Ade Sodeinde has received Central Trains' top honour for solving a problem that has eluded managers.
During her year's work experience with the company, 17-year-old Ade, who only came to Britain last year, conducted her own investigation to identify the cause of the delays. It turned out to be drivers and conductors turning up late for work.
Jubilant bosses at Central Train's Tyseley depot reckon the discovery has so far saved them £250,000 and is set to rise to £750,000 by the end of the year. Ade, who is to begin a mechanical engineering degree at The University of Birmingham in October, said: "Services were leaving the main train depot at Tyseley late and nobody really knew what was causing it, so I investigated it and found out what the main causes were and suggested some ideas how to solve them."
Delays to trains that affect the customer cost, on average, £4,500 each in fines levied by the Department of Transport.
The Tyseley depot was averaging 84 incidents a month.
Central Train managers were puzzled by the high numbers of late services from the depot and concerned over mounting payments.
Ade, who is on a Year in Industry programme designed to give youngsters paid-for gap year employment experience, was tasked with solving the problem.
Her meticulous detective work drew her to the firm's train-crew section.
"It is split into two divisions - operations, which is drivers and conductors, and fleet which is maintenance of trains," she said.
"Everyone thought it was fleet's fault but I discovered it was operations who were turning up late."
The depot - one of the largest in the UK - has since appointed new staff and its Passenger Punctuality Measure has risen dramatically.
Gary Stokes, Ade's line manager, said: "She gathered information to see how to improve the number of trains leaving on time.
"It was so powerful it resulted in decisions being made at board level to invest in more people."
Central Trains has presented Ade with a Gold Award, the highest distinction under its staff recognition scheme.
The company is so pleased with Ade's work that it is even considering sponsoring her through her degree studies.
Ade, who is staying with a cousin in Five Ways, Birmingham, said she was grateful for the opportunity to make a difference within the company.
"I am glad they actually gave me some responsibility. I thought they would just shove me in a corner out of the way," she said.
"I have felt like I am part of the team. I have gained more confidence relating to people and working in a team."
Caroline Durbin, from the Year in Industry, which is run by The Engineering Development Trust, said: "It is an impressive project she has undertaken with one of the most bureaucratic companies.
"It entailed a huge amount of co-ordination from all the departments in the company.
"It is also the fact that she only came to this country last year. It is a really nice start for her."
About 70 students are on the Year in Industry Programme in the West Midlands.
Ms Durbin added: "We have one 17-year-old lad who has saved a Telford confectionery maker about £240,000 and a 20-year-old girl who is helping to arrange 150 visiting European VIPs to attend a major conference.
"It has given them practical application and real hands-on experience."
Nationally, the charity places about 600 youngsters looking to gain some work experience before starting university in 250 firms.