Ukrainian Railways receives European Railway Award

The winners of the Awards on the stage European Railway Award

Ukrainian Railways was named Rail Champion at the European Railway Awards hosted by CER and UNIFE in Brussels on Tuesday evening. Oleksandr Pertsovskyi received the Award on behalf of Ukrzaliznytsia and its entire workforce. Eglė Šimė, CEO of LTG Cargo, received the 2023 Women in Rail Trailblazer award.

The 16th edition of the European Railway Awards was strongly marked by current events in Ukraine and the sector’s commitment to diversity, the organisers said. Jointly organised by the Association of the European Rail Supply Industry (UNIFE) and the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER), the two Awards celebrates achievements in rail by recognising the inspired individuals behind them.

Last year, Bane NOR’s ERTMS programme and Manfred Weber, Chairman of the European Parliament’s EPP Group were the winners of the European Railway Awards.

A massive ‘thank you’

“It’s an honour for the Ukrainian railway workers who keep doing their job on a daily basis despite constant shellings and infrastructure damage”, Board Member of Ukrainian Railways Oleksandr Pertsovskyi said in his acceptance speech. “We have managed to evacuate more than 4 million people by rail, 1 million of them being children. So, my first point here is a massive ‘thank you’ to all railway workers in Europe who ensured their route to safety, and to ordinary Europeans for generously hosting and caring about our children. It’s important for us, the railwaymen, to know that those children that we have saved – and paid with 327 lives for that – are cared about.

He also points out that the war is “no excuse for us to not keep enhancing our service quality and find new Euro integration routes”. Ukraine has been working on establishing more railway connections with Poland and Romania in the recent months, and is “striving for more”. “I hereby invite all the railways in Europe and beyond to help Ukraine speed up the victory, to work with us on establishing more connections, and to personally visit Kyiv by safe and comfortable trains of Ukrzaliznytsia”, concluded Pertsovskyi.

Women in rail

In addition to the Rail Champion award, the organisers chose to dedicate to Trailblazer award this year to a better representation of women in rail. This is a priority issue for the sector for CER and UNIFE, because women and girls represent more than 50 percent of the passenger rail ridership but only compose approximately 20 percent of the workforce, convinced that a more mixed workforce leads to a proven increase in problem-solving competence and innovative strength. The  2023 Rail Trailblazer is Eglė Šimė, CEO of LTG Cargo, for her focus on empowering women in railways while ably steering her company through tumultuous times.

“This award to me is about the possibility and the need to change. I feel honoured by this recognition and accept it as an encouragement to continue strengthening our company in changing our business focus from East to West and, hopefully, inspire other women in the sector to build confidence and dare choosing careers they can thrive on”, said Šimė in her acceptance speech.

The jury lauded Šimė using her leadership skills to transform the company culture by making a priority of encouraging all employees, especially women, to make the most of opportunities to learn, improve and take responsibility, and to not be afraid of change. She is an ambassador of the LTG Women Club and has mentored several female colleagues. When Šimė first joined LTG Cargo in 2019, women only constituted 19 percent of the company‘s management. Under her supervision, the number of woman managers at LTG Cargo has in just a few years reached 26 percent. Šimė is also a trailblazer in other respects, having guided her company through the biggest digitalisation project in LTG Cargo’s history, and tumultuous times due to geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe and the war in Ukraine.

The Rail Trailblazer trophy was accompanied by a 10,000-euro donation to the charity of the winner’s choice. Šimė decided to give the prize money to the Olena Zelenska Foundation, a charitable organisation set up by the First Lady of Ukraine to help restore people’s lives affected by the war.

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Author: Esther Geerts


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