Network Rail and train operator Southeastern joined forces today (March 6) to launch Britain’s 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 will staff the route.

It’s the first time an all-female team has operated a commuter service from depot to destination. About 15 women will take part in running the 07:42 from London Victoria to Faversham, driven by Southeastern’s Monika Kurek.

The service is one of three all-female trains today as the rail industry seeks to attract more women into a male-dominated industry.

The milestone comes two months after Network Rail and Southeastern partnered on an all-female special service from London Victoria to Gillingham.

Students and a cross-section of employees – from apprentices to drivers and engineers – were invited onto the train, which was closed to the paying public. The film above shows highlights of the January service run by Network Rail and Southeastern for employees and school children.

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“Such a great career to get into.” – Susie Hamlin, local operations manager

“We need women in those roles.” – Rhian Lane, geotechnical asset engineer

“You do make a real difference to people's lives.” – Sally Rose, finance director

“This is the future.” – Loraine Martins, director of Diversity and Inclusion

Industry effort

Separately today, Great Western Railway will run a female train from London Paddington to Bristol, while London North Eastern Railway will run a ‘Flying Scotswoman’ from Edinburgh to London King’s Cross.

The push comes as Network Rail commits to increasing the number of women in the workforce by 50% by 2024 – equivalent to almost 4,000 new female staff.

Meanwhile, Southeastern today reveals that 20% 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% by 2021.

Did you know? In the 1970s, Karen Harrison became British Rail’s first female driver.

We and Southeastern invited school pupils onto the special train to learn about careers

David Statham, managing director at Southeastern, 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.

One of the women behind the special STEM train in January

“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 were 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.

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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, said: “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.”

Read more:

International Women in Engineering Day: Just Like Me

International Day of Women and Girls in Science

STEM resources – Awesome Railways

Gender equality

Life at Network Rail

Gender pay gap report