British LGBTQ+ ‘Unity’ train is union built and union crewed Skip to content

British LGBTQ+ ‘Unity’ train is union built and union crewed

A Pride Unity train in the UK? Berry Craig captured it in his trusty Nikon, then got the story to go with it.

2 min read

YORK, England – June is Pride Month in the United Kingdom, too.

But in January, the TransPennine Express railway company unveiled its “Nova I ‘Unity’” train (union crewed) as “a beacon of hope for the diverse communities TPE serves,” according to a TPE news release, which explained that the sleek, 125-m.p.h. passenger train’s debut kicked off the “first ever ‘TPE Week of Inclusion’ and partnership with The Proud Trust.” 

I got Nova I in my camera’s viewfinder earlier this month when the train called at York station.

Special paintwork on the silvery “bi-modal” locomotive (it runs on electric or diesel power) features “the most up to date Pride Progress Flag that includes a five-striped chevron to the left side of the flag representing LGBTQ+ people of colour and the trans community,” said the release.

The release quoted Chris Jackson, TPE managing director: “At TPE, we strive to make sure everyone in our business feels included, that every individual, of every background and culture, feels heard and celebrated for what they bring to our team.

“The launch of our Unity Train on the first day of ‘TPE Week of Inclusion’ is a historic moment for TPE, we want people of all backgrounds and characteristics to feel welcome, whether that’s using our services, applying for jobs or whilst at work.

“I’m thrilled that our Nova train featuring the Pride Progress Flag will now shine brightly as it travels throughout the North and Scotland and I’m looking forward to celebrating the diversity of our colleagues and customers.”

To celebrate the Week of Inclusion, “TPE also announced a partnership with The Proud Trust, an LGBT+ youth charity empowering young people to be proud of who they are,” the release said.

“Seeing the Unity Train in all its glory this morning fills myself and our team with huge pride and we can’t wait for the LGBT+ community to see the train as it travels throughout the north,” the release quoted Lisa Harvey Nebil, The Proud Trust CEO.

Nova I wasn’t going our way, but we rode Scotrail, London Northeastern Railway (LNER) and Great Western Railway (GWT) trains – all union-crewed, too. Drivers (engineers on his side of the pond), train managers (conductors stateside) on-board food service workers and cleaners that we saw wore Pride lanyards. So did station employees.

British railway workers belong to a variety of unions, including the Associated Society of Locomotive Engineers (what drivers used to be called) and Firemen; National Union of Rail, Maritime, and Transport Workers; Transport Salaried Staffs Association; and Unite.

All of these unions belong to the Trades Union Congress, a labor federation similar to the AFL-CIO. Both organizations strongly support LGBTQ+ rights.

“Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT+) communities have seen lots of positive change in recent years. And trade unions are proud of the part they played in those achievements,” says the TUC website. “Unions are powerful – they must make sure that LGBTQ people are treated fairly and with respect at work.”

Says a statement from AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler: “This June, we celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community, and reaffirm our commitment to ensuring equity, dignity, and inclusion both in life and in the workplace. Collective bargaining remains the best tool against discrimination of any kind, which is why the AFL-CIO fights so that working people of all sexual orientations, gender identities and expressions can enjoy the protections of a union contract.”

A footnote: There’s a big reason why Nova I looks like a Japanese bullet train. It was designed by Hitachi Rail and built in Japan and the UK by union workers.


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Berry Craig

Berry Craig is a professor emeritus of history at West KY Community College, and an author of seven books and co-author of two more. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

Arlington, KY