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Keith Louis Heller (born 3 April 1948)[2] is a Canadian transport executive in the rail freight transport industry. In 2005 he was ranked 57 in the Power 100 listing published by Country Life magazine.[3] Heller is notable for having run major rail freight providers in both North America and Europe.

Keith L. Heller
67018 , Claycross.jpg
DB Cargo UK locomotive named after Keith Heller, with maple leaf on the side
Keith Louis Heller

(1948-04-03) 3 April 1948 (age 71)[1]
Ontario, Canada
Years active1960s–
Spouse(s)Dolores Smith
Locomotive nameplate for 67018 Keith Heller in 2010

Heller was head of the Eastern Region of the Canadian National Railway, at the time the most successful privatised rail business in the world.[1] In the early 2000s he moved to Europe and became chief executive of English Welsh and Scottish Railway/DB Cargo UK, the largest rail freight operator in the United Kingdom,[1][4] and subsequently DB Schenker Rail co-chairman and head of the Western Region, covering rail freight across Great Britain, France, Spain and Portugal.


Personal lifeEdit

Heller's parents Lorne Nelson Heller and Mildred Sophia Heller (née Schweitzer) married on 10 November 1945 and subsequently jointly ran a hardware store called "Rural Hardware" from 1953–1992.[5] Keith Heller grew up on his father's farm in Ontario and attended Elmira District Secondary School.[1] He was the oldest child.[1] Heller married Dolores Smith,[5] and together they had one son together, who remains living in Canada.[1] They have a summer house on an island in Canada which only be reached by boat.[1][6]

Heller's favourite film is Doctor Zhivago, and favourite author is Wilbur Smith.[1] As of 2005 he had a BMW 5 Series car and a Harley-Davidson softail motorcycle both of which were used for commuting in the UK, along with a bicycle in London.[1][6]


Heller's first job whilst still at school was working as a baggage porter.[1]


Heller began with Canadian National Railway (CN) in 1966.[7] By the end of 1993, he had become chief of transportation for CN North American.[8] In May 1997 Canadian National removed one layer of management and so Heller moved from senior vice-president, CN East, to be senior vice-president, Line Operations.[9] Following the merger between CN and Illinois Central Railroad, CN was split into five regions, and in May 1999 Heller was placed in control of the largest division, the new Eastern Canada Region, described as covering an area the size of Europe.[10][1] Heller had the reputation of a hard-hitter,[11] with aggressive determination.[1]

In 2001 Heller enabled the sale of ten kilometres (6 mi) of city-centre tracks connecting the Michigan Central Railway Bridge through Niagara Falls, Ontario, following diversion of Canadian Pacific Railway trains via CN's International Railway Bridge on 11 December 2001.[12] On 14 February 2003 Heller with another CN executive, Scott Roberts, held a meeting with Gordon McGuinty of the Notre Development Corporation discussing potential plans to use the Adams Mine in Ontario for dumping landfill from Toronto, instead of shipping to Michigan.[13][14][15] During a restructuring of CN's executives in mid-2003, Heller continued in his position as senior vice-president for the Eastern Canada Region, and reporting to the Canadian National CEO.[16][17]

Upon being due to retire Heller owned a large number of shares in Canadian National which by 2005 were worth eight-times their original value.[1]


In January 2004 Heller became the CEO of English, Welsh & Scottish Railway (EWS), Great Britain's largest rail freight operator,[18] taking over from Philip Mengel.[19] Heller previously had his own private train in Canada, and commissioned Interfleet Technology to develop the EWS Company Train for use in Great Britain.[20] In April 2005 Heller invited Queen Elizabeth II to name one of the British Royal Train locomotives 67006 Royal Sovereign in a ceremony at Bristol Temple Meads railway station.[21]

Heller was chairman of the English Welsh & Scottish Railway (EWS) and involved with its sale to Deutsche Bahn to become DB Schenker Rail (UK), and then DB Cargo UK.[22] When Heller was CEO of EWS and the company was sold to Deutsche Bahn it had 4,900 employees and a turnover of 783 million euros.[23]

In 2007 Robert Wright of the Financial Times described Heller as being a "well-regarded chief executive".[24] He 2009 he was a member of the Rail Safety and Standards Board Sustainable Development Steering Group.[25] Heller initiated a programme of withdrawing British Rail Class 60 locomotives, then overhauling the locomotives as "Super 60s".[26][27]

Heller retired from Deutsche Bahn in January 2011 and was succeeded by Alain Thauvette also from Canada, who took over the Western Region covering the UK, France, Spain and Portugal.[28] After retirement Heller continued as an adviser to DB Schenker.[29] At the Rail Safety and Standards Board, in his appointment as a non-executive director he was replaced by Neil McDonald in early-2010, also from DB Schenker Rail UK.[30] Heller had been based in the United Kingdom, something which did occur with his successors until the appointment of Geoff Spencer as CEO of DB Schenker Rail UK in September 2013.[31]

Other companiesEdit

As of April 2011 Heller was a non-executive director of the company behind the Rail-Pod robotic track geometry car system, and was involved with the Rail-Veyor mining transportation system.[32]

As of 2012 Heller was a non-executive director of UK Coal, serving on the board of directors, on the audit committee, nomination committee and as chair of the health & Safety Committee.[33] Heller's salary and fees for being a non-executive director of UK Coal were paid to the Canadian company S/Dolo, Inc.[34] At the end of 2012 Heller transferred from the board of UK Coal Plc, to oversee the creation of the UK Coal Employee Benefit Trust responsible for 67% of the voting rights on behalf of former employees.[35][36]


In 2009 Heller made a donation of over $100,000 to the University of Western Ontario.[37]

In 2014 the Heller Family Foundation covered the cost of repainting the Canadian Railway Museum's locomotive number 1382 in traditional yellow and green livery.[38]

In 2016 the Heller's foundation funded computers for 256 pupils and staff at schools within Carrillo, in the Guanacaste Province of Costa Rica in conjunction with educational programmes arranged by the Quirós Tanzi Foundation.[39]

Heller is a vice-president of the UK-based Railway Benevolent Institution/Railway Benefit Fund.[40][41] He became a vice-president in 2011 at the same time as Matthew Parris and Tom Harris.[42]


Heller was invited by the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport to deliver their annual Sir Robert Reid lecture on 6 February 2008.[43] He became only the second lecturer from a freight background.[44] The lecture was entitled "Creating a Stronger European Rail Freight Network", and was chaired by Richard Brown with Chris Green leading the formal vote of thanks.[45]

In April 2009 Heller appeared on the cover of Rail Professional magazine.[46][6][47] On 15 January 2010 diesel locomotive 67018 was named Keith Heller at the National Railway Museum in York, United Kingdom. This was the first British Rail Class 67 to be painted in DB Schenker livery.[7] In mid-2011 an N scale model of 67018 Keith Heller was released by Dapol. In January 2012 an OO gauge model of 67018 Keith Heller was released by Hornby Railways.[48]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o Davidson, Andrew (6 November 2005). "The Andrew Davidson Interview: Heller's angel rides to the rescue". The Sunday Times. pp. 1, 6. Retrieved 18 July 2016. Ontario farmboy now entrusted with revitalising EWS, Britain's biggest rail-freight business … sat on EWS's board before taking the top slot … three decades of experience at Canadian National, the most successful privatised rail business in the world. … Country Life magazine has already voted him into its Power 100
  2. ^ "Keith Louis Heller". Personal Appointments. Companies House. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  3. ^ "Power 100 of the Countryside". Country Life. 13 October 2005. Archived from the original on 28 October 2005. Retrieved 22 December 2018. 57: Keith Heller: Railway visionary
  4. ^ Webster, Ben (2 February 2009). "Too many trains arrive on time, rail boss complains". The Times. Retrieved 16 July 2016. Keith Heller, the chief executive of EWS, Britain's biggest rail freight company, said … passenger trains … delaying his freight trains.
  5. ^ a b "Heller Lorne Nelson". Waterloo Region Record. 6 September 2012. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  6. ^ a b c Silvester, Katie; Weir, Simon (April 2009). "East to West: Cover Story: Interview with Keith Heller CEO of DB Schenker Rail West". Rail Professional. No. 145. pp. 1, 8, 18‒21. ISSN 1476-2196. Archived from the original on 31 March 2009 – via Yumpu. Canadian by birth, … joined Canadian National Railways … in 1966 as a part-time baggage porter when he was a student … worked in everything from IT to train driving. … was a frontline passenger service manager … riding his Harley Davidsons and his push bike. … UK base is London … Canada … owns a small island … Costa Rica … to escape the cold. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)CS1 maint: unfit url (link)
  7. ^ a b Cover, Ron (18 January 2010). Tuplin, Richard (ed.). "First DB Schenker-liveried Class 67 named Keith Heller" (PDF). Railway Herald. No. 208. pp. 1, 4. ISSN 1751-8091. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 October 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2016. first … to carry the DB Schenker livery … in the NRM at York on 15th January. … Deputy Chief Executive Officer of DB Schenker Rail, … joined the Canadian National Railroad in 1966, … CN's Senior Vice President East in 1995, … Senior Vice President for operations and sales four years later. … joined the EWS board in 2002, … Chief Executive in 2004 … Deputy CEO of DB Schenker Rail.
  8. ^ "Appointments". The Journal of Commerce. 9 January 1994. Retrieved 23 December 2018. Keith Heller promoted to chief of transportation at CN North America.
  9. ^ "People". Railway Gazette International. 1 May 1997. Retrieved 16 July 2016. Keith Heller, formerly Senior Vice-President CN East, becomes Senior Vice-President, Line Operations
  10. ^ "People". Railway Gazette International. 1 May 1999. Retrieved 16 July 2016. restructuring to integrate Illinois Central … Senior Vice-President Keith Heller will head CN's new Eastern Canada division
  11. ^ Johnson, Judy; Dakens, Les; Edwards, Peter; Morse, Edward (2008). "Finding a Champion". SwitchPoints: Culture Change on the Fast Track to Business Success. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 75‒77. ISBN 9780470449431. Keith Heller … known as a hard-hitter … chose the little rail town of Capreol
  12. ^ Nolan, Dan (20 December 2001). "End of line for Niagara freight trains" (archived into Canada Southern Railway Bibliography - Newspaper Articles). Toronto Star.
  13. ^ Mackie, Richard (18 February 2003). "Garbage fight gives mine backers hope". The Globe and Mail. Retrieved 16 July 2016. Mr. Roberts said he and Keith Heller, CP Rail's senior vice-president for Eastern Canada, recently had discussed the future of the Adams Mine
  14. ^ "Backroom stinker". Now. 27 February 2003. Retrieved 16 July 2003. what McGuinty, Heller and Roberts allegedly discussed … a behind-the-scenes plan to revive Adams Mine
  15. ^ Angus, Charlie (2013). "Valentine's Day Massacre". Unlikely Radicals: The Story of the Adams Mine Dump War. Between the Lines Books. pp. 182–185. ISBN 9781771130417. As McGuinty, Heller, and Roberts made their way to their table, they failed to notice they were sitting beside ONR union activist Scott Caverly
  16. ^ Stremes, Dave (July 2003). Roberts, Earl W. (ed.). "CN Announces Executive Appointments, Regional Restructuring" (summary, Edmonton Journal, 26 June 2003). Branchline. Bytown Railway Society. p. 9. ISSN 0824-233X.
  17. ^ "Canadian National to Restructure Following Illinois Central Merger". The Wall Street Journal. 15 April 1999. Retrieved 16 July 2016. The biggest, Eastern Canada, will be headed by a senior vice president, Keith Heller, previously in charge of line operations.
  18. ^ Wright, Robert (7 November 2005). "EWS chief signals ambitious track ahead". Financial Times. Retrieved 14 July 2016. chief executive of Britain’s biggest rail freight operator … since January 2004
  19. ^ Hart, Tom, ed. (27 February 2004). "Business and Personnel" (Winter 2003/2004). Scottish Transport Review. No. 24. Scottish Transport Studies Group. p. 21. ISSN 1462-8708. Retrieved 17 July 2016. Keith Heller from Canadian National has succeeded Philip Mengel as EWS Chief Executive.
  20. ^ "EWS". WillB Brand Consultants. December 2012. Retrieved 14 July 2016. Keith Heller, … had his own private train for use in Canada. He commissioned Interfleet Technology to design and develop one for use on the UK mainline. This was to become the EWS Special Train
  21. ^ "Royal Train Named". Railway People. 13 April 2005. Retrieved 22 July 2016.
  22. ^ Phillips, Don (25 August 2005). "Free Flow: Getting the French on board". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 June 2011.
  23. ^ "Bahn expandiert mit Zukäufen im Güterverkehr" [Deutsche Bahn expands with purchases in freight transport]. Der Tagesspiegel (in German). 28 June 2007. Retrieved 11 December 2018. Die EWS ist die größte britische Güterbahn … 2006 erwirtschaftete das Unternehmen mit 4900 Beschäftigten einen Umsatz von 783 Millionen Euro … EWS-Vorstandschef Keith Heller
  24. ^ Wright, Robert (27 June 2007). "Royal train to be German-run". Financial Times. Retrieved 15 July 2016. Keith Heller, the well-regarded chief executive, will remain in charge of EWS, which will have responsibility for developing DB's freight business in the UK, France and Spain.
  25. ^ The Rail Industry Sustainable Development Principles (Report). Rail Safety and Standards Board. 16 February 2009. p. 2. Retrieved 15 July 2016.
  26. ^ Clinnick, Richard (21 August 2013). "The resurgent '60s'". RAIL. Retrieved 19 July 2016. it was Heller who set the ball rolling with their transformation
  27. ^ Clinnick, Richard (4 September 2013). "Making the Class 60s 'super' again". RAIL. Retrieved 19 July 2016. Keith Heller told RAIL 611 that all the locomotives would be stored … behind the scenes, Heller was planning for the future of the big Type 5s
  28. ^ "Rail Professional interview: Alain Thauvette". Rail Professional. 11 December 2011. Retrieved 15 July 2016. Alain Thauvette … runs all of DB Schenker's business in the UK, France and Spain, … he took the Region West helm from fellow Canadian Keith Heller on his retirement. … Canadian National Railway (CN) had shares in EWS, which is why both Thauvette and Heller originally came from CN.
  29. ^ "Heller's replacement announced at DBS". Rail Professional. 3 March 2010. Retrieved 21 July 2016. outspoken Keith Heller, 61, who will continue to advise DB Schenker, was a colourful figure in the rail industry.
  30. ^ "Information bulletin" (PDF). Rail Safety and Standards Board. March 2010. Retrieved 16 July 2016. Neil McDonald joins RSSB Board When Keith Heller retired from DB Schenker Rail his position became vacant on the RSSB Board. Consequently, Neil McDonald, Managing Director of DB Schenker Rail (UK) … representing Freight Operators. Cite magazine requires |magazine= (help)
  31. ^ Clinnick, Richard (18 February 2015). ""We are nothing without customers"". RAIL. No. 768. Retrieved 15 July 2016. In September 2013, Spencer returned to the UK as chief executive - the first time a DB Schenker chief executive had been based in the UK since Keith Heller retired in 2011.
  32. ^ "About Us". RailPod. 8 December 2015. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  33. ^ UK Coal PLC Committee Structure (PDF) (Report). 4 January 2012. Retrieved 13 July 2016.
  34. ^ Remuneration Reports (PDF). Annual Report and Accounts 2013 (Report). Coalfield Resources plc. 28 April 2014. p. 22. Retrieved 13 July 2016. Non-Executive Directors … Keith Heller … Fees payable for the services provided by Keith Heller were paid to S/Dolo Inc.
  35. ^ "UK Coal manages new structure and name". Mineral and Waste Planning. 18 December 2012. Retrieved 20 July 2016. newly established employee benefit trust, overseen by Keith Heller, a former UK Coal non-executive director, now owns 67% of the voting rights of the mining division
  36. ^ Sourbès, Cécile (10 December 2012). "UK Coal reaches restructuring agreement with pension funds". Investment & Pensions Europe. Retrieved 20 July 2016. Keith Heller has stepped down from the board of directors at UK Coal and will now be a trustee of the Employee Benefit Trust.
  37. ^ Thank you to our donors (PDF). Impact Western (Report). University of Western Ontario. 3 December 2009. p. 10. Retrieved 14 July 2016. Donors of $100,000-$499,999 … Keith L Heller
  38. ^ "Museums & Tourist Railways". Canadian Railway Observations. November 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2016. Marie-Claude Reid, Executive Director of Exporail and Stephen Cheasley, President, present a plaque to Keith Heller (CNR retired) as a token of appreciation for the Heller Family Foundation having covered the cost of repainting 1382 in the 'green and yellow' of yesteryear.
  39. ^ Ureña, Marcos (1 April 2016). "Más Estudiantes en Guanacaste Están "Conectados"". Primero en Noticias (in Spanish). Corporación Un Equipo Adelante. Retrieved 15 July 2016. Carrillo Guanacaste … gracias al compromiso de la Fundación Quirós Tanzi por llevar oportunidades de desarrollo mediante un modelo de educación con el uso de tecnologías móviles a las zonas alejadas del país y al patrocinio "The Heller-Smith Family Foundation".
  40. ^ Report and Financial Statements For the Year Ended 31st December 2012 (PDF) (Report). Railway Benevolent Institution. 30 April 2013. p. 1. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  41. ^ Watkinson, Paul (14 June 2016). Report and Financial Statements For the Year Ended 31st December 2015 (PDF) (Report). p. 2. Retrieved 14 July 2016.
  42. ^ Lawson, Kim, ed. (2 August 2011). "Parris on the RBF Map" (PDF). Turntable. No. 5. Railway Benevolent Institution. Retrieved 15 July 2016. new RBF VPs … former railway industry bosses Keith Heller, once Chief Executive of EWS
  43. ^ "On the path to competition". Railway Gazette International. 18 March 2008. Retrieved 15 July 2016. Delivering the Sir Robert Reid lecture to the Chartered Institute of Logistics & Transport in London on February 6, EWS Chief Executive Officer Keith Heller
  44. ^ Roden, Andrew (March 2008). "Heller Invokes Spirit of Brunelian Genius". International Railway Journal. 48 (3): 56. ISSN 0744-5326. only the second freight speaker to deliver the lecture.
  45. ^ Whelan, Trevor (March 2008). "CILT Rail Lecture 2008". Logistics & Transport Focus. the 2008 Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT) Rail Lecture of … Keith Heller, titled "Creating a Stronger European Rail Freight Network."
  46. ^ "April 2009 Issue: Contents". Rail Professional website. Archived from the original on 26 June 2009. Cover Story: Interview with Keith Heller
  47. ^ "On the wagon". Rail Professional. 11 November 2010. ISSN 1476-2196. Retrieved 21 July 2016. Eighteen months ago Keith Heller, then CEO of DB Schenker, was on the cover of Rail Professional
  48. ^ Bayer, Gareth (3 January 2012). "All new Class 67 from Hornby". Rail Express. Retrieved 15 July 2016. The big announcement in Hornby's 2012 range … is the GM-Alstom Class 67 … DB Schenker Maple Leaf red as 67018 Keith Heller.

Further readingEdit