Managers in Public Transport: Michael Beckmann, Danish State Railways

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Excellent public transport systems would not be possible without the efforts and leadership of dedicated managers across the sector. From operators, to organising authorities, and industry workers, our managers need to put forward strong action plans, project proposals and a shared vision to advance public transport in our cities.

UITP’s flagship training course, Diploma Programme for Managers in Public Transport, an expert-level yearlong course composed of three modules in three different countries, has been supporting some of the greatest managers in our sector for many years.

We thought it would be interesting to have a chat with some of our alumni from this training programme, to see where they are now and what advice they have to give to future (or current) managers in public transport.

We sat down with Michael Beckmann, Vice President of Rolling Stock, Danish State Railways, who participated in our 2004-2005 second edition of the Managers in Public Transport training course. 

What are some of the main challenges in your daily work as a manager working in the public transport sector?

My current role as VP Rolling Stock at DSB in Denmark is focused on Asset Management of the train fleet, so in short, the main challenge is to keep the trains running. We have a relatively old fleet and thus face specific challenges. One is around keeping fleet availability and reliability high, i.e. how much to invest in life extensions. Another one is how to offer an attractive product to our passengers while minimising the time vehicles spend in the workshop. There is always a trade-off between costs, time (especially vehicle time out of traffic) and risks.

What are the important skills and values you want to instil in your team?

Honesty, focus and reliability. Let me explain. With honesty I mean that it always pays to be authentic and honest - for example, we see too much "overoptimistic time plans" in projects these days and very often do team members have a good feeling for what is realistic. Focus to me means that it pays to prioritise in your team so that you make progress on a few selected things rather than drowning in a large amount of projects. Lastly, reliability means to that you agree on a certain delivery and timing and then you just deliver. A lot of time is wasted in re-planning or "fire-fighting" these days!

You were in one of the first diploma training programmes from UITP on Managers in Public Transport. As a graduate, what were some of the key takeaways you remember getting from this programme?

That has been a long time ago, but some contacts still live on. For example, I have good memories of meeting Mohamed Mezghani in one of our training sessions in Budapest. For me, the main take-away was to get a comprehensive understanding of the entire public transit ecosystem. Coming from a job in industry, it was especially interesting to learn about traffic contracts and the work of authorities.

the main take-away was to get a comprehensive understanding of the entire public transit ecosystem

Could you name a few of your proudest achievements as a manger in public transport?

Very recently, we have completed the first "cosmetic upgrade" of the interior of an IC3 train, which is the backbone of our fleet. In my view, the real achievement with this project is that we managed it in very short time and for the IC3 interior without extra time for the vehicles to be out of traffic because we included it in a larger revision. Overall, it took us a bit over a year from a rough idea to upgrade the exterior and interior of our fleet to having the first results back in traffic. This means we hired a designer, agreed on the "design language" across the entire fleet, developed exterior and interior designs for specific types, ran procurement and then started implementing. Another project further back I would like to mention is the Suzhou tram. I was still at Bombardier and we started with a vision to bring our tram technology to China. We found a partner (CRRC Puzhen in Nanjing) negotiated a cooperation and technology transfer contract, jointly won the order and delivered the tram - and it is a good-looking tram!

What advice would you give to those beginning their careers in public transport and interested in advancing to a managerial position?

Stay curious and look out for a "good boss" who will help you broaden your horizon and challenge you with new tasks.

The Diploma Programme for Managers in Public Transport includes case study teaching with cases from Harvard Business Publishing based on real public transport facts and situations developed by world leading universities like Harvard University. It is just one of many training programmes offered by UITP’s Centre for Training that is supported by Harvard case studies.

Following the overwhelming success of the 2018-2019 edition, UITP is launching a new edition of the Diploma Programme for Managers in Public Transport in 2019. The three modules will take place in Hong Kong in April, Lisbon in June and Brussels in October. Register soon to secure your seat!

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