Greater Anglia appoints first female yard controller at Norwich depot

Friday, 26 October 2018

Train operator Greater Anglia is trying to recruit more women into its workforce, across a variety of roles.

The rail industry is very male-dominated, however each year more women are recruited. Since 2013, the number of female staff at Greater Anglia has increased.

Now the organisation has appointed its first-ever female yard controller at Crown Point depot in Norwich.

Helen Dickerson is responsible for train movements in the yard, and making sure trains are refuelled, kept up to date with maintenance exams, and ready for service in the morning.

Helen, who has worked on the railway for 17 years, started out on a work experience placement before joining full-time when she left school. She did various jobs on the railway including posting tickets to customers, working in customer relations and telesales.

However, having worked at the depot for the past nine years as a production control assistant, Helen felt she was ready for a change and applied for the job as a yard controller earlier this year.

Helen said: “There are more than 100 men at Crown Point and I am the only woman working in a front line engineering role. I trained as a shunter, where I direct movements around the yard and can attach carriages to trains.

“I’m the person who gets your train out to you at the morning. I am really enjoying my new job. There’s a lot of job satisfaction – you can come into work and the yard can be very busy.

“The job is all about communication and it’s great to know you’re helping people get to work, school or important appointments every day. The railway is a brilliant place to work – not many people would stay at the same job since they left school.”

Helen’s job has become more challenging recently, with changes to the depot underway. Greater Anglia is investing over £40 million in a project which will see the depot transformed to accommodate some of the company’s brand new trains, which are longer than existing trains

The depot is getting better facilities to house and maintain the 58 new trains being built by Stadler, as well as a new train washing facility, improved servicing equipment and the ability to store and dispense more fuel.

Although Helen is the first female yard controller at Crown Point, Greater Anglia is taking steps to encourage more women to work in the rail industry

Earlier this year, a new group called Up was formed to attract and retain more women in the railway. Currently just 22% of Greater Anglia employees are female, something the company is working to address along with the rest of the industry.

The organisation has recently launched an internal recruitment campaign to increase the number of female train drivers. Currently, less than 5% of Greater Anglia train drivers are women.

Drivers are based at Ilford, Southend, Norwich, Cambridge, Bishops Stortford, Liverpool Street, Ipswich, Colchester, Clacton and the company is encouraging more people to apply and train as drivers.

More than 60 women attended an event at Greater Anglia’s Stratford office, where they were split into three groups.

They attended sessions on training, where they learned the intricacies of being a driver and were shown inside the driver simulators. Another session which explored a typical day in the life of a driver, where female drivers from across the network shared their own experiences. The other session was focused on recruitment, where they found how to apply for roles and what would be expected of them through each process - from applying to the medical exam.