The Last Word


Women in community rail – on track to change

Source: RTM Feb/Mar 16

Sally Buttifant, Mid Cheshire Community Rail Partnership Officer, explains how a Women in Community Rail group could be a positive way of promoting community rail, sharing good practice and reaching out to young people.

Community rail is about innovation, creativity and generally being at the forefront of good practice. But in terms of promoting gender, diversity and community rail it has appeared that we were on the slow train – you know the one – the train that stops at every station and takes an age to reach the destination. 

Things started to change in 2015. Women in Rail (WR) were putting out regular thought-provoking articles about gender balance, women in the rail world and the need to attract younger people, and particularly women, into scientific, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. Excellent! It is good to have a group highlighting women and the rail world, promoting dialogue and highlighting some of the issues facing the industry today. However, WR didn’t seem to be attracting community rail audiences and that isn’t really a surprise. Hands up if you know about community rail and can explain what it entails? 

A sister group to WR suddenly seemed to make a lot of sense, and a Women in Community Rail (WiCR) group could be a very positive way of promoting community rail, sharing good practice  and reaching out to young people. 

Over the last few months a core group have been talking, emailing and gauging support from colleagues with any community rail remit. This process has been surprising, challenging and positive. There is a lot of positive support for a community rail group, but there has been some anxiety around any group that appears to be just for women (WiCR is open to anyone who supports its aims) and research undertaken shows that there is a role for the group reaching out to champion community rail and diversity opportunities. 

A steering group has been set up with representation from five train operators (Virgin Trains, Northern Rail, TransPennine Express, Great Western Railway and Merseyrail), two community rail partnerships, two station friends of groups, the Association of Community Rail Partnerships (ACoRP), and transport authorities: Merseytravel and Transport for Greater Manchester. 

The group aims to: 

  • Become recognised as a strategic player across the rail industry and an important consultee
  • Share knowledge and expertise to encourage gender balance
  • Create a mentoring/support network for all colleagues throughout the industry
  • Increase inclusivity within the community rail world
  • Encourage younger people to get involved in the community rail world
  • Share best practice across the wider industry and business sector
  • Encourage innovation and a can do attitude 

We think there is work to be done – promoting community rail as a career and encouraging volunteers and colleagues to think about diversity and gender balance. Community rail is about teamwork and the best teams are made up of those with different skills and talents from both genders. WiCR is an inclusive group, very keen to attract male as well as female members and to demonstrate the benefits of working together. 

WiCR is also pleased to announce that Alex Hynes, managing director for Northern Rail (and new MD for Arriva Rail North from 1 April), is the first ambassador for the group, supporting and promoting the group and its aims.

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