Funding puts train operator full steam ahead

A £750,000 funding package has been secured by Birmingham-based SLC Operations.

The train operator and driver training company will use the funding to create 28 jobs, doubling its existing workforce, develop technology for new drivers and instructors and also improve its marketing strategy.

The company has secured contracts with Balfour Beatty and Colas Rail and following the procurement of its passenger operating licence, recently ran the UK’s first fully-electric mainline passenger train at the COP26 on behalf of Network Rail and VivaRail.

Cath Bellamy, managing director for SLCO said: “The last 12 months has been spent establishing the business, both from an operational and training perspective. We have also been successful in breaking into the driver hire and training markets.

Now, thanks to this new investment, we will actively develop digital technologies and continue to grow our driver hire and training provision. With our new passenger licence, we can also start to engage with organisations and local authorities about their passenger service aspirations.”

£500,000 was received from Midlands Engine Investment Fund and West Midlands Debt Fund managed by Maven Debt Finance, alongside £250,000 from an existing investor backed by the Recovery Loan Scheme.

Through SLCO’s specialist training division, The Rail Academy, it delivers driver training as well as End-Point Assessments for Level 3 driver apprentices.

SLCO says it hopes to increase the number of driver instructors available and therefore reduce the time taken to train a new driver.

In addition, it is developing a new train route simulator to allow drivers to learn, recap and be tested on specific rail routes. Other technology includes a 3D modelling and virtual reality traction training, so the user can familiarise themselves remotely with any type of rolling stock they need to operate.

Sajid Sabir, investment manager at Maven, said: “We are pleased to facilitate this investment in a business which is a genuine market innovator. SLCO’s tech-based approach presents a significant growth opportunity as well as addressing the shortage of train drivers in the rail sector.”