By accident! I was working as a shop assistant with a tailor in Saville Row, to gain experience of making clothes and feed my passion for fashion. It wasn’t getting me where I wanted so; I started looking for a job where I could be trained in new skills. Rail had never crossed my mind as a career. I joined Angel Trains in 2012 as a trainee planner and within a year I was promoted to planner. Now, I would not consider leaving the rail industry. I view fashion as a hobby and rail as a career. I love it!
Soon after joining Angel Trains, I was sent on a 2 weeks secondment to Siemens’ Ilford depot. I followed a team of engineers carrying out basic exams on trains, fault investigations and repairs. I found it fascinating! I was even taught how to wirelock the gearbox under the trains so that the bolts don’t twist off. It is an important safety feature as the gearbox vibrates a lot. It was a complete eye opener into the industry and I gained greater awareness of the type of roles available.
I was then sent on a 3 days secondment at GBRf in Peterborough, a company whose business revolves around train movements. GBRf have a contract with Crossrail to help move rubble. I spent time working with the planners and drivers involved in these tasks and found out about their job. I now understand why people are so passionate about the industry; they are involved in a large project and care about the service they provide.
I was then seconded to Bombardier at their Crofton depot for a week. I worked the nightshift, 8pm-8am. The purpose of this secondment was to give me an appreciation of the work involved in maintaining trains. On my first night, I got to work on fuel line, i.e. the refuelling of trains. On my second night, I worked with the team whose job is to prepare the trains for the next day, which involved checking there are no major faults on the train, cleaning it and storing it overnight. I was also involved in the inspections carried out before the train is stored for the night and then again before it leaves the depot in the morning. On my 4th night, I worked in the sheds where I helped the team rewire one of the vehicles. It was very exciting: the train was split into vehicles; the team then took out the engine, gearbox and cooler groups for the day shift to inspect so the refitting and rewiring could take place the following night. It was hard but, I learned so much about train maintenance!
Next, I spent some time in Northern’s control room in York. I stayed there for 2 days. It was great working with an operator. I had this idea that the control room would consist of 2 or 3 people in a room with a computer when in fact there were 10 people in a room, each with 6-7 computer screens each! It looked a little bit like an air traffic control tower. The team were watching trains all the time, communicating with the drivers. Their job is to keep all the trains on time, dealing with issues, re-routing trains, delay or even cancel some trains to allow for a smooth traffic. They also had to deal with shift changes and any customer service issues, including arranging extra buses for passengers if needed. They were constantly on the phone. A real jigsaw! It was just one TOC but I witnessed impressive teamwork. Running a train operating service is a 24 hour operation, 365 days a year. They were amazing, always upbeat and constantly vigilant.
I am currently training to be a contract manager; I am shadowing a colleague at Angel Trains.
I feel in the first few months of starting in the sector I was given opportunities which I believe I would never have had in any other industry.
There is always something new to learn.
It is fascinating! I am constantly learning new things. There is also the culture: people who work in the rail sector care deeply about rail, it is a very knowledgeable industry, no one minds when I ask questions and they are always keen to answer them as they are passionate about what they do.
I am new to the rail sector but I would encourage the secondment culture. It enables any new joiner to get a chance to understand the many career options available and get to know the industry better.
Women in Rail is a great initiative because, it showcases the workforce operating the rail sector, not just women, and promotes rail to the general public. It also enables women to get to know each other and receive support to further their career. I am on the Women in Rail mentoring programme and go to their workshops and events. I have made new friends through it. We need more women in rail!
Interviewed May 2015