Ukrainian Railways and the CEO of LTG Cargo are the winners of the 2023 European Railway Award, held in Brussels on 31 January at the Royal Museums of Fine Arts.
The Rail Champion prize was presented to Ukrainian Railways (UZ) for their remarkable resilience and continuation of transport services in times of war and unimaginable hardship. During the tragic events in Ukraine, the rail company has made efforts to keep transport lines open. Since the start of the war, Ukrainian Railways have provided a lifeline to millions of displaced citizens and kept vital aid and supplies flowing through the country. Working under the most difficult and dangerous conditions, UZ employees’ heroic efforts are ensuring the continuation of transport services according to a regular railway schedule. These efforts demonstrate the enormous resilience and crisis fitness of the railway system and the importance of strong railway companies. Ukrainian Railways’ everyday struggle and ongoing achievement was deemed highly deserving of the Rail Champion Award, which also served to underline the EU community’s solidarity and support.
“It’s an honour for the Ukrainian railway workers who keep doing their job on a daily basis despite constant shellings and infrastructure damage. We have managed to evacuate more than 4 m people by rail, 1 m 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,” Board Member of Ukrainian Railways Oleksandr Pertsovskyi said when received the prize.
The second major topic of the event was better representation of women in rail. This is a priority issue for the sector, where women and girls represent more than 50% of the passenger rail ridership but only compose approximately 20% of the workforce. The Rail Trailblazer prize was dedicated to achievements promoting women in rail. Selected by a jury of policy makers, sector experts, and journalists, 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. While the subsidiary of Lithuanian Railways has faced a number of challenges in recent months, not least due to geopolitical tensions in Eastern Europe and the war in Ukraine, Eglė Šimė has not neglected the working environment and is contributing to stronger female career progression within the company. As CEO Eglė Šimė has used 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 Eglè Šimė first joined LTG Cargo in 2019, women only constituted 19% of the company‘s management. Under her supervision, the number of woman managers at LTG Cargo has in just a few years reached 26%. Ms Šimė is also a trailblazer in other respects having guided her company through the biggest digitalisation project in LTG Cargo’s history.
“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,” Eglė Šimė said.
The Rail Trailblazer trophy was accompanied by a EUR 10,000 donation to the charity of the laureate’s choice. Ms 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.
At the 2023 European Railway Award ceremony, high-level European Commission officials, Members of the European Parliament, the Swedish Presidency of the EU represented by Swedish Minister for Infrastructure and Housing Andreas Carlson, and Ukrainian Ambassador to the EU Vsevolod Chentsov.