Engineering graduate improving signalling between Sheffield and London urges more women to consider railway careers

A graduate who joined Network Rail during the COVID-19 pandemic and has been helping to improve the signalling on the Midland Main Line is encouraging more women to consider a career in the rail industry.

Ellie Smith, who is based in Derby, graduated from Warwick University with a degree in Electronic Engineering. Although joining Network Rail in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic meant Ellie completed her degree, then started work from the same desk at home, she has already been involved in vital work to make sure train services can continue running safely and reliably for passengers who have to travel.

Ellie has spent the last five months supporting the team carrying out work to replace and repair power cables along the Midland Main Line between Sheffield and London St Pancras International.

Ellie helping teams overnight.

Some of the equipment is around 50 years old, and these improvements mean the signalling system – the traffic lights of the railway – can work more reliably, reducing disruption for passengers as well as the amount of maintenance which is required.

Ellie said: “I knew my graduate placement would be different – not because I’m a woman, but because I was starting it right in the middle of a global pandemic. It made it more difficult for me to meet my team and move around different areas, but I’ve loved being involved in these signalling power improvements.

“When I meet new people outside of the railway industry, they’re quite surprised at what I do. I would really recommend a railway career to anyone considering it. I’ve been given many opportunities and lots of responsibility. It’s great to know I’m improving journeys for passengers travelling on the Midland Main Line.”

Ellie will be doing a series of placements with different Network Rail teams over the next year before she completes her graduate scheme in 2022.

Photo credit: Network Rail

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