Express & Star

Daughters of railway worker who overturned racist recruitment policy unveil train named after him

A train has been named after a railway worker who overturned a racist recruitment policy, Avanti West Coast said.

Asquith Xavier's daughters Maria Magdalena-Xavier (right) and Sheena Xavier next to an Avanti West Coast train named after their father

In 1966 Asquith Xavier overturned a decision not to employ him as a guard at London's Euston station because of his ethnicity.

This unofficial policy was known as the colour bar.

Avanti West Coast, which has named one of its Pendolino trains after him, said he "left an incredible legacy".

Designers worked with the family of Mr Xavier - who died in 1980 - to create the train nameplate which depicts him working as a guard.

Mr Xavier's daughter Maria Magdalena-Xavier said: "To think about what our father experienced, whilst applying for a promotion as a train guard at Euston station with the racial discrimination he faced, and now to this day - a train being named after him in his honour and recognising his important campaign - is truly amazing.

"I sincerely hope that the passengers on their train journey will take the time to look up and learn about our father's journey to justice."

Mr Xavier was part of the Windrush generation, moving to England from Dominica in 1956.

Asquith Xavier's daughters Maria Magdalena-Xavier (right) and Sheena Xavier next to an Avanti West Coast train named after their father

He initially worked for British Railways - later renamed British Rail - as a porter, working his way up to guard at London's Marylebone station.

Guards were no longer required at the station following the closure of the Marylebone main line as part of the Beeching rail cuts.

He applied for a job doing the same role at Euston but was rejected because of his ethnicity and despite his experience.

After negotiations with the National Union of Railwaymen (NUR) - predecessor to the Rail, Maritime and Transport (RMT) union - British Railways overturned the decision and announced that none of its future job opportunities in London would be closed on racial grounds.

Rail minister Huw Merriman said: "Asquith Xavier's fight against discrimination paved the way for equality across the railways, leading to crucial change across the country and shaping the Race Relations Act.

"His story and determination for fair employment is one that everyone should know, and I'm delighted to see his name adorn this train for passengers up and down the country to see and be inspired by."

Avanti West Coast managing director Andy Mellors said: "To mark Asquith Xavier's achievements like this is a wonderful honour for someone who left an incredible legacy which goes beyond the rail industry.

Avanti West Coast Managing Director Andy Mellors with Asquith Xavier's daughter Maria Magdalena-Xavier

"This will be seen around our network and will celebrate his campaign which still has an impact today."

RMT general secretary Mick Lynch described the train naming as an "important initiative".

He said: "I am proud that members of my union's predecessor the National Union of Railwaymen backed Asquith in his fight and the union raised the issue with British Rail which agreed to end institutional racial discrimination at London stations."

Mr Xavier lived in Chatham, Kent.

A plaque honouring him was unveiled at the town's railway station in September 2020.