Who are the rising stars in UK public transport? Passenger Transport has teamed up with Flash Forward Consulting, the executive search, selection and interim management specialists, to identify 40 dynamic passenger transport professionals under the age of 40


Alex Warner writes – It’s been a great privilege to present this feature and showcase some of the fabulous young talent in the transport industry. What a heartening task it has been for the judging panel to deliberate and learn of some of the really varied talents and achievements of such a cross-section of stars of today and tomorrow!

We could have chosen hundreds, rather than 40, such is the strength in depth across all sectors, so apologies for those who missed out – we won’t suggest there was a sophisticated scientific algorithm that came up with the fab 40! At Flash Forward Consulting and Passenger Transport, we are very deeply embedded in the transport sector, so our knowledge, network, experience and insights were key to the decisions taken and we also sought and received recommendations from many folk, including those under 40. Although we’ve split the feature into 3 categories, the numbers next to names don’t constitute any ranking.

We hope you enjoy this feature and find it insightful and fun – if you are not familiar with some of the names now, flash forward to the 2020s and I’m sure you will be…


1. David Bradford, 38
Managing Director, National Express Bus

One of the mainstays of the National Express senior team, David was promoted to Managing Director of the UK bus division in November 2018. An all-rounder, he played key roles on National Express’s international bids whilst overseeing the commercial department for several years. Previously at First Group, David is renowned for his analytical and intellectual rigour.

2. Clare Burles, 38
Business Change Director, Stagecoach UK Bus

Clare is one of a small team who have crossed sectors, starting her career at Midland Mainline before becoming Human Resources Director for East Midlands Trains then People Director at Virgin Trains East Coast. She then moved into Stagecoach’s bus division in 2018, heading up its transformation team where her fresh perspective and approach to people and customer service is seen as pivotal.

3. Robert Williams, 36
Chief Executive, Reading Buses

Born and bred in Reading, Robert returned home in October 2018 to head up the town’s bus company. Previously he was Commercial Director for Stagecoach South West. Robert started his career as a conductor for Reading Buses in 1999.

4. Alan Riley 37
Customer Services Director, Chiltern Railways

Alan has a wealth of experience already in his career having worked for successful rail brands, Great Western, Virgin and Chiltern. He was appointed Customer Services Director at Chiltern in September 2017 and is renowned for his focus on using customer insight to drive improvements in customer satisfaction.

5. Simon Loh, 35
Regional Managing Director, Arriva Southern Counties

Learning his trade at Lehman Brothers and Ernst and Young before joining Crossrail, Simon made his mark at Arriva, initially as Finance Director in London, before being plucked into the spotlight as Regional Managing Director for Southern Counties where he has calmly overseen a gradual turnaround of the business.

6. Alex Hornby, 37
Chief Executive, Transdev Blazefield

With successful spells in operations and commercial at Stagecoach and Go Ahead, Alex really came to prominence as Commercial Director for TrentBarton where he created Mr Mango and other successful brands before becoming Chief Executive of Blazefield in 2015.

7. Anna-Jane Hunter, 36
Director, North of England Rail, Network Rail

Operations and Account management roles at Network Rail preceded Anna-Jane joining First TransPennine Express in 2012 where she was Head of Resource Planning. An MBA then followed from Manchester University before Anna returned to Network Rail in August 2018 as Director, North of England.

8. Martijn Gilbert, 36
Managing Director, Go North East

An energetic, customer-centric talent, Martijn forged a name for himself in Arriva’s rail replacement department, before heading up its Yorkshire Tiger bus business. He was then headhunted for the Reading Buses CEO role in 2014 where he presided over numerous awards. He became Managing Director for Go North East in 2018.

9. Rob Mullen, 38
Operations Director, GWR

Rob has risen through the ranks, starting his career in consultancy, before joining c2c in 2007 as Route Performance Manager, then Depot Driver Manager and Senior Driver Manager. He followed his boss Mark Hopwood to Great Western, undertaking regional and general management roles before becoming Operations Director in July 2016.

10. Charlotte Whitfield, 34
General Manager, Arriva Rail London

With experience in both bus and rail as well as at G4S, Charlotte has progressed quickly from her role as a graduate trainee to a substantial General Manager post at Arriva Rail London in 2017.

11. Amanda White, 37
Head of Rail, TfGM

University of Leeds graduate, Amanda has enjoyed a varied career initially in engineering roles at Network Rail, moving to HST where she was Senior Route Engineer (North West). In December 2014, she took on the high profile post of Head of Rail at Transport for Greater Manchester.

12. Ben Wakerley, 37
Managing Director, Warrington’s Own Buses

After proving his worth in general management roles in London for First Bus, Ben became Operations Director for National Express’s managed coach business, before heading up Abellio’s Surrey and London operation. He then took his first MD role in 2017 at the helm of Warrington’s Own Buses, making his mark initially with the introduction of the Cheshire Cat brand.

13. Andrew Sherrington, 35
Managing Director, First Cymru

A Stagecoach graduate trainee and operations manager, Andrew spent four years at Go South Coast before making the short move West in 2015 as General Manager, First Somerset and Avon, then Operations Director, First West of England before being promoted to Managing Director First Cymru in May 2018.


14. Helge Ramboel, 38
International Development Director, National Express

With a distinction in his MBA from Alliance Manchester Business School and a First Class BA Hons in International Marketing and Business, Norwegian born Helge rose through the ranks at KPMG to Director, Transport. He then joined National Express in May 2017 as its International Development Director.

15. Alan Penlington, 38
Customer Experience Director, South Western Railway

A successful career at Virgin Atlantic which included heading up their cabin crew function and also customer experience and product management posts, preceded Alan breaking into rail in 2018 as Customer Experience Director for South Western Railway. Alan is widely regarded for his strategic thinking and fresh approach.

16. Stacy Thundercliffe, 35
Fleet Technical Manager, First TransPennine Express

Stacy has enjoyed 13 years in railway engineering roles. She has been Contract Manager for the Voyager fleet at Cross Country Trains, before moving to her post as Fleet Technical Manager at TransPennine Express.

17. Helen Lee, 32
Head of Operations (Bus & Coach), Transport for London

A rail operations graduate trainee at First Group, Helen progressed to driver manager roles at then First Great Western, before moving to MTR Crossrail as Area Depot Manager and progressing to Head of Drivers. In April 2018, she became Head of Bus and Coach Operations at Transport for London.

18. Daniel Laird, 29
Commercial Director, Stagecoach Scotland North

Starting his career as a bus driver with First, Daniel taught English in Nantes, France and then became Head of Factual Programming for Glasgow University’s Student Television channel. He then joined First’s graduate training scheme, becoming Commercial Manager for its Aberdeen subsidiary before moving to Stagecoach as Commercial Director for North Scotland in December 2017.

19. Lorna Dodds, 36
Operations Director, Abellio London

Newcastle graduate Lorna, started her career at National Express before joining Abellio in 2009 as Operations Manager for its London bus business. A spell as Operations Standards Manager followed before she became Operations Director in March 2017.

20. Matt Kitchin, 39
Operations Director, Stagecoach Manchester

Experienced in commercial and operations, Matt has enjoyed a varied career already, initially as a graduate trainee then Commercial Manager at First before heading up Southern Vectis for Go Ahead. He joined Stagecoach in 2017 as Operations Director and has a reputation for being very customer focussed.

21. Lawrence Bowman, 37
Commercial Director, East Midlands Trains

Apart from a spell as National Safety Development Manager at CF Asia Pacific Group, Lawrence has been Stagecoach through and through. Starting his career at SWT in a rolling stock related role, he played key bid roles for Stagecoach, before becoming Head of On-Train for East Midlands Trains, rising to Commercial Director in 2016.

22. Thomas Ableman, 37
Founder and CEO, Snap

One of the transport sector’s true entrepreneurs, former National Express graduate trainee Thomas undertook senior roles in its bus and coach division before becoming Marketing Director for open access rail company Wrexham and Shropshire. He then spent just under seven years as Commercial Director for Chiltern, leaving in 2016 to set up demand-responsive coach company Snap.

23. Robert Hutchings, 28
Area Manager (London Central), Arriva London

Robert scooped the ‘Gold Winner Award’ in the Young Bus Manager of the Year category at the 2018 UK Bus Awards. He joined Arriva as general manager in 2017 from Stagecoach where he undertook operational management roles, having started his career on the graduate trainee scheme in 2012.

24. Laura Hadzik, 33
Road Transport Solicitor, Backhouse Jones

With a law degree from the University of Manchester, Laura became a solicitor in road transport and regulatory law for Aaron & Partners, then joined JWW Solicitors in a similar role in 2012. Since 2014, she has been a renowned solicitor across the transport sector for Backhouse Jones.

25. Dennis Yau, 35
Commercial Director, Arriva Southern Counties

Described as one of Arriva’s brightest brains, Dennis spent the first five years of his career in Hong Kong, including a spell at Bank of China. He joined Arriva as a Commercial Analyst in 2010 then rose to Head of Commercial Modelling for the bus division before making the move in 2018 to Commercial Director for its Southern Counties subsidiary.

26. Lawrence Wilson, 38
Director of London, HCT Group

A First graduate trainee, after four years Lawrence joined National Express in 2008, undertaking operational management roles before moving to HCT Group in 2012. The highly customer-focused and popular Lawrence started as a Regional Manager and is now Director of London for the community transport operator.

27. James Brooke, 32
Director of Customer Integration, TfW – Rail Services

Seen as one of the high flyers as Keolis grows its market, James undertook consultancy posts for Peter Brett Associates, Leigh Fisher and Systra as well as spell as a Bid Associate for Eversholt Rail Group. He then worked as Head of Business Analysis at Keolis and played a key role on its successful bid for the Wales franchise. Following that contract award, he has now moved permanently into a post for Transport for Wales as Director of Customer Integration

28. Rebecca Green, 37
Marketing, Press and Events Manager, Optare

Graduating from University of York in 2003 with a degree in Psychology, Rebecca has been on the Board of Make-York. Since 2014, she has been Marketing, Press and Events Manager for Optare.

29. Peter Kalton, 39
Programme Manager (Change), Network Rail

A former National Express graduate trainee, Peter had a spell at South Eastern Trains before returning to National Express in customer experience and bidding roles. He then became Head of Infrastructure and Projects at LOROL and moved to MTR Crossrail as Deputy Programme Director. Since 2017, Peter has been on secondment to Network Rail as their lead on the Crossrail programme.

30. Lewis Brencher, 32
Director of Communications, TfW

A graduate trainee at Arriva Wales 10 years ago, Lewis’s career has been a mix of stations management and stakeholder relations roles before becoming Head of Communications and now Director of Communications for Transport for Wales.

31. Ben Gilligan, 38
Area Director, EYMS (part of Go North East)

Former FirstGroup graduate trainee, Ben ended up heading their York and South Yorkshire subsidiary companies before joining South Yorkshire PTE in 2016 as Director of Public Transport. He moved back to the private sector last December as Area Director for Go Ahead’s newly acquired East Yorkshire Motor Services.


32. Shalando Williams, 28
Head of Operations, Metrobus, First West of England

Shalando joined First in 2013 as a Bus Operations Programme Graduate Trainee. He undertook placements at First Aberdeen and Glasgow and is now heading up First West of England’s Metrobus business.

33. Duane Henderson, 33
Director of Operations, Warrington’s Own Buses

A Great Britain Karate Champion, Duane was previously an Operations Manager for Arriva on Merseyside, before moving to Warrington’s Own Buses to head up its operation in 2017. He has a reputation for being a great leader of people.

34. Sinting Chung, 37
CRM Manager, Chiltern Railways

With an HND in Beauty Therapy and Business Management and then a BA Hons in Marketing Management at Birmingham University, Sinting has forged a pathway into being a definitive CRM expert in the rail sector, firstly at Virgin Trains and since 2015 as CRM Manager for Chiltern.

35. Ragheb Aga, 34
Programme Manager, First Class Partnerships

Ragheb was an international cricketer for Kenya and also played for Surrey and Sussex. He then held senior programme management roles at Stagecoach in its business development team where his customer-driven and organised approach gained admirers. He joined consultancy First Class Partnerships in October 2018 and is working for them on an assignment in Canada.

36. Samyutha Balasubramaniam, 31
Customer Experience Strategy Manager, GWR

A varied career that has included spells in dentistry and for Boots, Samyutha joined Great Western Railway in 2014 rising to the post of Duty Station Manager and now Customer Experience Strategy Manager. Her approach to developing customer-centric solutions to service disruption management is highly acclaimed.

37. Rebecca Reeve-Burnett, 28
Sales & Operations Manager, VAMOOZ

Rebecca started her career as a Caseworker for local MP and former Buses Minister, Andrew Jones. During that time she joined Harrogate Borough Council and took the role of Cabinet Member for Planning and Sustainable Transport. A spell as a veterinary recruitment consultant followed before she joined Transdev Blazefield in April 2017, setting up and running it’s crowd-funded, innovative VAMOOZ product, and in doing so changed council portfolios to focus solely on Planning.

38. Amy Edgar, 28
Communications and Engagement Officer – Accessibility, TfL

With a degree in Fashion Communication from Birmingham University, Amy manages a number of projects to make London’s transport network more accessible for older and disabled customers. She joined Transport for London in 2013 having undertaken marketing roles for a jewellers and was previously Creative Director for Tantrum Magazine.

39. Georgia Ehrmann, 26
Commercial Timetable Manager, Virgin Trains

Cambridge graduate and former teaching assistant, Georgia started her career in transport in 2014 at Chiltern where she became Network Development Manager before moving to Northern as Track Access Manager in March 2017. She is now Commercial Timetable Manager at Virgin Trains and a high flyer in more ways than one, having also gained a Private Pilot’s Licence.

40. Dr Clare Linton, 30
Researcher (Policy), Urban Transport Group

Clare joined the Urban Transport Group in 2016, to conduct research across a range of transport policy areas including health, social inclusion, sustainability and data in transport. She had just completed a PhD in Low Carbon Technologies at the University of Leeds, which saw her research the potential to reduce emissions from urban transport.


  • Lee Cowap, Managing Director, Recruitment, Flash Forward Consulting
  • Karen Doores, Director (HR Services) & Consultant, Flash Forward Consulting
  • Roger French, Patron of the Young Bus Managers Network and blogger (BusAndTrainUser.com)
  • Robert Jack, Managing Editor, Passenger Transport
  • John Nelson, Chairman, Flash Forward Consulting
  • Alex Warner, Chief Executive, Flash Forward Consulting


Flash Forward Consulting