Responsible and determined: Female train drivers discuss their first month working in the metro

February 6
Transport

Twelve women started driving electric trains on the Moscow Metro’s Filyovskaya Line a month ago, on 3 January.

Earlier this year, the Russian Ministry of Labour and Social Protection issued an order on reducing the list of professions that are off limits to women. The Moscow Government, supported by the Russian Ministry of Transport, consistently pressed for this decision. In this mos.ru interview, Yana Sharova and Tatyana Bakova, graduates of the first class of female train drivers, discuss their life, the training process and their first days of work, and offer tips to other young women who want to drive electric trains.

Question: What did you do before studying to become an electric train driver?

Yana Sharova: I worked as an operator with the metro and decided to try my luck after learning that they were accepting the first prospective female train drivers for training. I passed the medical examination, and members of our group started training. I decided to go all the way, and I never had any regrets about my decision.

Yana Sharova, Photo by the Moscow Metro Press Service

Tatyana Bakova: I was a production engineer specialising in inorganic chemistry, and I have been working for over 17 years. Earlier, I had a job with a major enterprise and even headed a laboratory some time ago. I joined the Moscow Metro fairly recently. First, I worked as a duty station master and later studied to become a train driver.

Question: Why did you choose this career? How did your friends and relatives react?

Yana Sharova: None of my relatives works in the metro, and I have always been interested in technology. I wanted to know what a driver feels while controlling a train. Some of my friends supported me, and some of them tried to dissuade me because people think that a train driver’s work is difficult. But my husband actively supported me during the training process.

Tatyana Bakova: In principle, I wanted to work with the Moscow Metro. I was fascinated by its history, stability and social guarantees. This is important nowadays. Of course, all my friends were surprised. I had many offers, but I decided to become a train driver. My parents, children and my brother actively supported me. The training process was quite difficult, and my family’s support came in handy. None of my relatives has ever worked for the metro, and I am a trailblazer, so to say.

Tatyana Bakova, Photo by the Moscow Metro Press Service

Question: How long did you train? What was the most difficult aspect?

Yana Sharova: I found the technical terminology to be more difficult than the rest. I have never used such words before. The training process was rather long, you feel stress all the time, and you have to combine theoretical studies and practical work.

Tatyana Bakova: We began to study in February 2020. There were 25 young women in our group, but some of them never reached the finish line. We took an exam on 29 October and then completed a two-month advanced training course. At that time, all of us had a mentor, and we drove trains and did all the work under expert supervision. This allowed us to understand that this work was very difficult and to decide whether we could cope. There were some hard times when we had to study a lot. Some courses went online due to the pandemic, and this also created additional problems.

Question: How did your first days of work go?

Yana Sharova: I experienced the ultimate adrenaline rush, and I felt extremely tense. It seemed like I was frozen stiff and spent the entire shift in the same position. I breathed a sigh of relief only when the shift was over. Of course, it is impossible to describe my impressions. I felt overwhelmed for two more weeks and wondered whether I had made the right choice. You see, I did not do deep soul-searching just for the fun of it.

Photo by Maxim Denisov, Mos.ru

Tatyana Bakova: Everything was rather quiet for the first few days, with no unexpected incidents. We work no more than 40 hours a week, that is, six to eight hours daily. The bosses make our schedule beforehand. We take turns working daytime, evening and late-night shifts. This is convenient because we have time to relax, regain strength and spend with our families.

Question: Are your uniforms comfortable? What do you wear for your shifts?

Yana Sharova: We choose our own work uniforms, depending on the weather and our own preferences. We wear skirts, trousers, tunics or vests. I prefer boots, rather than ordinary shoes.

Tatyana Bakova: Right now, I prefer trousers, but I believe that skirts would be more comfortable during the warm season. I also wear low-heel shoes. We can choose short-sleeved or long-sleeved shirts. I find it comfortable to wear my uniform, all the more as I can always choose the best combination.

Question: How do passengers react when they see a female train driver?

Yana Sharova: I have not seen any reaction yet. They told me that some passengers take photos, and others stare at the cabin in surprise and cannot believe that a woman is sitting there.

Tatyana Bakova: In principle, they react positively and with a smile. Some people take pictures. A young woman once approached me on the platform and asked whether there were any female train drivers.

Photo by the Moscow Metro Press Service

Question: What do you like most of all in your career?

Yana Sharova:  I like the variety. Instead of sitting in one and the same room, I am always moving around. It is also great to serve society, and stability also counts.

Tatyana Bakova:  I like that my job calls for determination and responsibility. When you realise that you have safely delivered thousands of people to work and other places on time, you go home feeling content. It is important that the metro regulations deal with just about every aspect. I know how to act in any situation, and this helps me feel confident.

Question: Why do women drive trains only on the Filyovskaya Line?  Do you like to work there?

Yana Sharova: The Filyovskaya Line ranks among the most advanced lines. We learned to drive the new Moskva trains operating here, and I simply like to work here.

Photo by Maxim Denisov, Mos.ru

Tatyana Bakova: Moskva trains are both passenger-friendly and driver-friendly.  They are much quieter and more comfortable than their predecessors. It is safe and easy to drive modern rolling stock. The short Filyovskaya Line has some surface sections. Consequently, bad weather, snow and rain sometimes make things more difficult for us. However, modern trains are designed to handle such problems.

Question: What is the most difficult aspect of being a train driver?  Did you face any prejudices or stereotypes?

Yana Sharova: Although there is nothing extremely difficult about this career, one must study hard, gain substantial technical knowledge and learn train traffic regulations. And, of course, one must be persistent, diligent and responsible. Train drivers must also be extremely focused.

Tatyana Bakova: It is impossible to avoid prejudices and stereotypes regardless of your gender and career. I see nothing particularly difficult. A train driver must be focused and determined, and this applies to men and women alike. At first, it was difficult to work in a man’s world. But they welcomed us eagerly, and our tutors and instructors tried hard to help us.

Photo by the Moscow Metro Press Service

Question: In January 2021, the Russian Government reduced the list of exclusively male professions. What is the significance of this decision? What would you tell those young women who want to become train drivers?

Yana Sharova: As I see it, there is no such concept as “male work.” Many women are physically and mentally strong. I see no reasons preventing women from driving trains. Moreover, why can’t a woman become a teamster and drive a huge lorry? Modern women have tremendous willpower and lots of opportunities.   

Tatyana Bakova: It is good that they have shortened this list. Today, women should have the right to choose their profession. I have met women whose temperament and disposition allow them to work in positions that far from every man can handle.

I believe that those determined to become train drivers should choose this career. They will have to study hard for a long time and show maximum concentration during work.

Photo by the Moscow Metro Press Service

Women drove metro trains in Moscow and Leningrad starting in the 1930s. Their number hit an all-time high during the war and in the first post-war decades. In the early 1980s, the Soviet Government ruled that no new females should be accepted. Female train drivers continued to work as before, with no rookies to replace them. Natalya Korniyenko, the last female train driver working on the metro’s Sokolnicheskaya Line, resigned from the city’s Northern Electric Train Maintenance Facility in 2014.

Modern and comfortable Moskva trains are now entering service with the Moscow Metro. They boast user-friendly control consoles, highly automated functions for replacing manual operations and more comfortable working conditions for their drivers. However, a train driver’s job remains highly difficult and responsible.  The Moscow Metro’s administration is to recruit about 500 female train drivers in the next five years.

Source: mos.ru

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