Network Rail and Southeastern joined forces on 6 March to launch the first-ever passenger service run entirely by women. To mark International Women’s Day, a rush-hour Southeastern service left London for Kent with a female driver and conductor, while female Network Rail signallers staffed the route.
It marked the first time that a commuter service has been operated exclusively by female rail staff from start to finish — from the depot to destination; in all, some 15 women took part.
Moreover, the service formed one of three ‘female trains’, as the rail industry seeks to attract more female recruits into a traditionally ‘male’ industry.
Southeastern driver Monika Kurek took the 7.42 out of London Victoria to Faversham, while GWR ran a female train from London Paddington to Bristol, and LNER ran a ‘Flying Scotswoman’ from Edinburgh to Kings Cross.
Network Rail (www.networkrail.co.uk
) says it is committed to increasing the number of women in the workforce by 50% by 2024 — equivalent to almost 4,000 new female staff.
Meanwhile, Southeastern says that 20% of its workforce now comprises women after a concerted campaign to raise the profile of the industry, leaving it ‘on track’ to hit the target of 21% by 2021.
Speaking before the event on 6 March, David Statham — Southeastern’s managing director — said: “We are honoured to be playing our part in today’s ‘Female Train’.
"We have made considerable progress in attracting more women into the industry and we are proud that 20% of Southeastern’s employees are female.
"The fact that today’s ‘female train’ is one of the first shows how much more the rail industry needs to do to and we will continue working with partners like Network Rail to achieve this.”
Andrew Haines, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “This is a brilliant celebration of women in rail. I hope it demonstrates to other women and girls that a rewarding role in our industry is a real prospect.
"We have an abundance of diverse and interesting jobs available, and the users of the railway deserve the best of our talents.
"That must mean a much more diverse workforce.”