Railway staff sleeping on platform for charity

Railway professionals asleep on the job for good reason

Railway staff sleeping on platform for charity2023, Volker Rail

This week, rail customers may be concerned to discover their normally vigilant railway staff curled up in doorways and platforms around the network. This shocking state of affairs has left many people deeply worried about the welfare of hard working railway men and women. In fact, the sleeping shunters and dozing drivers are raising awareness of a much less fortunate part of society. They are swapping their warm beds at home for the cold floors of major railway stations and installations. For just one night, they will be helping to support the many children who face this sort of hardship, every day, around the world.

Often called the fundraising event you can do in your sleep, the annual Railway Children Sleepout is back this Thursday (2 February). The highly successful fundraiser will, once again, see the caring side of the railway industry demonstrated in very public circumstances. Several hundred rail professionals have already pledged to take part. Each year, the British Transport Police find up to 10,000 children in danger across the UK rail network, often with no one to care for them or protect them.

Eight major stations hosting Sleepout

Participation in the Sleepout is open to all sectors in the rail industry, including staff at passenger and freight operators, and in the supply chain. From Loughborough to Land’s End, staff have been encouraged to put their sleeping bags out and spend a night highlighting the acute challenges faced in supporting vulnerable young people who face hardship every day around the world.

In the UK, eight major stations are signed up to host Sleepout events. Last year, the effort raised 172,000 pounds (205,000 euro) in sponsorship. Those funds have gone towards helping the Railway Children charity offer support and protection to over 350,000 children since its inception 27 years ago. 

The official participating stations for Sleepout 2023:

  • Glasgow Central
  • Manchester Piccadilly
  • Derby
  • Birmingham New Street
  • Swansea
  • London Waterloo
  • London St Pancras
  • London Liverpool Street

Ambassadors on the platform

Nine senior leaders from across the rail industry have committed to supporting the Sleepout by becoming ambassadors of the charity’s fundraising initiative. They’ll all be sleeping out themselves. Among them is Steve Cocliff, the managing director of engineering firm VolkerRail. “Although this event won’t replicate the situation faced by young people who have left home, who are homeless or are living in extreme poverty, it is hugely important that we join forces with our industry colleagues to help shine a light on the problems and difficulties children face when running away from home”, he explained. “This is just one night, where you will sleep on a cold, uncomfortable floor, but you can bring sleeping bags, and will be under cover, and with colleagues – much more than thousands of young people across the UK.”

Crowd supporting railway workers sleeping on concourse for charity
Not so quiet zone. Staff sleep out on the concourse at Manchester Piccadilly station. Image: Volker Rail

With pandemic concerns behind them, the organisers are hoping for an even bigger response this year. “We must remember that the younger generation is our future. It is vitally important that we do all we can for every child who needs extra support, helping them, and getting their lives on a better journey”, said Terina Keene, the cheif executive of Railway Children charity. “The Sleepout helps us raise awareness of the problems young people face and the work we do alongside the British Transport Police and the rail industry. We have to say a huge thank you to our sponsor, VolkerRail. Together we can make a vital difference to the lives of so many children.”

Author: Simon Walton

Simon Walton is UK correspondent for RailTech.com and Railfreight.com

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