With the most basic form of passenger railway beginning in Swansea back in 1807, technology has advanced at a phenomenal rate. Yet since Karen Harrison was appointed as the first female driver in the UK in 1978, the number of women has risen at a more modest rate. And of those currently working for Arriva Trains Wales, we spoke to Deb James about her role, why she enjoys the job and how it suits her lifestyle.
"I love being out and about on my own work independently on my own initiative," said Deb, 50, from Magor in Monmouthshire.
"I also love being part of the railway. I have never known camaraderie like it, it’s like being part of a large family.
"Many years ago, I worked in an office environment, and this didn’t suit me at all."
Having joined Arriva Trains Wales in 2014, Deb drives on the Treherbert, Aberdare, Merthyr and Rhymney valleys along with Penarth, Barry Island and Cardiff Bay. She is adept at driving Class 150, 153, 143 and 142 trains.
"For anyone wanting to be a driver I’d say that you must enjoy working independently," added Deb.
"You must also be willing to dedicate a large part of your life for the nine-month training period, as it’s very intensive. It’s definitely worth it though, and you get out what you put in to it."
Having been happily married to her husband Phil for 25 years, Deb says the role can be challenging, but that with shift swap arrangements they are able to get quality time together.
(Some of the trains Deb typically drives every day)
Another recent addition to the growing number of female drivers for ATW is trainee train driver Lucie Argence.
Having joined Arriva Trains Wales in January, 24-year-old Lucie is loving life as a trainee driver in North Wales.
Based at the Chester depot, she is halfway through her training course on her way to becoming a fully qualified driver.
Lucie says: "I'm originally from France and I began as a Guard in France before moving to England. Things didn't work out in the job I'd gone for and I wanted to get back into the rail industry.
"It's an absolutely beautiful place to work and the routes around the north Wales coast are stunning.
"The hours are flexible which is great as it allows you to do other things too.
"I'd say to anyone thinking of applying to just go for it, it's a great job and who knows where it might take you."
(The north Wales coast, where Lucie is learning the ropes as a trainee driver)
Commenting on the celebration of female drivers at ATW, Polly Winn, Policy and Communications Partner from Chwarae Teg said: “Chwarae Teg are pleased to see Arriva Trains Wales marking the anniversary of the first woman train driver, and celebrating the women within their own company. It’s shocking to think that just 40 years ago, there were no women train drivers at all. But the pace of change is starting to quicken, and Arriva offers dynamic and exciting career opportunities for women across Wales.
“Arriva Trains Wales recognise the value of gender equality in the workplace, and want to ensure that the range of roles they offer are available to everyone. We at Chwarae Teg support them in this aim, and would encourage any woman looking for a dynamic, flexible and independent role in an evolving industry to consider Arriva Trains Wales. The more women we see in traditionally male-dominated industries, the more we can break down barriers and show all women and girls that they can be anything they put their mind to.”
There are exciting changes planned for the railway in Wales and Borders which will improve the transport network and offer opportunities for all. We are now looking for individuals who want to be part this journey.
Trainee drivers opportunities will be coming up across the network in the coming months.
For more information on how to apply please visit: https://www.comeaboard.co.uk/jobs