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Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris joins Thameslink and Great Northern MD Tom Moran (far right), Groundwork London's Director of Youth Employment and Skills Graham Parry and Kickstart trainee Abdallah Ghanmi (with watering can)
Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris joins Thameslink and Great Northern MD Tom Moran (far right), Groundwork London's Director of Youth Employment and Skills Graham Parry and Kickstart trainee Abdallah Ghanmi (with watering can)

Press release -

Rail Minister digs in to help stations and local youngsters bloom

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Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris dug in today with young people taking their first steps into a horticultural career by working on landscaping projects at Thameslink and Great Northern stations across London.

A partnership between train operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) and environmental charity Groundwork London has created a unique opportunity for green-fingered recruits to gain new skills on the job and improve their long-term employment chances. 

The charity has recruited four youngsters onto its “Green Team” training programme through the Government’s Kickstart scheme, which supports previously unemployed 16- to 24-year-olds into work placements. [See editor's notes for case study of one of the new Green Team recruits.]

The Minister was supporting the partnership at Alexandra Palace station, one of 18 London stations where the Green Team trainees have been planting new gardens for passengers and local communities to enjoy. They receive 26 weeks of paid work experience and training, the chance to gain City & Guilds Horticulture and Employability qualifications, and practical job-hunting support.

The Green Team’s 18 station projects include wildflower gardens to aid biodiversity and save water, and bee gardens to encourage and protect pollinators, vital to the world’s food chains. At Alexandra Palace, large timber planters and planters with seating have been installed to add colour and scent, with plants chosen to act as pollinators and encourage local biodiversity.

Rail Minister Chris Heaton-Harris, said: “It was fantastic to visit Alexandra Palace station and put in a shift alongside one of Groundwork’s Green Teams as they brought new life to a station. As we build back better, we remain committed to improving stations, making our railways greener and providing new skills and jobs through the excellent Kickstart campaign.”

Minister for Employment Mims Davies MP, said: “It’s great to see our Plan for Jobs changing lives in difficult times. Green jobs is an important part of our recovery, and the skills these young people will develop through the Kickstart Scheme puts them in a great position to develop a career in a flourishing industry.”

Tom Moran, Managing Director for Thameslink and Great Northern, said: “Over the past year, we’ve been investing in our stations to create an even better experience for our passengers as they return to the railway. Our partnership with Groundwork London’s Green Teams is helping local young people gain great experience, as well as making our stations more colourful and environmentally friendly places for the local communities they serve.”

Graham Parry, Director of Youth Employment and Skills, Groundwork London, said: “We’ve long believed that the best way to help young people start a career is to give them a job, and Kickstart will enable Groundwork London to offer this stepping stone into the green economy for over 200 unemployed young people this year. Our partnership with GTR enables us to offer these young people real work experience in high profile public spaces. The skills they will learn and pride they can take from completing these wonderful projects will prepare them well for their future career.”

The Minister’s visit marks a milestone in GTR’s network-wide station improvement programme, which includes over 1,000 individual projects at more than 250 stations. Much of the work has been suggested by local passenger and community groups. Almost 100 stations are benefiting from landscaping enhancements.

As passengers return to Alexandra Palace station, they will also enjoy a refurbished waiting room, an automatic door on the front of the platform shelter, and a GTR-funded mural in the foyer, painted by local artist Edward Quigley who was commissioned by the Friends of Alexandra Palace Station. Also planned are upgraded customer information systems, and a defibrillator that will be available for public use if needed for anyone in or near the station.


Notes to editors

Case study – Abdullah Ghanmi, Groundwork Green Team Kickstart recruit

Abdullah Ghanmi, 21, lives with his mum, dad and two brothers a few stops down the line from Alexandra Palace station, in Holloway, Islington.

He joined the Groundwork team only a few days ago, through the six-month Kickstart scheme, and is already loving it.

“After I left school I studied Electrician Level 1 but didn’t complete the year for personal reasons. I was doing nothing. I was working as a labourer, just to get by.

“The first day they taught us how to use the machines to take care of gardens or paths. I’ve been really getting into it – it’s eye opening. It’s very good – all positive energy. Everyone is trying to teach and help each other.

“This course means a lot to me. It’s a good life goal and career path for me. Better than just working as a labourer and not getting any qualifications.

“After finishing this I could land myself a pretty good job. Some people have gone to Kew Gardens!”

About Groundwork London and Green Teams

Groundwork London is part of the Groundwork Trust, a national network of charities mobilising practical community action against poverty and for the environment across the UK.

Groundwork’s “Green Team” programme recruits local unemployed people to provide training, work experience on a real-life community project, employability skills, and the opportunity to gain City & Guilds Practical Horticulture and Employability qualifications. Previous trainee recruits plus four new trainees recruited through the Government’s Kickstart scheme are working on projects at 18 London stations managed by Thameslink or Great Northern:

North London:

  • East Coast main line: New Barnet, New Southgate
  • Hertford Loop: Gordon Hill, Palmers Green, Bowes Park, Alexandra Palace
  • Bedford line: Mill Hill Broadway

South London:

  • Wimbledon Loop: West Sutton, Sutton Common, St Helier, Morden South, South Merton, Wimbledon Chase, Haydons Road, Tooting
  • Thameslink Sutton branch: Loughborough Junction
  • Thameslink Sevenoaks branch: Bellingham, Ravensbourne

About GTR’s wider station improvement programme

GTR’s network-wide, multimillion-pound improvement programme involves over 1,000 projects, many of which were suggested by local passenger and community groups, at more than 250 stations. While we’re working hard to achieve the punctuality and reliability our passengers rightly expect, we want them to know we are with them all the way and making their stations better places to pass through.

The vast number and range of improvements can be described under three themes:

1. Giving many stations a better ambience by redecorating, planting and installing artwork, often with substantial input from the local community

2. Making stations work better for passengers, improving comfort and safety with new waiting rooms and shelters, seating, lighting, information screens, defibrillators for public use, and accessibility schemes

3. Making stations more sustainable, with schemes such as electric vehicle charging points, secure facilities for cyclists, rainwater retention systems, and even bee gardens.

We’ve created dedicated web pages where passengers and local communities can get updates on what’s happening at their station. They can be found at:



For more information, contact the press office on 0203 750 2031.

Govia Thameslink Railway

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services as follows:

  • Thameslink – cross-London services between Bedford/Peterborough/Cambridge and Brighton/Horsham/Littlehampton/East Grinstead, and between Luton/St Albans and Sutton/Wimbledon/Rainham; plus services between London and Sevenoaks
  • Great Northern – services between London and Welwyn, Hertford, Peterborough, Cambridge and King’s Lynn
  • Southern – services between London and the Sussex coast (Brighton, Worthing, Eastbourne, Bognor Regis, Hastings) and parts of Surrey, Kent and Hampshire (Ashford International, Southampton, Portsmouth)
  • Gatwick Express – fast, non-stop direct services between Gatwick Airport and London Victoria

Govia Thameslink Railway
United Kingdom