A St Neots woman is embarking on a new career path that will see her join an elite squad of female train drivers.

Train operator Great Northern has launched a campaign to ensure that at least 25 per cent of its drivers are female and 24-year-old Holly Tidd is studying hard to earn her place behind the controls.

Holly has already begun her training, which could see her qualify as a train driver at the end of this year, and she is the youngest trainee in the class, which was the first in the company's history with a 50-50 gender split.

Holly started out as a member of the platform staff at St Neots and says she is excited about her new challenge, but says it took a lot of commitment to get through the application process.

"I decided to join the trainee programme because it was time for a new challenge, but people applying should be aware that the application process is tough as it needs to reflect the job itself, which is no walk in the park. I don't believe there is one specific skill needed to apply for the role. I think the key skills are determination, hard work and the ability to remain focused. There are lots of tests and interviews, but it has definitely been worth it."

Holly started her training six months ago and says driving a train is a complicated experience.

"Instead of a steering wheel, the train has something called a power controller, which I�'ve already had the chance to get behind. We have been doing some slow speed driving in the sidings while learning about the trains in the classroom. I thought learning to drive a car was daunting, but my first day on the train driving course was like someone asking me to learn how to drive a space ship! There are so many safety rules and precautions involved in train driving, which means that the driving isn't actually the hard part �it's everything else that you have to deal with.

"It may sound daunting, and a massive commitment to take a year out of life and revise every night, but it's completely worth it. I've never had a bad day, tough days, yes, and becoming a qualified train driver will be worth every sacrifice."

When asked how people respond when she tells them what she is doing, Holly said: "It's a mixed response, some people find it really interesting and want to know everything,but I do sometimes get 'isn't that a man's job' but it'�s a job for anyone.

"A great friend of mine has been a female train driver for well over 15 years and I believe she has led the way and I would love to be just as amazing as her."