, context specific content, and the use of a bespoke case study to allow individuals to apply what they had learnt. The general overview was an interactive session allowing individuals to obtain the information needed to understand the principles of project management, while still having the opportunity to ask questions and see how it relates to their specific role. The use of the customer's own documentation helped contribute to this feeling of relevance. This was then followed up with a case study looking at a project to develop a new staff rest room at a local station. The delegates were required to theoretically manage the project, which would involve staff having to use temporary accommodation in the station car park whilst the building work was on-going. The work was likely to impact on the platforms with a fenced off area required until completion. From the case study Project Managers would be expected to think about the following:

  • Safety considerations with the work and the platform being partially fence off
  • Customer service considerations to ensure customers are informed of works
  • People considerations in terms of Union consultation and staff briefing
  • Efficiency looking at budget setting and contingency planning
  • Train service performance and how the work will impact train service performance

This allowed the staff to experience some of the genuine challenges and risks they may face in managing a rail related operation, and help provided much needed context to the training.



The Challenges

As one of the UK’s major train operators the customer organisation runs multitudinous route through the country

Creating highly relevant content – one of the main challenges of the programme was identifying the most effective way to deliver the content and make it relevant to the needs of the individuals attending. Due to the nature of the industry they work in, there are a number of different projects that they may become involved in, and it therefore required a great deal of consultation between TLD and the customer organisation to develop content, and specifically a case study, that could be used to achieve the desired objectives. This was accomplished by partnering withSouth West Trains to fully explore what needed to be conveyed, and using their specialist knowledge of the rail industry, and TLD’s expertise in project management to find a solution that would cover all of the pertinent information while also being immediately transferable to the workplace.




As As one of the UK’s major train operators the customer organisation runs multitudinous route through the country

During the design process there were extensive discussions and reviews to ensure that every element of the course was appropriate and relevant to those being trained. This involved collaboration between both parties and the willingness to explore new approaches to achieve the ultimate goal. The initial design was based upon an existing PM course run at TLD, but over the course of several meetings this was enhanced and redesigned to better reflect the needs of the company, and ensure their goals could be met.

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