John Hayhurst, from East Coast Mainline, on HR change on the railways

John Hayhurst has been head of HR at East Coast Mainline for four years.

John Hayhurst, East Coast Mainline

He was previously head of HR at National Express, during the two years when Great North Eastern Railway (GNER) was part of the National Express Group. He has also been an HR business services manager at GNER, formerly part of British Rail.

Hayhurst, who has worked in the railway industry for 30 years, says: “I’ve seen a considerable amount of change through the industry, from the British Rail days to the big split of train-operating organisations.”

His first job was as a clerical officer for British Rail Engineering, then a subsidiary of British Rail. He then moved to the personnel office at eastern region headquarters.

“It was the personnel office at the depot, which covered everything from uniforms to payroll,” he says. “I progressed through the grades up to head of HR, which is where I am at the moment.”

Hayhurst has taken part in the centralisation and decentralisation of HR throughout the UK railway industry’s years of change. “One of the key things I did as part of GNER’s franchise was to centralise the HR team,” he says. “We used to have four or five people at each particular hub along the route: Edinburgh, Newcastle, York, Leeds, Doncaster and London.

“Each one of those hubs had an HR team, a payroll team, and a learning and development team. One of the main objectives was to become more efficient and, as technology improved, we were able to do that. So we centralised to a single HR service centre.”