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Railway engineer urges women to seek careers in rail

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Johanna Priestley, a route asset manager for Network Rail from Newcastle, used International Women in Engineering Day 2019 to encourage more women and girls to view engineering, and particularly the rail industry, as a career choice.

Since beginning her career on the railway nearly 30 years ago, Johanna was a track engineer in the North East for over ten years before taking up a key role to improve train performance. Johanna was responsible for the track element of a wide-reaching project looking at how to make services more reliable for passengers.

Now she heads up a team of five who look after drainage, fencing and vegetation, making sure all of these assets are properly inspected and managed to prevent them from interfering with the running of trains.

Engineering wasn’t her first choice. She studied land surveying and mapping at college but, when she joined British Rail, she became more interested in engineering and went through further training to become a qualified civil engineer and incorporated engineer.

“My role is fantastic. Every day is different, and I get to work with a great team,” she said. “I really feel as though I am making a difference and that’s what I love about engineering.

“You are tasked with problem solving and creating solutions which will make a real difference to the travelling public and our lineside neighbours, it is incredibly rewarding.

“I’m so glad that I ended up on this career path and in this industry. My message for any woman or girl considering engineering would be to suspend any myths you might have heard. Engineering is a fantastic career and something we can all excel at.”

International Women in Engineering Day (IWED) is an international awareness campaign to raise the profile of women in engineering and focuses attention on the amazing career opportunities available to girls in this exciting industry. This year it took place on Sunday 23 June 2019.

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