Did you know that while the UK rail industry and its supply chain employs over 200,000 people nationwide, currently only around 16% of employees are female?*
Alesha Hancock is testament to the wealth of global opportunities available in the rail industry. Originally from Newcastle, an industrial coastal town in New South Wales, Australia, in 2015 she took a plunge into the unknown, packing her bags and relocating to the United Kingdom to work on the Great North Rail Project as part of the billion pound investment to develop northern transport links.
Alesha is the Integrated Construction Planner for D2 Rail on the Northern Hub Alliance’s Ordsall Chord project. With roots in such a small coastal town, Alesha says she never dreamed of working on a project of such historical significance: “As we dig beneath the surface, seeing first-hand the heritage of the city of Manchester unfolding is extraordinary. Uncovering Stephenson’s bridge, a piece of history, while making history at the same time is an incredible experience to be part of.”
Alesha moved to Manchester and joined D2 Rail in September 2015. She had limited experience of working on site and seeing first-hand how vital it is for each discipline at the construction phase to work together to deliver the job safely, on time and on budget. She explains: “D2 Rail gave me a great opportunity. Working for them on the Northern Hub project has exposed me to the challenges and complexities that come with a heritage inner-city project, something I would never have had the opportunity to be a part of in Australia.”
In order to give Alesha the experience that she wanted, D2 Rail supported her in becoming the Alliance’s Integrated Construction Planner. The role required her to work tirelessly in improving her rail construction knowledge to a high level of understanding in a short period of time.
“Working with the best individuals in the field has broadened my knowledge and skill set.” She adds: “The project has given me a greater understanding of how, unlike a lot of single-discipline projects, rail projects have multiple disciplines feeding into the pipeline.”
As a project planner, Alesha is responsible for developing detailed railway construction programmes, including an integrated lookahead for all rail possession works (working with the access planning team) and producing weekly detailed possession programmes (including more than 50 disruptive possessions) and accompanying staging plans that identify the onsite work activity logistics.
Alesha is a keen supporter of Women in Rail, a membership group created to improve diversity in the UK rail industry. Hosting regular empowerment and self-confidence workshops nationwide, the group is dedicated to attracting more women to careers in the industry.
She says: “Forums, social events and organisations such as Women in Rail are connecting and empowering more women to strive forward in the rail industry. I think this support is crucial to encourage women to both join and progress in the industry if they wish to do so.”
D2 Rail has endeavoured to promote diversity and inclusion within its working practices, viewing it as critical for business performance and the quality of integrated project planning and controls services we provide to our clients.
Managing Director, David Diesbergen, said: “At D2 Rail our people are our most important asset, and we take pride in investing in our teams to improve our performance, while also championing diversity within the workplace.”
“This has been evident in our recent recruitment record, where four women have joined the business in the last year. We are always keen to develop fresh talent in the industry, regardless of gender, and will continue to adopt this approach going forward.”
*From 2015 Women in Rail: Industry survey