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Meet the Director: Arriva Trains Wales' Bethan Jelfs on why the railway is a great place for women to work

13 March 2018

Meet the Director: Arriva Trains Wales' Bethan Jelfs on why the railway is a great place for women to work: Bethan Jelfs

A RECENT survey commissioned by the Rail Delivery Group and conducted by YouGov showed a massive 81% of women have never considered a career in rail

The figures show more needs to be done across the UK to change the perception of the industry.

Having begun her career in the booking office at her hometown station of Bridgend in 1990, Customer Services Director Bethan is one hoping to see an increase in women joining in the next few years.

During those 28 years, Bethan has held more than 10 different roles as she worked her way up to Director level and hopes her story will inspire others.

“I’d always felt I wanted to work with people and to solve problems and create new things and when I spotted an advert for a role within the former British Rail organisation, the railway seemed a nice industry to join,” said Bethan.

“I’ve never felt that gender was a barrier to success, and I’ve always felt that by working hard and trying to lead by example, you will do well regardless of gender but I have felt you sometimes have to work harder for people to recognise you’ve got that knowledge and experience. It’s not about women needing to be better at things than men, we should only ever promote on merit regardless of gender and leaders should look to set the right example because the only way you can change things for the better is by not being influenced by bias or stereotypes.”

After Bridgend Bethan worked in health and safety for a period before becoming station manager at Carmarthen at just 23. She took some time off to travel before coming back to work in Customer Relations, recruitment and later in the press office. She eventually became Training Centre Manager in 2012, managing some key UK rail industry leading projects as one of only a handful of women in a similar position. She then moved to Head of Stations and took the step up to Director level late in 2017.

“At the time when I was running the training and simulation centre I think I was the only woman in that role in the UK but I never worried about it at the time and was lucky to have the full support of the business, my team and managers around me,” added Bethan. We led some innovative and industry leading projects and that gave me a great understanding of the complexities of the industry but also a huge drive to make a difference and challenge some accepted norms and dated ways of thinking.”

“I think sometimes when you see a job advertisement some people will think ‘I can do that role’ and others might be less confident and think I might think ‘I’d like to do that’ but might not have the confidence to apply. I would say go on and apply. I’m not in favour of all women shortlists or similar but I do want women and anyone else who worries they might not be accepted to feel confident about applying for roles and working hard to achieve and inspire because we will always put merit first. I’d like to hope I can be a role model for people because I certainly do like to see people believe in themselves, work hard and do well in whatever they do.”

Jacqueline Starr, Managing Director, Customer Experience, Rail Delivery Group, said: “Britain’s partnership railway is committing to invest £250m in workforce training making now an exciting time to join this vital industry. Working together we have an ambitious plan to change and improve and to achieve this, we need to build on our existing workforce and attract diverse talent. I would urge women keen to make a difference in a dynamic environment not to miss out on great jobs and opportunities in a sector that offers quality on the job training, great benefits and family friendly policies.”

To find out about the latest jobs at Arriva Trains Wales, visit:


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(Bethan was back in Bridgend last week to welcome a presentation of a new defibrillator to the station from the charity Welsh Hearts)



Contact information

James Nicholas

Communications Manager

Arriva Trains Wales