Ramses Noffels, President of Trainbow Belgium tells us about a vibrant annual conference that brings together LGBT+ staff from railway companies across Europe.
Last month, LGBT+ staff networks of railway companies across Europe gathered together in Brussels to share experiences and good practice at the 4th Trainbow Europe conference. The conference was held in the offices of Infrabel at Brussels’ Midi/Zuid railway station, hosted by Trainbow Belgium.
Trainbow Belgium is an association of LGBT+ people working for the Belgian rail companies: NMBS, Infrabel, HR Rail and subsidiaries. We were founded in 2016 and some of our main achievements since then have been receiving official recognition and support by HR Rail, changes to HR policies, taking part in Prides, and getting support to fly rainbow flags at railway stations during IDAHOT week.
We were very proud that the CEOs of all three companies made an appearance at the Trainbow Europe conference to show their support. It really shows how far we’ve come and how seriously diversity and inclusion issues are taken by senior management. We came from an environment where there was no room for diversity policy or even a budget to work towards diversity and inclusion, whereas nowadays, we are actively cooperating with the Belgian railway companies on diversity and inclusion matters – thanks partly to the hard work of our staff network.
Trainbow Belgium joined the first European gathering of LGBT+ organisations within railway companies in Frankfurt four years ago. The following year, G.A.R.E invited us to Paris, where the name ‘Trainbow Europe’ was founded. Last year we were invited to Utrecht by Trainbow NS, where we experienced the kick-off of Trainbow Prorailn and made the promise to be the next in line to host the conference. This year, we were joined by delegations from the UK and Switzerland for the first time and we hope that we can reach out to more people in the future.
Trainbow Europe 2019 brought together LGBT+ networks within railway companies from Germany, the UK, Switzerland, Austria, The Netherlands and Belgium (the French delegation couldn’t take part this year). Our diversity was also demonstrated in the different roles and functions present from all parts and levels of our companies: recruiters, engineers, train conductors/managers, technicians, train drivers, diversity officers, etc. On day one we shared experiences and practices and took the train to Brussels’ EU quarter to visit the European Parliament and learn about the work of the LGBTI Intergroup and exchange experience with Egalité – the LGBTI staff network of the EU institutions. Day two of the conference featured a guest presentation from ILGA-Europe, providing a fascinating overview of their work and the LGBTI rights situation in the region. Of course, we also took another train, this time to Antwerp where we enjoyed a behind-the-scenes technical tour of the railway station.
We'd love to hear from you
We want to continue strengthening and broadening our European collaboration ahead of next year’s Trainbow Europe conference, which will be held in the UK. In particular, we’d like to find and reach out to any initiatives that are not yet part of our European network, especially in Southern and Eastern Europe. So if you know of a ‘Trainbow’ initiative where you are, or if you are an LGBT+ person working for a railway company anywhere in Europe, we’d love to hear from you. Together we can make our European railways safer and more inclusive places for their LGBT+ staff.
- Visit the Trainbow Belgium website here.