AWC and NR Staff by Karen Harrison's Mural  (6)

Mural depicting one of the first female train drivers to remain in place at Euston

Avanti West Coast and Network Rail announce on International Women's Day that popular mural will remain in place at Euston station. 

  • Popular Euston station mural to remain as part of the campaign to inspire more women to follow in driver Karen Harrison’s footsteps
  • Record numbers of female applications received in Avanti West Coast’s latest round of driver recruitment
  • Digital version of the mural to be added to the National Railway Museum’s collection of contemporary rail artefacts

A mural that commemorates one of the UK’s first female train drivers will remain in place at London Euston station as part of the campaign to encourage more women to consider working in rail as a career.

To mark International Women’s Day (March 8), Avanti West Coast and Network Rail have announced the image, designed by renowned street artist Akse, will not be removed as originally planned. It has also been updated with new wording.

The mural was due to be on display until the end of the West Coast operator’s innovative driver recruitment push, a campaign that has seen record numbers of applicants who are women.

Over 1500 applications from women were received, all hoping to secure one of the 100-120 new driver roles with Avanti West Coast. Successful applicants at depots across the UK will commence their training later this year and into 2024.

“With her feisty determination and impish good humour, Karen Harrison fought for women’s rights and the rights of other minorities in rail. But she was no ‘poster girl’ for the railway. She was willing to be a public figure when others were not, believing in the courage of her convictions,” said Daisy Hawker Wallace, Head of PR at Avanti West Coast.

“At Avanti West Coast, we want to embrace equity. Women like me would not have senior positions in rail, if it were not for Karen’s achievements paving the way. It's easy to forget how hard this would have been for a woman in the 1970s, but the female experience then was quite different to what it is today.

“By working with Network Rail to ensure the longevity of this mural, not only are we commemorating her legacy, we want to continue to inspire other women to work in rail.”

Women who work for Avanti West Coast and Network Rail from a variety of roles assembled by the mural at Euston Station to celebrate Karen’s achievements for International Women’s Day.

Simon Bennett, head of stations and passenger experience at Network Rail said: “We are honoured to be the custodian of this mural at London Euston station. What better place to host this dedication to trailblazer Karen Harrison than one of our platforms that is used by thousands of passengers every day?

“I hope this mural continues to spark interest in a career in the rail industry and helps realise our ongoing ambition to increase the number of female colleagues at Network Rail.”

Mick Whelan, general secretary of ASLEF, the train drivers’ union, said: “I hope Akse’s mural, which is such a powerful image at Euston station, will encourage more women to follow in Karen’s footsteps right along the platform, train as a driver, and step up into the driver’s cab for a fulfilling career on Britain’s railways.”

Those sentiments were echoed by mural creator Akse, who added: “I could tell that people really embraced the mural and what it stands for. The fact that it's being made permanent is a statement of how much impact it has had since it's been unveiled.”

A photographic record of the mural, which recognises the importance of Karen Harrison’s story and her wider impact on the rail industry, will also become part of the National Railway Museum’s collection.

Charlotte Kingston, Head of Design, Exhibitions and Communications at National Railway Museum, said: “Karen Harrison paved the way for women in the rail industry and continues to be an inspiration to women today. We at the National Railway Museum have paid tribute to Karen by naming one of the buildings on our site after her, and we are creating a photographic record of the mural for the national collection.

“As a national museum dedicated to celebrating the past, present and future of the railways, our role is to inspire people from all backgrounds with the wonder of railways and engineering. Powerful role models like Karen are vital to showing that the rail industry is open to all.”

The collaboration between Avanti West Coast and Network Rail has been fully supported by Karen’s family.

Her sister Marie Harrison said: “As a family, we are all delighted that the larger-than-life Karen Harrison has been memorialised in this way. It was especially wonderful for our mother to see her daughter claim her place in the history of the rail industry.”

*Read about the Mural unveiling and recruitment campaign here

Contact Information

Richard Stanton

Avanti West Coast


Notes to editors

About Avanti West Coast

Avanti West Coast, operator of intercity rail services on the West Coast Main Line, is a joint venture between FirstGroup and Trenitalia, delivering a cleaner, greener railway that drives the West Coast forward.

We’re on a mission to revolutionise train travel. Our refurbed Pendolinos are returning to the rails, with a £117m investment that’s delivering best in class comfort. Rebuilt using sustainable materials wherever possible, including tables made from recycled plastic bottles, our upgraded fleet offers 25,000 brand new seats, free Wi-Fi, onboard recycling and much more.

New Hitachi trains are set to replace our Voyager trains from 2023, leading to a 61% cut in carbon emissions. Quieter and roomier, with more reliable Wi-Fi, wireless charging for electric devices and a real-time customer information system, the new 23-strong fleet is the result of a £350m investment in sustainable travel.

We’re tackling climate change wherever we can, from reducing energy and water use to training drivers in eco-driving techniques and sourcing food and drink from local suppliers. Our goal is to be net zero carbon by 2031. We’re on track.

For the latest news, visit the Avanti West Coast Media Room: https://newsdesk.avantiwestcoast.co.uk/

Press Office: 0845 000 3333

About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

Follow us on Twitter: @networkrail

Visit our online newsroom: www.networkrailmediacentre.co.uk

Network Rail press office - North West & Central Region - 07740 782954


About Akse

Akse is a street artist based in Manchester who has been painting murals since 1992. Over the last 15 years, his focus has been on photo-realistic portraits. As a street artist, he aspires to bring inspiration to the local community through the subjects he paints. In recent years, his tributes to Marcus Rashford, George Floyd, and Captain Sir Tom Moore have gained global attention.

About Karen Harrison

Karen was one of the first women to be appointed as a train driver in UK. She applied to British rail as a teenager in 1977 under the name K. Harrison and was interviewed under the belief that she was a young man., Becoming a fully-qualified train driver in 1979. She campaigned heavily to improve life for women on and off the tracks, and eventually retired to study law at Oxford University.