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Great Northern and Southern driving change in the rail industry – celebrating our female colleagues

Press release   •   Mar 08, 2018 14:55 GMT

Driving change: Great Northern trainee drivers (left to right) Faye Lartey, Sophie Toy, Holly Tidd, and Kirsty Merrington

Women account for half of Great Northern and Southern’s recent intake of trainee train drivers, says rail operator Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR), as it celebrates female colleagues across the business to mark International Women’s Day 2018.

GTR wants to build on this success throughout the course of the year and is encouraging more women to apply for driver vacancies across the business, as well as considering a career in the wider rail industry.

With roles available from Brighton to Blackfriars, Peterborough to Three Bridges, GTR is encouraging the next generation of train drivers to apply, and help us to redress the gender imbalance in what is traditionally a male-dominated industry.

During the course of the 2018, 88 drivers will be recruited on GTR’s Great Northern and Thameslink routes as the organisation continues with its network-wide modernisation programme, RailPlan20/10, which will see new trains, seamless journeys and ‘tube-like’ peak services across London.

A recent class of trainees from across Peterborough and St Neots (see below case studies) on Great Northern demonstrates the commitment that GTR is making to improving gender equality in our driver community. Our first class with a 50:50 gender split, the group includes mums that are retraining from different industries, as well as former station staff from across the patch.

Challenging the stereotype of what a train driver looks like, these young women are at an important stage of their training toward a new career for life, with flexibility, excellent benefits and on-the-job training.

The story is also changing on Southern. In December, we brought together all of the drivers in training on the Southern route to celebrate their progress – see attached images of our new female trainees with Passenger Services Director for Southern and Gatwick Express, Angie Doll. Of the 96 Southern trainees that commenced their training in 2017, 57 were internal promotions and 39 were brand new joiners.

Since June 2017 our Southern driver training intake has been 25% female and of the 80 trainees to be recruited in 2018, a minimum of 25% will be female. So far, progress is good; since the beginning of the year, Southern has also seen a new driver class commence with a 50:50 gender balance.

There are also opportunities beyond the driver’s cab, with the industry offering fantastic benefits, as well as on-the-job training, flexible working and true career potential in areas including Human Resources, Finance and Operations.

Please see below for case studies of success stories from women in a variety of roles and locations across the GTR network.

Case Studies

From the first Great Northern driver trainee class with a 50:50 gender split

Kirsty Merrington, trainee driver for Great Northern, from Peterborough

Kirsty, 26, mum to a 5-year-old son, joined after working as gateline staff at Hertford

“Apart from the obvious reason of wanting to drive trains, I really wanted to become a train driver because I want to achieve something great in life. I want to be an inspiration to my son; he sees all the homework I have to do and it's good for him to see that you have to put hard work and effort into something you want. Goals aren't supposed to be easy, and that's why I worked really hard to get the job. The hard work isn't over yet. I've just passed my final rules assessment which is really exciting! The next chapter is going to be traction which I think will be a challenge for me but I'm ready for it!

“My son also said to me recently his friend said to him, 'only boys drive trains'. And that is a perception I'm really passionate about changing. I tell everyone that I can that I'm training to be a driver so I can spread awareness that it is achievable whether you’re a woman or not!”

Holly Tidd, 24, is the youngest trainee of the class, from St Neots

She joined the railway five years ago, originally as platform staff. Her sister also works in the on-board roster team for Southern.

“Working so closely with train drivers and having friends who were in the job fuelled my passion for applying for the driver programme. I felt like I had given the platform everything and it was time for a new and exciting challenge. So far training has been just that but 1000% worth the revising every night, weekends and waking up in the middle the night remembering reasons you can pass a signal at danger! I’m really looking forward to the rest of the training with our class and going through this journey together.

“Last Thursday we all took our final rules exam which took 5/6 hours and had our reviews on the Friday and all passed! We also received our master key; it’s all starting to feel real now and flying by! Next week we start our core traction on 313’s and finally get to learn and play around with trains which will be an exciting change.”

Sophie Toy, 28, GN trainee driver, based at Potters Bar

Mum of two, Sophie joined the driver trainee programme after working as a dental nurse.

“I wanted a new challenge, and my husband is a tube driver so I saw how easy we could make the shift patterns fit around our lives – they make it easy to plan. Juggling training and looking after the children is much easier than I was expecting.”

Faye Lartey, 25, trainee driver for Great Northern, Peterborough

Faye’s father was a train driver so perhaps the career decision was inevitable!

“I've grown up with an insight into working on the railway; specifically train driving. My dad has worked in the driving grade for 40 years; from driving to instructing to different managerial roles. He is currently a simulator and standards manager so I've always had an awareness of the job itself and the lifestyle that comes with it; trying to keep two young kids quiet whilst their dad's on night shift is no mean feat so well done to my mum! I always remember my dad asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up. "What about a train driver?" I never even considered it to be a realistic job prospect; I remember saying "No, that's a man's job." There's so much I would say to my eight year old self about that response now.

“We had our final rules assessment last week; the written assessment (which took around 6 hours) on Thursday and then the reviews took place on Friday. It was a lot of hard work and revision pretty much non-stop leading up to it but we all passed! A couple of us on Friday were given our first master key! It definitely feels like a milestone and a huge sense of achievement but I'm also very aware that there is still a lot of hard work to come.

“It wasn't until I was at uni studying for my Law degree that I started to really consider becoming a driver. Once I had completed my degree, I knew I didn't want to pursue Law any further but I also knew that some of the skills I gained throughout my degree were transferable to the driving role so I decided to work towards this. I started on the railway in an admin job followed by a role in revenue at Stevenage where I really settled into railway life. The vacancy was advertised and fast forward through the 7 month recruitment process, I found out that I was successful. The training has been challenging and requires a lot of hard work and dedication both in and out of work which means revision every night. I have a really great bunch of people on my course who are all willing to help each other out. My dad has been very supportive and it's been helpful to have someone close by who is really knowledgeable in that particular field. It's been a real learning experience so far and we're only a third of the way through training. I’m looking forward to moving onto the next stage and the new challenges that it will inevitably bring.”

GTR’s inspirational women

Polly McGillivray, Train Driver Instructor for Southern, based at Selhurst Training Centre, from Brighton

Polly trains the next generation of train drivers as an Operations Learning Manager for Southern. She has worked in the rail industry since 2000, with her first role in the sector at London Underground. She joined the industry after working in recruitment and marketing roles. She also happens to be a champion bodybuilder in her ‘spare time,’ competing in competitions across the south.

‘I joined the Railway looking for a stable job that I could be proud of and Train Driving looked super fun! When I joined only 8 years ago this was a career that really didn’t have many women in the role. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I was a little daunted. I knew I had to prove myself and I worked hard to gain respect from my peers and pretty soon I was welcomed into the Railway family. It was the best decision I ever made and it still makes me giggle when I hear people whisper to each other ‘it’s a Lady Driver’ when they see me stepping into the front cab. It’s so good to see more women coming into the Driver role and I would encourage more to do it!’

Lola Gray, Operations Resourcing Apprentice, from Bishop’s Stortford

Lola is responsible for creating train crew rosters for Thameslink and Great Northern. She is responsible for accurately inputting data with regards to availability of train crew, hours worked, holidays etc.

Her manager describes her as, “the "go-to" for any queries from senior management as she has proven many times that she can create solutions and accurate work to at least the same level as her more experienced colleagues. Once her formal apprenticeship comes to an end she'll be starting leadership coaching within her department with a view towards a more senior role over the next few years.”

Marcia Watson, Senior Franchise Compliance Manager, based at HQ, from Croydon

Marcia has worked in the rail industry for 12 years. In her role as GTR’s Senior Franchise Compliance Manager, she is responsible for managing the relationship between GTR and the Department for Transport, ensuring that we deliver the Franchise Agreement. Prior to joining the rail industry Marcia worked for Deloitte UK and is a member of the Institute of Internal Auditors.

"Being part of the Go-Ahead Group Bid Team that was responsible for winning this franchise and then managing the mobilization team for GTR was an exciting and challenging time. However, nothing beats this period of time working with an exceptional team as they deliver the UK's largest franchise and overcome the host of challenges and show just what can be achieved.

“Whilst I represent a minority diversity group, I am encouraged and excited about being part of GTR's franchise journey."

Kerri Ricketts, Head of Customer Experience, based at GTR HQ, from Farnborough

Kerri joined the railway in 2015 after a varied and successful career in financial services at HSBC. Beginning her career as a retail and credit graduate trainee and working across vastly varied roles in credit and risk, audit, agriculture through to branch management and retail transformation and latterly global leadership roles in customer research and experience.

As Head of Customer Experience, Kerri leads her team in both setting strategy and putting the customer at the heart of modernisation programmes, working with colleagues across front line teams to make journeys easier for our customers, supporting customers when things don’t go to plan and whilst they travel (including GTR’s Twitter team), and ensuring that basic standards are consistently in place across GTRs trains and stations.

“Having loved being able to influence and shape things to deliver better experiences for frontline teams and 1000’s customers in financial services, I was keen to do the same in a completely different industry and work across the teams to do the same. I am learning so much from our passionate rail experts across all GTR teams and roles, including getting out there as an on board supervisor on our Southern routes. It is GTR’s and the passionate people in rail that will make the biggest difference.”


Notes to editors

For more information email or call

Southern and Gatwick Express press office: 0203 750 2030

Thameslink and Great Northern press office: 0203 750 2031

Govia Thameslink Railway

Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) operates Thameslink, Great Northern, Southern and Gatwick Express services. It is the largest rail franchise in the UK in terms of passenger numbers, trains, revenue and staff. The operator carries about 326 million passenger journeys per year, and employs around 7,000 people. Its aim is to improve services across all four networks.

Ticket revenue is passed to the government, which pays GTR a fee to operate the franchise. The fee is adjusted according to how well the train service is performing.

Southern has the fastest passenger growth in the UK with numbers into London having doubled in 12 years - compared with the industry as a whole doubling over the past 20 years. Passenger numbers on GTR's other routes have also seen huge growth - at King's Cross they have increased among all operators combined by 70% in 14 years.

GTR has introduced more new trains in the past year than all other franchises put together, with 500 new carriages so far.

GTR's transformative RailPlan 20/20 modernisation programme incorporates the £7bn Thameslink Programme which will bring hundreds more daily services, increasing the number of trains though the central London core from up to 15 to 24 trains per hour. Network Rail has also launched a £300m programme to improve resilience across the GTR network.

Under RailPlan 20/20, GTR is modernising how it works, with new technology in use at our stations and on our trains, smartcard ticketing and a new, flexible on-board role on many Southern services. This ensures fewer cancellations, and with more staff on board our trains now than ever before, passengers are enjoying a much better level of on-board customer service.

The GTR investment programme for stations includes funding for more CCTV, toilet refurbishments, new retail facilities, help points and car park improvements – as well as plans for increased motorcycle storage and improved transport integration.,,,