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Hand-ups Not Handouts | Morson Forces Offer Free Ex-Forces Rail Training

James Kenealey morson training

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Morson Vital Training’s (MVT) scheme of offering free rail training to ex-forces personnel stems from the heart-warming story of veteran Andy Reid and his friend Alex Kemp. With the story now across the national media, we spoke to Andy, MVT and Step Forward Homes to find out more.

“We knew the free rail training would give him the opportunity to get into a healthier, safer lifestyle with a roof over his head. It’s about giving these people a hand-up, not a handout.”


Andy Reid has been Morson Group’s ex-forces ambassador for the last 12 months. A veteran of the 3rd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, Andy’s life was changed forever in October 2009 he lost both of his legs and his right arm after stepping on an IED plate whilst serving in Afghanistan.

“The guys gave me immediate first aid and got me onto a stretcher and back to the forward operating base. A young guy called Alex Kemp was there, and he rushed into the tent with the doctor and between them they gave me life-saving first aid” recalls Andy.

Being section commander during the tour of Afghanistan, Andy and his fellow soldiers formed strong bonds living together in camp. “Alex was a very young lad, just 18 years old at the time. Strangely, he was the third oldest guy in the section. So to him, I wasn’t just a commander and leader, I was also a kind of father figure as well I think.”

This bond would prove to be a lasting one, and Andy reached out to Alex when it became clear that he was going through a bad time:

“I was really proud that when Alex fell on hard times due to his PTSD and his relationship breaking down that he had the mental strength and courage to reach out to me. I wanted to help him. I knew he had complex issues and needed mental health guidance, counselling and help with accommodation and employment. He’d always mentioned that he wanted to work on the railway. So with my connections as a brand ambassador for Morson and Step Forward Homes, I knew I could help.”

Step Forward Homes are a not-for-profit organisation based in Knutsford, Cheshire. They provide new build, affordable homes to Britain’s armed forces and emergency services personnel. 

“We look to also provide on-going support for ex-forces veterans” said Gary Metcalf, a representative from the organisation. “We’ve helped over 200 soldiers over the last three years and plan on helping another 1,000 over the next three.

Crucial to Alex’s ability to sustain one of these homes was regular income. Unemployed and with a minor drug habit, Alex was in a situation he was struggling to see a way out of without help.

At the Morson annual conference, Andy spoke with Matthew Leavis, head of UK training for Morson Group. Morson have a long history of working with ex-forces men and women across multiple sectors, and at any time have upwards of 500 veterans deployed in civilian roles. When Matt met Alex, it was clear that something needed to be done to help him out, and so the idea of free rail training for ex-forces personnel was born.

“I was introduced to Alex and I spent a bit of time getting to know about his story and I found it incredibly moving,” said Matt. “I think one of the key drivers for me in terms of helping him was the fact that Gary and Step Forward Homes had promised a house based on the fact that he had sustainable employment.”

“We knew the rail training would give him the opportunity to get into a healthier, safer lifestyle with a roof over his head” said Andy.

“Fast forward slightly, and we worked with Alex over a six week period to make sure he was ready to go into the training course and ready to take advantage of the opportunities given” said Matt. “Then he joined the course.”

Seeing the profound effect the free training had on Alex’s life, Andy and Matt decided that it might be beneficial to offer this to a wider audience. Using Andy’s network of contacts, an open session was organised at Morson Vital Training’s head office in Salford to offer places on the training course and as a result of this a further three veterans have completed their training.

Morson remain committed to expanding the offering of the free rail training courses to many more ex-forces veterans and further developing their offering.

“Ex-forces people have a really high level, transferrable skillset, so fingers crossed this partnership with Andy and Step Forward Homes will make a huge difference to many people. This isn’t about making a profit, it’s about making a difference.” said Matt. 

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