The UK’s Rail Operator of the Year is at the top of the industry for customer service and satisfaction and 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. It’s a remarkable figure given that in the industry as a whole, women today are represented almost the same as at the dawn of the First World War.
On 25 January, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Women in Transport met with Transport Minister John Hayes MP, senior transport industry representatives and young women, to debate how to recruit more women into transport and engineering. Mr 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 managing the businesses’ 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 company’s On Board Managers – another traditional 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.
The UK’s youngest, female long-distance train driver
Hull Trains also 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 Claire qualified as a driver at just 23, making her the youngest female driver in the country. Claire has enjoyed this role for the past 13 years and would recommend it to any female with ambitions to work in the industry.
Claire said: “It’s such a brilliant career to have and one that is relevant for both male 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. Kelly said: “When I joined the company it never occurred to me that I could be a train driver as it’s such a traditionally male role. However with the training and support from Hull Trains, I did it. Today many of my colleagues are women and I would encourage other females to go for it too.”
Hull Trains was named the UK’s Rail Operator of the Year 2016 at the National Transport Awards as well as scooping further regional and local accolades for service and performance. The company won the ‘Customer Service Team of the Year’ award at the inaugural North of England Transport Awards in November. This was followed by a local win for ‘Customer Focus’ at the Mail Business Awards in Hull, which acknowledges the top performing firms across Hull and the East Riding.
Hull Trains has consistently received the highest scores for passenger satisfaction for four consecutive years in the National Rail Passenger Survey. In January 2017, it was rated 97% for passenger satisfaction – the highest score ever by a long-distance train operator and 12% higher than the average long-distance operator. The company has also been amongst the top of the Which? passenger league for reliability, availability of seating, cleanliness and the overall conditions of the train for two successive years.