by Thom Morris
A one-time train cleaner has risen through the ranks to become the new managing director of Network Rail.
Dave Ward, 51, now has a remit which includes the High Speed service as well as general rail services in south London and right across the county.
Mr Ward’s rail career started 33 years ago and has seen him being a carriage cleaner, a signalman, a train guard and numerous management roles before taking the top job.
The 51-year-old keen golfer from south Willesborough said: “I started on the railways in August 1978 and only planned to do it for about six months.
“I got a job, as they called it in those days, as a carriage serviceman and only really saw it as a stop gap. My dad worked on the railways and he said I should do it and keep out of mischief.
“It really does get in your blood though and they’d send a list round of the other jobs going and I thought I should stay as it was secure work.”
The Tottenham Hotspur fan, whose son Steve plays for Ashford United, is currently seeing through major upgrades to stations in time for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Network Rail was given responsibility of running the railway infrastructure such as stations and tracks in 2002 - the trains themselves are run by Southeastern.
It is a far cry from his beginnings in the late 1970s.
The father-of-three added: “I was a guard for a couple of years but I always wanted to be a train driver, but it never happened, so I became a signalman and loved it.
“Then I became a supervisor and in 1992 I came to Ashford at the new signalling centre. I did that for about 18 months and then went into Railtrack for four years and worked on the international station remodelling the track.”