Inspiring the next generation of women in transport

This particular Saturday morning the normal weekend peace and quiet at Stratford Market Depot was disrupted by a small band of WTS London members and their children. This unique opportunity for children to experience the Track Hazard School and see behind the scenes at Stratford Depot was provided by honorary WTS London member and supporter, Neil Pepper MBE who is the Night Safety Manager for Transport for London (TfL). 

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The Track Hazard training facility that Neil has created provides a controlled environment for TfL staff to spot hazards without the risks of live conductor rails and moving trains. It comprises a section of genuine LU ballasted track and fixed equipment that is dressed with a range of more than 50 hazards. 

Our enthusiastic group was guided by Neil. The children had ten minutes to spot as many hazards as possible before question time. 

Everyone was fascinated to hear and see how the smallest items can have a significant impact on the operation and safety of the railway. 

Neil patiently explained some of the potential hazards including fluorescent tubes, drink cans, grease and asbestos and how TfL deals with them to keep London moving.  

The track even has (fake) badgers as these clever creatures are common along the TfL route and like to dismantle the railway - it is in their way! Badgers are protected so TfL has set and complex procedures for relocating the animals safely. 

After a short tea break, Dale Samuel Manager of the Jubilee Line Depot led the tour, taking in the operations centre, the train cleaning and maintenance sheds and the control room. 

The visibility management room was a revelation to the children and adults alike illustrating how the depot team works together to keep a minimum 58 out of the 63 trains in the fleet in service at any one time.

It was interesting to note that only 8 out of 130 depot staff are women but heartening to hear that two female apprentices had trained at the site recently and that TfL is committed to increasing the representation of women in its workforce. Currently TfL is at 23 per cent, 1 per cent above the national average, and Managing Director, Mark Wild, confirmed his commitment to greater diversity at the WTS Winter Reception in February.  

The best thing about the whole morning was seeing young boys and girls engaged and interacting with people working in transport. The group was asked whether any of them would think about being the first female maintenance manager in TfL and two hands shot straight up! 

Thanks to the brilliant team at TfL for truly helping us to inspire the next generation of engineers and women in transport. 

Here are some comments from the visiting group: 

I got to see a part of the business I would not normally see and the learning experience was fun. 
Neil Pepper was an excellent guide.
I really liked the Viz room presentation and design.
Great opportunity for children to experience what a career in transport could look like. 
I connected with a lot of useful contacts.
What I particularly liked was the courage that TfL took  to include young children and get them  involved. An excellent idea!
Sometimes it can just be that one moment that sparks an interest in a child and that can be really worthwhile.

Thanks to Neil Pepper, Dale Samuel and the rest of the team at TfL who made this brilliant event possible.  

You can see highlights from our visit on our Twitter Moment