As part of our annual Board calendar planning process, at least two Board meetings per year are held at locations where we have a local presence.
In 2016, Board meetings were held in Cologne, Germany and Toronto, Canada. Such meetings provide an important opportunity for the Board to visit our operations first-hand and to engage both formally and informally with local management and front-line staff.
From Cologne, the Non-Executive Directors undertook a return trip to Wuppertal on the RB48 regional stopping service forming part of the Rhine-Münster Express line which our German Rail division launched in December 2015. The Directors were impressed with the quality and safety features of our new National Express liveried trains. They also took the opportunity to engage directly with the train staff to understand local operational issues and challenges.
Similarly, in Toronto, where we have both a School Bus operation serving schools in the Greater Toronto Area and a Transit business, the Board took the opportunity to visit several Customer Service Centres where Directors spent time talking with drivers, maintenance technicians and local management to gain a flavour of their local business.
Also during the year, several of our Non-Executive Directors took individual trips to our ALSA, UK Bus and Bahrain Bus businesses in order to deepen their knowledge of the Group’s operations. Attendance by Non-Executive Directors at our Group Values Awards held in London each year and at our NX Network events for our graduate intake is also much appreciated by our employees and provides an excellent opportunity for a mutual exchange of views. In particular, for our pool of high potential talent, such engagement can be a source of inspiration. Colleagues from management also regularly attend and present at Board meetings, enabling Non-Executive Directors to meet senior management across the businesses and to understand the challenges they face.
Overall, getting out and about in the business and engaging with colleagues outside the confines of the Board room has given our Non-Executive Directors a useful cultural insight into how our business operates which, in turn, informs effective Board discussions.
Ashley Steel’s induction process
In January 2016, Dr Ashley Steel joined our Board as an independent Non-Executive Director, bringing with her knowledge across a range of sectors, particularly in transport. Ashley’s induction programme included visits to a number of our national offices and operational locations, including Bahrain, North America and Morocco. Here are her first-hand impressions:
“Being able to see the operations in action really brings home how Driving Out Harm is far more than just words. Seeing our extensive safety checks being carried out day in, day out, brought home how important we take the safety of the people we carry.
“In Bahrain, I was able to witness first-hand what it means to take an existing city bus network and, in a short timeframe, reinvent it from the bottom up. This included recruiting and training over 700 new drivers from abroad. I was deeply impressed with what the National Express international team had achieved. The operation stands out as a model for other cities and countries to mirror.”