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Baughan, R and Crapper, M (2016) Competence Management in the UK Heritage Railway Industry. In: Chan, P W and Neilson, C J (Eds.), Proceedings 32nd Annual ARCOM Conference, 5-7 September 2016, Manchester UK. Association of Researchers in Construction Management, 519–528.
- Type: Conference Proceedings
- Keywords: heritage railway, safety, competence, volunteer
- ISBN/ISSN: 978-0-9955463-0-1
- URL: http://www.arcom.ac.uk/-docs/proceedings/778d9103f5aa3004cabd97efb1d3695e.pdf
There are over 100 heritage railways in the UK, operated primarily by volunteers. They run vintage trains for leisure and tourism and also undertake construction work in the form of track and infrastructure maintenance including significant new-build.
Safety is a key issue in heritage railway activity. Recent accidents, including a fatality in 2012 on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway, have led to competence management being highlighted as a key issue to be addressed by the industry. Factors such as the volunteer culture, the prevailing language, the diversity of skills, qualifications and learning abilities, are all key factors to be addressed in managing competence effectively.
The research project is studying this issue in four key areas of the heritage railway activity: infrastructure construction and maintenance, rail operations, managing change and the responsibilities of directors.
Quantitative research methods (positivism) are being applied in the field on representative heritage railways including analysis of accident statistics, deviances from standards and competence based issues. In conjunction with this, qualitative research methods (interpretivism) are being applied involving a combination of interviews with volunteer workers and participant observation (practice theory).
So far, four meetings with management at two heritage railways, and two interviews conducted with workers at one heritage railway, have validated the relevance of the project and the importance of ensuring the competence of all staff to maintain the viability of the industry. Issues such as making the most of the existing skills that volunteers bring, providing appropriate training and the importance of ensuring that workers are provided with competent co-workers have been identified so far as key issues affecting the motivation and engagement of volunteers.
The research project is ongoing. The intention is to identify and recommend a new approach to competence management that is appropriate to the specific needs of the heritage railway industry.