You could say James Grashoff is about as Welsh as they come. You’ll see the red dragon (from the Wales flag) and other memorabilia in his study if you’re on one of his video calls about transit software.
As the General Manager for Trapeze Group in the UK, James is adamant about improving rail and bus service across the country and the continent.
“One of our London operators has something like 1,900 – 2,000 payroll rules for 4,000 drivers – how can that be?” he says. “So, anything that helps manage that or optimize it efficiently, which is what our Duty Allocation system does, makes a difference.”
That said, he also gets really fired up about football. His Dad had a season ticket to Cardiff City Football Club since 1921 aged 9, so he grew up a devoted Bluebirds fan. “I went to see my first match with my father in 1968,” he says, now a Cardiff City season ticket holder himself. “Even though I lived away in England for many years and only came back home to Wales for the last 12, it’s been a real pleasure for me to be able to go see them. I’m lucky enough to follow Wales rugby at home and abroad, though I did have a spell playing rugby league at college when I ‘went North’.”
He also sings in a traditional male voice choir, Ystrad Mynach Male Choir, named for the village of Ystrad Mynach (where he lives with the lovely Mrs. Grashoff and Peggy the dog) just 15 miles away from Cardiff. (In Wales, choral music practically runs through the veins.)
When he’s not cheering on the home team or belting out songs, James is laser-focused on the job at hand. That means driving SaaS strategy and managing the Trapeze UK team of software developers, project managers and sales experts.
“Our vision is that we will have one system that goes across Europe that also goes into rail as well as bus for passengers and moving to a modern cloud-based platform. That’s quite a good journey to be participating in. Client engagement is fundamental to everything we develop, and our clients are front and centre to the whole project”
It all started with a degree in politics (which left the career door wide open) and a first job as a management trainee in a high street retailer in Bolton, Lancashire. He spent many years in national clothing retail management with several hundred staff, so he happily delegated tasks like sorting out where the women’s bras and knickers were best merchandized!
He crossed over into software sales and marketing about 20 years ago, by chance, with most of those years in enterprise software for schools and universities that improves student outcomes.
“Education has always been important for me,” he says. “I’ve been a school governor for many years. Our schools have governing bodies with volunteers from the community and staff who are responsible for the direction and strategy of the school and appointing head teachers and things like that. I chair the governing body for my stepdaughter’s high school, so it is important to get these things right.”
Why the move to the public transit industry? He joined Trapeze in 2018 for the opportunity to be a general manager, influencing the software from development through to sales and installation.
He likes to see customers engaged in the solutions. “I want to have people who like the product all the way through. I’m passionate about the outcomes and making them as good as they can be for the end user.”
So far, 85% of fixed route bus drivers in the UK are covered by the Trapeze system. He sees a bright future with Modaxo’s initiative for next-generation duty management of drivers to help expand the business to rail, as well as bus and light rail for passenger transport across Europe.
Another positive is the UK government’s push to protect the environment and promote mass transit. “There’s been a huge investment in public transport, connected public transport and all the technology that goes with it,” he says.
“With a really good transit system, along with a congestion charge for cars going into the city of Cardiff, for example, where is Uber in that? More people are going to ride the better services, the new trains, the larger trains, and the more accessible trains for disabled and bike riders as active travel becomes more important. It’s exciting.”