Women encouraged to consider railway careers on International Women’s Day

Published on: Wednesday, 8 March 2023
Last updated: Wednesday, 8 March 2023

Rynette Crichlow and Blessing Akele at Orient Way depot.

L-R: Rynette Crichlow and Blessing Akele at Orient Way depot. Credit: Greater Anglia

L-R: Rynette Crichlow and Blessing Akele at Orient Way depot. Credit: Greater Anglia

Two of Greater Anglia’s female train depot supervisors are urging women to consider a career working for the railway on this International Women’s Day.

Rynette Crichlow and Blessing Akele have both spent many years at Orient Way depot, between Stratford and Tottenham Hale in North East London, working for the train operator’s cleaning team before moving into operations.

And now they are celebrating after being appointed the first-ever female yard supervisors at the depot.

They oversee the busy set of sidings where trains are shunted around, cleaned, toilets emptied and water replenished, before they go back out again, ready to start another passenger service.

The pair work in shifts in a wider team with six others, ensuring that the railway operates safely and on time, and that the points which allow a train to switch tracks are set correctly – as well as speaking with signallers, Greater Anglia’s train service and maintenance controllers, or colleagues at Network Rail, or dealing with any train faults or issues that may occur.

Rynette, who began working on the railway in 2015, said: “After so many years in Train Presentation cleaning trains, my operations colleagues encouraged me to apply. It was a bit daunting at first, but I thought I’d like to give it a try.

“I applied and was successful. We are not treated any differently – there’s no thinking that ‘we’re women so we can’t do this’. The training is great and you’re really encouraged to reach your potential. It’s just a case of going for it: don’t let anything stop you from following your dreams.”

The pair are proud to be the first women to get into the yard supervisor role at the depot, saying that they’re ‘leading the way’ and that it ‘creates diversity’, encouraging anyone to apply for a job in rail if they are interested.

Blessing said: “Women absolutely should consider working on the railway. The railway has lots of different career options and opportunities.

“In the past, a lot of women felt like the job was male-dominated. Gone are those days, a lot of women work on the railway now – while our role has shift work, there’s a work/life balance there too.

“You don’t need a degree – if you’re open-minded and ready for training then lots of people are ready to help you.”

There is a very wide range of roles on the railway, from those undertaken by Rynette and Blessing to other operational roles such as drivers, operational controllers and train planners; customer service roles on stations, on trains and in customer relations; engineering roles helping to maintain the train fleet; train and station presentation; human resources; finance; marketing; public, media and stakeholder relations; social media; procurement; safety and environmental management. It’s a fascinating industry which contributes significantly to people’s lives, the economy and the success of the region and the wider nation.

As a result, there are great job prospects and opportunities to undertake a fulfilling and rewarding career in a real breadth of business roles.

Katy Bucknell, Greater Anglia HR Director, said: “More women should definitely consider a career on the railway and we’re very pleased that Rynette and Blessing are progressing their careers at Orient Way depot.

“We want women to know that the railway is a great place to work and offers several benefits. We have several initiatives underway to help women see the railway as a career choice, including internal events for our current colleagues to help them progress their careers and outreach work in local schools, so we can inspire future generations to choose a career on the railway.”

Greater Anglia has previously held female driver days to encourage applicants into the role, with three ‘Aspire to Lead’ events planned in March to attract more women within the company to apply for leadership roles.