Rail driver training company secures £750,000 from MEIF Maven

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SLC Operations, a Birmingham-based licensed train operating and driver training company, has received £500,000 from the Midlands Engine Investment Fund’s West Midlands Debt Fund and £250,000 from an existing investor, backed by the Recovery Loan Scheme.

Published: Dec 14, 2021
Focus: MEIF Maven Debt Finance

The funding will help the business to develop new products and bolster marketing strategy and create 28 skilled jobs in the region, doubling SLCO’s existing workforce of more than 20 staff.

SLCO hires qualified train drivers to passenger, freight, and track maintenance rail operators throughout the UK. Through its specialist training division, The Rail Academy, it delivers train driver training and support as well as End-Point Assessments for Level 3 train driver apprentices.

The new driver training provided by the Rail Academy will help to address this by increasing the number of driver instructors available and substantially reducing the time taken to train a new driver. SLCO is leading the industry by developing its own online learning platform and digital learning materials, supported by classroom-based activity where appropriate.

Other technology led solutions include new 3D modelling and virtual reality traction training materials – enable the user to familiarise themselves remotely with any type of rolling stock they need to operate. SLCO is also developing a train route simulator that will allow train drivers to learn, recap and be tested on specific rail routes.

The company has secured notable contracts with the likes of Balfour Beatty and Colas Rail and most recently, following the achievement of its passenger operating licence, ran the UK’s first fully electric mainline passenger train at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26) on behalf of Network Rail and VivaRail.

SLCO is led by Cath Bellamy, Managing Director, who has almost 30 years of experience in the UK rail sector, previously holding Managing Director positions at Chiltern Railways, Hull Trains and Vintage Trains.

“The last 12 months has been spent establishing the business, both from an operational and training perspective. We have also been successful breaking into the driver hire and training markets. Now, thanks to this new investment, we will actively develop the 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.”

Cath Bellamy, Managing Director for SLCO

“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. Its management team is highly experienced and boasts longstanding industry relationships, and we look forward to working with them to continue the growth which they have thus far managed to oversee despite the impact of the pandemic.”

Sajid Sabir, Investment Manager at Maven

“As the MEIF continues to support the financial landscape for SMEs across the Midlands, it’s great to see another example of a business set to utilise this funding to create skilled jobs in the West Midlands region. In SLCO’s case, a further 28 skilled jobs are set to be created as a result of this new funding. We would encourage other businesses in the West Midlands looking to grow, to consider the funding options available through MEIF.”

Ryan Cartwright, Senior Manager at the British Business Bank

 “Like many sectors, the rail industry is undergoing a technical transformation. With this latest investment, SLCO will be one of the companies leading the way in using new, innovative ways to train and upskill new drivers. It highlights how investing in people is just as important as the track and trains.  We recognise the important role skills delivery plays in being a catalyst for economic recovery. That’s why ensuring people have the right skills for the right jobs is a major priority for GBSLEP. We will continue to work with our public, private and academic partners to deliver our skills programme and activities which includes a dedicated GBSLEP Skills and Apprenticeship Hub.”

Mike Lyons, Board Director for Improving Connectivity at Greater Birmingham and Solihull Local Enterprise Partnership (GBSLEP)

If your business is in need of finance to help unlock its growth potential, MEIF Maven Debt Finance may be able to help. Contact Maven’s local team on 0121 231 7125 today to find out more.

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