In contrast to the rail industry norm, where only 16% of roles are filled by women, 50% of employees at FirstGroup-owned Hull Trains are female


Claire_SonleyClaire Sonley


Hull Trains has reiterated its total commitment to equality in the wake of the Department for Transport’s calls for more women in transport.

The FirstGroup-owned open access operator received the highest passenger satisfaction score (97%) in the Autumn 2016 National Rail Passenger Survey. It is also leading the sector on gender equality and the support it gives to females wanting to pursue a career in rail.

In stark contrast to the industry norm, where only 16% of roles are filled by women, 50% of employees at Hull Trains are female. The firm also boasts the UK’s youngest female long distance train driver (see panel).

On January 25, the all-party parliamentary group for Women in Transport met with transport minister John Hayes, senior transport industry representatives and young women, to debate how to recruit more women into transport and engineering. Hayes said getting more women in transport is crucial to meeting the transport infrastructure skills gap.

Hull Trains has vowed to continue to do its part to encourage women to enter the industry – and crucially to get ahead – in a variety of roles from customer-facing, through to drivers and managers of the business commercial strategy.

Hull Trains managing director Will Dunnett said: “We’re recognised as one of the most innovative and enterprising operators and I think this is a reflection of our diverse management team. We need to continue to inspire and encourage women to seek a career in rail, because without them, the rail industry is missing out. I’m proud of our female employees, they’re breaking the stereotypes and are role models to others.

“And it’s not just about entry, but career advancement. Of the 16% of women in the rail industry, just 0.06% have progressed to director or executive level. At Hull Trains, we have three women (38%) on our executive team as well as seven (37%) in managerial roles and seven female drivers.”

Women also make up 65% of the on board managers at Hull Trains – another traditionally male dominated role. Nationally, only 5% of train drivers are female.

At Hull Trains, that figure is 25% as out of 28 drivers, seven are women. Many of the drivers have risen through the ranks from on-board hosts to drivers, thanks to the company providing full training.


‘It’s a brilliant career’

Hull Trains has developed the career of the UK’s youngest female long-distance train drivers.

Claire Sonley joined the company when she was just 19 as part of the catering team and then later as a train guard. With support and encouragement from the company Sonley qualified as a driver at just 23, making her the youngest female driver in the country. She has enjoyed this role for the past 13 years and would recommend it to any female with ambitions to work in the industry.

Sonley said: “It’s such a brilliant career to have and one that is relevant for both males and females. Lots of our on-board hosts have ambitions to become drivers and Hull Trains is a very supportive company that encourages all staff to further their careers.

“Being a driver is also ideal for parents too. My shift patterns mean that I get to spend much more time with my daughter than I would in a 9-to-5 traditional role.”

Kelly Todd was the seventh female train driver at Hull Trains. She first joined the company aged 21 as an on-board host. Eight years later she was driving the trains.

She said: “When I joined the company it never occurred to me that I could be a train driver.”


Further coverage appears inside the latest issue of Passenger Transport.

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