Network Rail has launched a campaign to get women involved in running south London’s railway network, with posters at main stations celebrating women who are levelling the playing field in what has historically been a male-dominated industry. 

Women make up just 2 per cent of maintenance staff in the company’s southern region – which also includes Kent, Sussex and parts of the south west – although that is twice the national average. Only 11 per cent of signallers are women. 

Network Rail hopes the campaign, which is being backed up by case studies on its website, will inspire other women to sign up for a job on the railways.

Jordanna Mills, 22, from Ashford in Kent, is a senior technical officer whose team investigates and fixes faults on the line.

She said: “I absolutely love the maintenance side of my job as I’m fully involved in improving our track conditions at each stage. I also enjoy the variety of the job. I work closely with the teams out on track maintaining the railway, and with various engineers solving larger problems. It gives me the tools and experience I need to progress my career.

“I would recommend anyone to take the plunge and apply for a role within maintenance at Network Rail. It’s the most rewarding job I’ve ever had. I am extremely passionate about promoting women and young people in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics careers. I’m also keen to promote non-conventional routes into further education including apprenticeships. All these things weren’t talked about when I was at school.”

Woman on phone in signal box
Alison Baldrock at work in the signal box (photo: Network Rail)

Alison Badrock, 47, from Bexhill-on-Sea in East Sussex, started work as a signaller 11 years ago, and found that the shifts fitted in around her responsibilities as a single parent.

She said: “I always thought the railway was more of a ‘man’s world’ and when I asked my dad if it was something I could do, he encouraged me to pursue it.

“I was working as a private carer and was a single mum and felt a little stuck in my job. I had completed my personal track safety and worked with my dad for two years as a contractor on the tracks then my brother who is a signaller encouraged me to apply for a signalling job.

“I like the technical side of my job and how the day to day running can change at a moment’s notice from delays to failures. It amazes me that I still learn new things within the role.

“Since I started at Network Rail 11 years ago, the railway is a completely different place and there are so many women now in senior positions. We even have a regional managing director, who is now a woman. I genuinely couldn’t have imagined that a decade ago.”

Ellie Burrows, Network Rail’s southern region managing director, said: “Network Rail aims to recruit from the widest possible pool of talent and tries to appoint the very best people for the job and we’re aware that in certain roles there is an imbalance in diversity.

“It’s important for us to create an inclusive environment, increasing the diversity of our colleagues which in turn attracts more talent into the industry. We must cater for everyone, not only by embracing diversity but also embracing diverse views which will make us better at what we do.”