LONDON March 6: Network Rail and Southeastern join forces today to launch the first ever passenger service run entirely by women – on a banner day for the rail industry.
Marking International Women’s Day, a rush hour Southeastern service will leave London for Kent staffed by a female driver and conductor, while female Network Rail signallers staff the route.
It marks the first time that a commuter service is operated exclusively by female rail staff from start to finish – from the depot to destination. In all, some 15 women will take part.
And the service will form one of three Female Trains today (March 6) as the rail industry seeks to attract more female recruits into a traditionally ‘male’ industry.
Southeastern’s driver, Monika Kurek, will run the 7.42 out of London Victoria to Faversham.
Separately, GWR will run a female train from London Paddington to Bristol, while LNER will run a ‘Flying Scotswoman’ from Edinburgh to Kings Cross.
The unprecedented push comes as Network Rail commits to increasing the number of women in the workforce by 50 per cent by 2024 – equivalent to almost 4,000 new female staff.
Separately Southeastern today reveals that 20 per cent of its workforce are now women following a concerted campaign to raise the profile of the industry – leaving the group on track to hit its target of 21 per cent by 2021.
The rail industry was dominated by men right up to the late 1970s, when Karen Harrison became British Rail’s first female driver.
David Statham, Southeastern managing director, said: “We’re 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’re proud that 20% of Southeastern’s employees are female.
“The fact 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.”
Four Southeastern staff will be involved in today’s train, including driver Monika Kurek and conductor Rebecca Greenstreet. In the unique partnership, 12 female members of Network Rail staff will guide the train on its way out of the capital to Kent.
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.”
Loraine Martins, Director of Diversity and Inclusion at Network Rail added: “This is about ensuring our organisation is as diverse as the communities we serve and valuing the contributions that everyone can make to our business. We will continue to work tirelessly to increase the proportion of women at Network Rail at all levels in our business, as well as developing the phenomenal talent that we already have.”