Now celebrating 25 years of operation, Barnham ‘depot’ was formed in 1995 to provide a base for drivers when the Bournemouth service launched in the mid-90s. A number of older depots were amalgamated into the facility at Barnham station, including Littlehampton, Bognor Regis and West Worthing.
Today, Barnham lies nestled away in the Arun district of West Sussex and is home to hundreds of dedicated railway workers, from train drivers and conductors to on-board supervisors, driver managers and station teams.
As a result, Southern’s Barnham depot is one of Govia Thameslink Railway’s biggest bases and is steeped in local family history.
Driver manager Richard Yardley, 39, swapped the skylines of Dubai for suburban Sussex in 2016 and hasn’t looked back since. “The Barnham depot is a very special part of the local community,” he said. “There is a real sense of family here, helped by the fact that many of our people have had parents, grandparents, even great-grandparents, all working on the railway and at Barnham depot itself.
“When I joined over four and a half years ago, I realised that it’s the best job I’ve ever had. There’s a sense of comradery and togetherness in the railway that you just don’t get anywhere else.”
Although he previously worked for an airline, both his grandad and great-uncle are former train drivers. It’s a trend that is very much still alive at Barnham – with different generations of the same family all working under one roof.
Three members of the Laird family – Terry, 58, Lee, 38 and 35-year-old Adam – all work as train drivers at the Barnham depot. Terry Laird, who started his career at Barnham on the day the depot opened, says that the best part of the job is working within the community: “I joined the railway when I was just 17 and worked in various roles in the north of the UK. Unfortunately, the company I was with at the time was going through a part-closure, so I had to look for work elsewhere, and that’s when I found the opportunity with Southern.
“It’s amazing to have both of my sons follow in my footsteps to become train drivers and even better that we’re now all part of an even bigger family at Barnham. The depot is a huge part of the local community and we’re really pleased to be celebrating 25 years of history here.”
Although grand plans for celebrating the 25th anniversary of Barnham depot, including inviting back retired staff for the day, have unfortunately been postponed by Covid-19, the occasion won’t go amiss as decorations and historical memoires will adorn the depot for all staff to enjoy.
After 25 years, Barnham depot continues to be a vital part of the community, employing many generations of Sussex families, past and present. It is now home to a total of 156 drivers, 90 onboard supervisors and 36 conductors, led by the area operations manager, Tom Guiney. The depot even has its own football team called The Windmills, which runs fundraising matches and events to raise money for Children with Cancer UK.