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05 Mar 2024

Southeastern becomes UK’s first rail operator to publish Social Mobility Action Plan

Southeastern becomes UK’s first rail operator to publish Social Mobility Action Plan: Social Mobility Action Plan launch event-8

  • New partnership between Southeastern and The Purpose Coalition
  • Formal launch event held in Parliament
  • Social Mobility Action Plan sets out how Southeastern will help the communities and regions it serves to fulfil their potential 

A new report which highlights the role that the rail industry can play in boosting social mobility has been published by  Southeastern and The Purpose Coalition.

Southeastern is one of the country’s biggest and busiest rail operators, linking south-east London, Kent and parts of East Sussex. Its extensive network spans a diverse region, encompassing thriving cities, underserved suburbs and scenic rural landscapes, including coastal areas.

With a workforce of over 4,500 people and working closely with Network Rail, it provides over 1,700 train services and up to 500,000 passenger journeys per day.

The Social Mobility Action Plan charts Southeastern’s activities to boost social mobility against the framework of the Purpose Goals which map out 14 barriers to opportunity. These include various life stages alongside wider issues such as good health and well-being alongside sustainable communities.

Despite the South East having one of the lowest proportions of the country’s social mobility ‘coldspots’ at just eight per cent - it is a region that is also home to areas of severe deprivation. Thanet, for example, is the 52nd worst-performing area in the UK for social mobility and most of its key indicators are below the national average.   

As a company, Southeastern is deeply committed to the wellbeing of its employees, customers and the communities it serves, and the report showcases the range of work it is already undertaking to support them.

It is building a pipeline of talent, ensuring that its staff have the hi-tech skills the industry needs with work placements, specialised apprenticeship programmes and a train driver pathway that recognises the importance of increased diversity in its organisation. It is also working hard to attract and retain more women into its workforce, including in management roles, through better career pathways and an improved health and wellbeing offering.

Southeastern is fully committed to building a better, more reliable and sustainable railway which supports the increasing number of customers who want to travel in an environmentally friendly way on an all-electric railway. Over 125 million journeys were made in the last year which is a year-on-year increase of 9%.    

As part of Southeastern’s commitment to exploring how it could extend its social impact, the report features several key recommendations for further action:

  • Industry leadership and advocacy on mental health, leveraging its position as an anchor institution in the communities it serves
  • Enhance internal progression opportunities, with a specific focus on promoting gender diversity and embracing neurodiversity
  • Amplify community impact by building an early talent pipeline through strategic outreach initiatives with schools, colleges, and further education institutions in areas of deprivation
  • Regional leader on health and wellbeing in collaboration with other local partners.

Chair of the Purpose Coalition and former Transport Secretary, Rt Hon Justine Greening, said:

“The rail sector is a great connector – of places, of people and of businesses.

"During my time in the Cabinet, and particularly when I was Transport Secretary, I saw first-hand how vital that connectivity was for economic growth. Southeastern recognises its potential as a force for good and has been very clear as a business that it is keen to extend this as far as possible, willing at every stage to measure and evaluate its progress.

"Our partnership has allowed us to explore the ways it can do that which will make a positive difference for its colleagues, its customers and its communities.

“It can be too easy to stereotype regions, with parts of the country being depicted as either wealthy or left behind. In fact, in almost all parts of the country, it is a much more complex picture, with areas of great deprivation running closely alongside areas of privilege.

"This report, and the recommendations for further action it contains, shows how effectively Southeastern has leant into the communities it serves to ensure that it continues to deliver opportunity as widely as possible, closely targeted to those who need it most.”

Steve White, Managing Director at Southeastern Railway said:

“We are fiercely committed to supporting the cities, towns and communities that we serve throughout south-east London, Kent and parts of East Sussex.

“We know railways are not just a means of travel, they can support economic investment, unlock growth and prosperity, and provide access to employment, education and training opportunities for millions of people.

“That is why we are delighted to become the first UK rail operator to publish a Social Mobility Action Plan, clearly setting out our work to date as well as the future opportunities to do more.

“This plan sits alongside our Social Value Report, which demonstrates the scale of our investment in the Southeastern region and the opportunities we are proud to provide to those who live and work here.

“I would like to thank Justine and everyone at the Purpose Coalition for their help and support in bringing us to this stage and I look forward to working with them, and other likeminded organisations, to do much more in the future.”

Contact information

Andrew Commons

Head of External Communications

Southeastern Railway


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