Up Front: Alex Low

Tell us a bit about yourself and what your role in the transport industry involves?

Hey I’m Alex, I’m non-binary and a conductor for a train operating company in the North of England! My role involves ensuring the safety of my train, my passengers, my driver and myself at all times. I operate the train doors at each station stop as well as making the onboard PA announcements and walking through the train checking and selling tickets. I help passengers who require extra assistance by putting down the wheelchair ramp and helping them on and off the train, as well as answering any questions they may have about their journey. I also provide a visible and reassuring presence on the train for passengers who may be anxious or travelling alone as well as providing reassurance to all passengers during times of delay or disruption.

What impact do you feel your gender identity has on your job role?

I find that people make assumptions about my gender which leads to them usually using she/her pronouns and assuming I am a woman. This means I’ve had men assume that I can’t possibly be the conductor, because in their heads they still believe that being a conductor is a man’s job. I’ve even had people ask for my help and then approach a male colleague of mine and ask the exact same question as if I must not know what I’m talking about. I’m just as good at my job as any of my male colleagues and it’s disappointing to have people doubt my abilities based on gender. I also find that a lack of awareness of pronouns other than she/her and he/him means that, despite using they/them pronouns for myself, everyone I come into contact with at work both staff and passengers will just use she/her or even he/his sometimes. I’d like to see pronouns added to staff name badges especially for front line staff to help with this issue.

If you had any advice for a new person joining the industry, or even with an interest in the industry, what would it be?

Don’t be put off by the fact it still seems a very male dominated industry! You can absolutely still be a train driver or conductor or signaller or any other role in the railway industry even if you don’t look like the stereotype. If you are prepared to work hard you will absolutely be able to join the railway in whatever role you wish. There are plenty of people on the railway from diverse backgrounds with many different gender identities.

What do you think the biggest challenges to diversity are in the industry at the moment and how could this be changed?

In my experience there are a lot of people on the railway who joined a long time ago and are set in their ways and very resistant to change. Education and time I feel are the only ways to change these attitudes. Educating these people as well as new people joining the industry from diverse backgrounds will push change through.

Looking to the future, where would you like to see the industry in a year’s time?

I’d like to see the industry be more accepting and aware of people with different gender identities especially those outside of the binary. I’d like to see companies openly welcoming people of different genders and showing that they will support these people to have long and successful careers in rail. I’d especially like to see the end of gendered language being used in the railway, for example using ‘signaller’ rather than ‘signalman..

And finally, what’s your favourite type of crisp?

I don’t eat any!

Bonus Question: do you believe in Progress?

Yes absolutely. I want to be part of a diverse and inclusive railway that is a great place for people of all backgrounds and identities to travel and work.

We’d love to feature YOU as our next person Up Front. Interested? Drop us an email at onboard@theprogresstrain.co.uk and we’ll let you know more. Up Front is your chance to tell the world about your LGBTQ+ experiences within the transport industry. We look forward to hearing from you soon!

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