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Train operator seeks to inspire others as part of International Women in Engineering Day 2024

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A train operator from Downham Market hopes to inspire other women to follow in her footsteps and take up a career in engineering.Erika Dileo was picked out by Greater Anglia as the company celebrated this year’s International Women in Engineering Day.Held annually on 23 June, it promotes the work of female engineers across the globe, and aims to encourage more women to study and work within the profession.

In charge of it all: Erika stands by a map of Cambridge sidings.

Erika, who works at Cambridge sidings as a Yard Movement Controller, is originally from Italy and joined the railway in 2017 where she worked at Cambridge station as a dispatcher.The role included checking trains were safely departing from the platforms and helping customers with queries.“I was working there until 2020, but then I was looking for something different – as much as I like to be in contact with customers, I knew I needed something more operational,” she said. “The job came up, I applied, did an interview and passed a couple of tests – and got the job.”Erika is now responsible for the 30 train arrivals and departures to and from the sidings every night. She also oversees the safety of everyone within the team during her 12-hour shifts.

Erika and the team use a whiteboard to help track what train is where in the fan of sidings. Picture: Greater Anglia

“The Yard Movement Controller role is all about organising trains to be in the right place, ready to go out the next morning, after they’ve been refuelled and had a top-up of sand for the brakes,” said Erika. “It’s like the Tetris online puzzle challenge, only with trains – and much, much more responsibility.”All of Erika’s tasks involve clear and concise communication, which is vital for safety. Members of the team work either a 12-hour day shift or a 12-hour night shift. The day shift involves planning all the moves needed for the night shift, while the night shift itself involves all the trains arriving and moving overnight.On either shift, Erika deals with constant calls from shunters who move trains at slow speed, signallers who allow trains to move to and from the sidings, control teams, and depot safety colleagues all through two phones and a handheld radio.

Erika at the control desk. Pictures: Greater Anglia

“It gives you a different view of the railway,” she said. “At a station, everyone thinks that you can go on a platform, get on a train and that’s it – but behind it, there’s so much work on the planning and preparation of the train.“You need to be proactive and reactive: things go wrong in an instant, be it a train fault, overhead wire problems or other issues. There is always something to do and it’s always changing. It is mentally stimulating.”Erika and the team are eager to see more women apply for roles.Greater Anglia said that while engineering is a male-dominated industry, the company has a well-developed diversity and inclusion strategy, one strand of which is increasing the number of women in the workplace. “I am proud to be in engineering – sometimes you may think an engineer is someone with greasy hands or something like that, but you can be operational engineer too. If you want to get in the railway, I would say try – and don’t be scared that you’re a woman. There are so many positions in engineering too.“It’s a job that everyone can do – the railway is for everybody, every gender, sex or nationality, there is no discrimination and it’s a very open company.”Ben Parry, Greater Anglia’s engineering director, said: “We have huge talent within the engineering department and it’s great to celebrate Erika on International Women in Engineering Day for the vital work she does in Cambridge sidings.“We have a wide variety of roles within the team, including operational, administrative, and technical positions. “If you’ve got the right attitude and experience, we’d love to see you applying for roles when they appear.”All available roles are advertised on Greater Anglia’s website, where you can also sign up to job alerts, see www.greateranglia.co.uk/careers



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