Charlie Vital 3

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Women in Rail | How a former footballer found her way into trespass prevention — via Australia

James Kenealey trends

Charlie Vital 3

Some people know what career they want from an early age, others follow in the footsteps of their parents, while many of us become settled when our skills meet opportunity.

The latter has proven true for Charlie-Lea Fitzpatrick. After playing for Everton FC Ladies when she was younger, the Liverpool local chose to pack her bags and travel to the other side of the world for a year, before returning to England and her family and friends back home.

Before flying out to Oz, Charlie-Lea had spent 11 months working as a sports massage therapist, but after coming back she chose to become a Trespass and Vandalism Patroller (TVP) with Vital Human Resources after desiring something completely new from her career.

“I’d never worked in the rail industry before and hadn’t thought about doing so; I just knew I wanted a change and found something I liked.”

That was Charlie-Lea’s response when I asked her why she decided to make such a change after spending a year as a massage therapist.

“I wanted a change and when I found out about the chance to work in the rail industry and hearing about Real Skills and the PTS (Personal Track Safety) training, I knew I had to go for it. I went with another female TVP member to complete the training, which did feature a number of other females. The trainer was lovely and really helpful, he made us feel at ease. After the course, I’ve gone on to experience lots of interesting projects before now focusing on trespass and vandalism prevention.
There are a few different things we do, and there are two of us working together. We’ll get sent to various lines to check on things, and you might have a group of youths who shouldn’t be there that we have to deal with, for example.
Sometimes it might be people vandalising bits around the lines and we’ve been trained for that. There are also vulnerable people, and we’re trained to approach them too and how to get the BTP (British Transport Police) involved.”

Charlie-Lea is rightly proud of the work herself and other TVP members carry out up and down the country’s rail network. Both in terms of operational safety and smooth running of lines, the role is incredibly important.

TVP staff spend around 160,000 combined hours patrolling our rail network. The work they do keeps both the public and freight moving around Britain and more importantly, they save lives.

Back in 2018, we reported that as part of Operation Regatta — a joint partnership between Network Rail, BTP and ATOC — our trespass and vandalism patrollers helped reduce suicide rates in the Thameslink area by 53%, which translates as more than 50 life-saving interventions.

Importantly, Charlie-Lea believes improved diversity within the rail industry may well play an outsized role in helping to save even more lives.

“I definitely think when people who are unstable see a woman approaching them, it does make them feel calmer."

Understandably, Charlie-Lea wants to see more people like her consider working within rail as a potential career move.

“More girls should get into this work because it’s such a good feeling to be able to help people and having more diversity on track can only be a good thing.”

Click here to read about how Katie moved from a successful career in banking management into the rail industry