School work experience led to successful railway career for first female train driver, podcast reveals

Published on: Wednesday, 6 April 2022
Last updated: Wednesday, 6 April 2022

Sarah Swanston, who is a guest of Greater Anglia's podcast. Credit: Greater Anglia

One of Greater Anglia’s first female train drivers tells how she started a lifetime’s career in the railway after two weeks’ work experience while still at school, in the latest episode of Greater Anglia’s Life on Rails podcast.

Sarah Swanston, who is a right time railway manager at Greater Anglia – responsible for continuous punctuality improvements – was put off from joining the police by her father and opted for the railway instead with the ambition to become a train driver.

Since joining on a Youth Training Scheme at the age of 16, Sarah has never looked back, she tells the Life on Rails podcast.

After carrying out a number of jobs and completing driver assessments, she became a “Train (wo)man Driver” and fully qualified as a driver in 1997,starting on routes out of Norwich.

Her career progressed to driving other routes, instructing trainee train drivers and then moving into management.

Listen to the podcast to hear Sarah’s fascinating reflections on becoming the first female train driver based in Norwich and the sound advice her grandmother gave her on hearing she was joining the railway.

The podcast includes interviews with other guests giving an insight into life at Greater Anglia – as well as a “travel surgery” segment with one of the region’s local TV stars, David Whiteley, presenter for ITV Anglia news.

David reveals his dream day in East Anglia, as presenters Juliette Maxam and Lucy Wright, from Greater Anglia, question him to work out his ideal destination on the Greater Anglia network.

More fascinating facts revealed on the podcast include why getting new trains involved installing brighter lights and new signs at stations across the network, as Greater Anglia’s client and programme director Andrew Goodrum talks about what was necessary to get the network ready for new trains.

Greater Anglia site manager Phil Hogg speaks on location from a wildlife garden at Norwich station which includes a honeybee hotel he made from old scraps which were destined for the bin and outlines further plans for schemes to boost local biodiversity.

The podcast’s resident fares guru, Ken Strong, explains how to buy a cheap ticket online and Juliette and Lucy talk about travelling on busy trains – from tactics for finding a seat to keeping safe.

Juliette Maxam, senior media and PR manager at Greater Anglia, said: “We think this is a cracking episode with a really interesting mix of guests.

“Why not listen to it next time you’re travelling with Greater Anglia to discover what goes on behind the scenes and get ideas for your next leisure trip.

“Lucy and I would love to hear what you’d like us to cover in future episodes. Please tweet us @GreaterAngliaPR.”

The podcast is available on all the usual podcast platforms and also Greater Anglia’s website and Facebook page.

The honeybee hotel. Credit: Greater Anglia