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Published: 16:22, 06 March 2020
| Updated: 16:22, 06 March 2020
Britain's first ever fully female-operated train service set off for Faversham today, with a 15-strong team of women on board.
Network Rail is aiming for a quarter of its workforce to be female by 2024, and hopes this morning's service will encourage more women to consider a career on the railway.
It also comes just before International Women's Day on Sunday, and so organisers feel it is a apt time to highlight this 'traditionally male' industry is just as much suited to the fairer sex.
Kelly Joe Ballard, a train driver from West Farleigh is living proof of this.
The 42-year-old has been in the job for three years and "absolutely loves" it.
She said: "I'm not treated any differently because I'm a woman. I haven't come up against any barriers - the team's actually got a real family feel and we all work together to provide the best service we can.
"It's actually not too difficult a job to get into either. I had to do some tests before I started but you don't need any specific qualifications - you get taught everything you need during your training.
"I was a bus driver before, so this was a natural step up for me."
Before the late 1970s, almost no women worked in the industry, but now they make up 18% of Network Rail and 20% of Southeastern.
Network Rail has increased the female workforce has already increased by 21% over the last five years.
Lily Kitchen, a project manager for diversity and inclusion at the company says there are several things being worked on to make the job more inclusive to women.
The 24-year-old said: "We don't just want to encourage more women to apply, we want them to want to stay.
"We've got a number of initiatives such as portable welfare units for women working on the tracks can go to the toilet on site and sessions to educate the whole workforce on how the menopause can effect people."
Miss Kitchen added: "We also organise inspiring speakers to go into schools to teach them about all the different career opportunities in the industry."
The Southeastern train left London Victoria at 7.42am and terminated at Faversham.
Signallers along the route were all women too, making the whole operation exclusively female for the first time.
If you are considering a career with Network Rail, visit the website to search for vacancies.
More by this authorRebecca Tuffin