A day in my working life

Rebekah Price, Driver at St Pancras.

The day I joined the railway was the best decision I made. I used to watch the tube trains rattle past the end of the park from my school window and think “I’d rather be doing that than sitting here.” And I was right, although it was British Rail that I joined instead with its poor pay and conditions by today’s standards.

In my first days, I would frequently be the only woman in the mess room, which never bothered me. I knew that people existed who believed that women should not be working on the railway, but I never met any and I’m pleased to say that I have never experienced any hostility or discrimination. But walk into any mess room now on my company, and you’ll often find more women than men. The atmosphere is great, and it seems unbelievable to remember such a view.

The railway has shaped my character as well as providing me with a secure job and great colleagues. I don’t feel nervous on public transport whatever the time of day or night. I know from first-hand how safe it actually is. Being a Driver has also given me confidence outside the railway. If I take my car to be fixed, or have to call on utility workmen, I don’t let myself be made to feel inferior. I tell myself, I drive trains for a living. Don’t patronise me – I can fix a failed train! (well, sometimes!)

The railway now compared to when I started is very different, and it’s better for both staff and passengers. We are treated and employed as professionals, which is passed down in attitude to passengers, although that’s not to say it couldn’t have been achieved under a nationalised industry.

Management structure has changed, promoting on merit rather than seniority, helping to reduce the old boys’ club mentality. The outside influence from being a privatised industry has seen HR, with its predominance of women, play more of a role in day-to-day matters. It remains to be seen whether these things will be of tangible benefit to encouraging women drivers to apply, remain and progress in the industry, but I suspect that it will. However, this requires a positive drive to keep this on the agenda, as the Women In Rail group are doing.