Two modestly-dressed young women stand small in front of a towering silver-blue train. Normally, there would be nothing special about the scene, except these two women will soon be behind the controls of the train.
Say hello to A. Preethi and G. Jayashree — the only two women train operators for Chennai Metro Rail Limited (CMRL).
In just about two months, these two will control the giant Metro coaches that will take you from Koyambedu to Alandur in record time.
Both women are in their 20s and joined CMRL in September 2013, after finishing their diploma in electronics and communication.
“I have been having fun operating the trains; it is like a child being handed a new toy,” says Preethi, while her colleague adds, “The best thing is you are off the vehicle-choked roads.”
They didn’t aim to become train operators at Chennai Metro. Preethi says, “It was incidental. Initially, I fancied becoming an assistant loco pilot with the Railways, but the present job came my way first and I took it up.”
After months of theoretical classes, only in June 2014, when the training session began, did the women figure out they were to become train operators.
“Initially, we drove the trains on the test tracks inside the depot in Koyambedu. Now, we run them between Koyambedu and Alandur,” says Jayashree.
There are driver-less Metro Rail trains in the world. Even Chennai Metro trains are equipped with automatic operating systems.
“However, operators are required to monitor the movement of passengers. Also, initially they will be required to give command of the speed. But the system won’t let them go beyond 50 kmph. If they do, the trains will automatically come to a halt. We have also designed several other automatic provisions for safety,” says an official of CMRL.
As part of their training, Preethi and Jayashree visited Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, met their counterparts there and drove trains in Delhi’s test tracks. “There isn’t any difference between the two,” says Jayashree.
Preethi and Jayashree say they would like to see more women join their battalion. “It isn’t rocket science. It would be exciting if more women took up such jobs,” says Preethi.