There as a time when boys – but rarely girls – wanted to be engine drivers when they grew up.
The train operating company (TOC), which runs services from London Liverpool Street to destinations in Essex, Suffolk, Norfolk and parts of Hertfordshire and Cambridgeshire, aims to break down the myths around the role of the driver, which remains heavily male-dominated. While a quarter of the TOC's workforce comprises women, only 8% of its 805 mainline drivers are women. The new initiative forms part of Greater Anglia's diversity and inclusion strategy.
A recent event at the company's training academy in Stratford saw 25 women employees, who presently work in various roles, learn about the tests and skills which are needed to become a train driver. The ‘taster' day allowed those attending to find out about what happens both inside the cab and at the depot. Existing female train drivers were on hand to answer questions from potential new recruits. Those expressing an interest were also able to ‘drive' a train, using a cab simulator.
Anyone who decides to apply to become a driver faces a rigorous selection process. They will need to attend initial assessments at Greater Anglia's Academy at Stratford, followed by interviews. If successful, a trainee driver will spend time in the classroom to learn about rules and regulations, as well as all the intimate details about each train they will be driving. Practical lessons follow as well as learning the routes that will be driven. That takes place under the eagle eye of an experienced mentor who will train the new driver for six months before a final assessment takes place.
There is a number of driver depots across the Greater Anglia network, at London Liverpool Street, Bishop's Stortford, Cambridge, Ilford, Southend Victoria, Colchester, Clacton-on-Sea, Ipswich and Norwich.
Katy Bucknell, HR Director at Greater Anglia, said: “Historically, the role of the train driver has always been correlated with a male person – but you can be any gender to undertake that role and it is important that we break down that stereotype.
“Days like this give our female colleagues a chance to look at the recruitment and training process and we hope that it will increase our applications for female train drivers in the company.”
Lottie Hart, a Greater Anglia Depot Driver at the Southend Victoria depot, added: “It doesn't matter what gender you are – on the railway, you do your training and if you are able to fulfil the role and concentrate, you are suitable.
“Everyone has been welcoming. There are so many avenues within Greater Anglia that you can go on and do regardless of who you are. I am very proud to be where I am. I have got daughters so when I said that I am going to go on and be an actual train driver, I feel like they are proud of me too.”