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Feb 6, 2024

On the Right Track to Breaking Barriers

In the world of rail transport, an industry often dominated by men, Jess Hutchinson stands as a beacon of inspiration and change. Her journey from a small logistics business to the driver's seat of a locomotive at TasRail is not just a career shift but a story of determination, learning, and breaking gender stereotypes.

Jess's professional journey began in the administrative heart of a small logistics company. "I was initially employed as the Office Administrator and then quickly added warehouse supervisor to my responsibilities," Jess recalls. Her career took an unexpected turn when her brother, a Rail Operator, informed her of opportunities at TasRail. "The move to become a Train Driver seemed a bit random at first, but my brother encouraged me to apply, and that's how my journey with TasRail began," she shares.

In 2021, Jess started as a Trainee Rail Operator at TasRail's Brighton depot, a role that introduced her to a new world of hands-on work and diverse personalities. "Being a Rail Operator was a wonderful change. I enjoyed working outside and being hands-on," she says. Her brother Josh supported this transition, who played a pivotal role in encouraging her to take this new path.

Jess was surprised by the extensive training required to become a Rail Operator, quickly realising the importance of this due to the inherent risks of the job. "I disciplined myself to undertake additional self-directed learning to understand different braking systems in locomotives better," Jess explains, highlighting her commitment to excellence. The training was instrumental in her development, with the TasRail training department providing invaluable support.

Jess describes her role as a Train Driver as varied and exciting. "Some days, it's about driving trains from one place to another, or it can involve shunting trains together," she says. One of her favourite experiences is driving through Tasmania's beautiful countryside, an activity that combines her love for driving with her appreciation of nature.

For Jess, maintaining safety standards is crucial. "Ensuring I get enough sleep, eat properly, and stay vigilant about my surroundings is key to ensuring we all go home safe," she emphasises. She also acknowledges the initial daunting feeling new drivers experience and advises them to be constantly aware, especially in critical situations like shunting or approaching level crossings.

Jess's goal is clear: to continue as a Train Driver at TasRail, a role she has grown to love. Her timing in joining TasRail was opportune, allowing her to progress quickly. She is particularly proud of the increasing number of female colleagues in the industry and strongly encourages women to explore careers in the rail industry. "We now have eight female Rail Operators and Trainee Rail Operators across the state, and a female Trainer in Launceston," she notes. 

In conclusion, Jess Hutchinson's story is more than a career narrative; it's a testament to the evolving landscape of the rail industry and the breaking down of gender barriers. Her journey from managing office tasks to manoeuvring locomotives is a source of inspiration, proving that one can steer one's career onto exciting new tracks with determination and the right opportunities.


Jessica Hutchinson after winning the Tasmanian Transport Association’s Young Achiever Award, with TasRail GM Operations Chad Buchanan, CEO Steven Dietrich and Southern Branch Manager Chris Baric.

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