Mural depicting one of the first female train drivers to remain in place at Euston
A mural that commemorates one of the UK’s first female train drivers will remain in place at London Euston station as part of the campaign to encourage more women to consider working in rail as a career.
To mark International Women’s Day (March 8), Avanti West Coast and Network Rail have announced the image, designed by renowned street artist Akse, will not be removed as originally planned. It has also been updated with new wording.
The mural was due to be on display until the end of the West Coast operator’s innovative driver recruitment push, a campaign that has seen record numbers of applicants who are women.
Over 1500 applications from women were received, all hoping to secure one of the 100-120 new driver roles with Avanti West Coast. Successful applicants at depots across the UK will commence their training later this year and into 2024.
“With her feisty determination and impish good humour, Karen Harrison fought for women’s rights and the rights of other minorities in rail. But she was no ‘poster girl’ for the railway. She was willing to be a public figure when others were not, believing in the courage of her convictions,” said Daisy Hawker Wallace, Head of PR at Avanti West Coast.
“At Avanti West Coast, we want to embrace equity. Women like me would not have senior positions in rail, if it were not for Karen’s achievements paving the way. It’s easy to forget how hard this would have been for a woman in the 1970s, but the female experience then was quite different to what it is today.
“By working with Network Rail to ensure the longevity of this mural, not only are we commemorating her legacy, we want to continue to inspire other women to work in rail.”
Women who work for Avanti West Coast and Network Rail from a variety of roles assembled by the mural at Euston Station to celebrate Karen’s achievements for International Women’s Day.
Simon Bennett, head of stations and passenger experience at Network Rail said: “We are honoured to be the custodian of this mural at London Euston station. What better place to host this dedication to trailblazer Karen Harrison than one of our platforms that is used by thousands of passengers every day?
“I hope this mural continues to spark interest in a career in the rail industry and helps realise our ongoing ambition to increase the number of female colleagues at Network Rail.”
Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, said: “I hope Akse’s mural, which is such a powerful image at Euston station, will encourage more women to follow in Karen’s footsteps right along the platform, train as a driver, and step up into the driver’s cab for a fulfilling career on Britain’s railways.”
Those sentiments were echoed by mural creator Akse, who added: “I could tell that people really embraced the mural and what it stands for. The fact that it’s being made permanent is a statement of how much impact it has had since it’s been unveiled.”
A photographic record of the mural, which recognises the importance of Karen Harrison’s story and her wider impact on the rail industry, will also become part of the National Railway Museum’s collection.
Charlotte Kingston, Head of Design, Exhibitions and Communications at National Railway Museum, said: “Karen Harrison paved the way for women in the rail industry and continues to be an inspiration to women today. We at the National Railway Museum have paid tribute to Karen by naming one of the buildings on our site after her, and we are creating a photographic record of the mural for the national collection.
“As a national museum dedicated to celebrating the past, present and future of the railways, our role is to inspire people from all backgrounds with the wonder of railways and engineering. Powerful role models like Karen are vital to showing that the rail industry is open to all.”
The collaboration between Avanti West Coast and Network Rail has been fully supported by Karen’s family.
Her sister Marie Harrison said: “As a family, we are all delighted that the larger-than-life Karen Harrison has been memorialised in this way. It was especially wonderful for our mother to see her daughter claim her place in the history of the rail industry.”