MUMBAI: Surekha Yadav, Asia’s first woman locomotive pilot, has earned another feather in her cap. She now runs the Vande Bharat Express on the Mumbai-Pune-Solapur section.
Yadav, who has put in 34 years of service, had expressed her desire to pilot the Vande Bharat Express when she had interacted with TOI in 2021 on the occasion of Women’s day.
“I am thankful to the Indian Railways for giving me the opportunity to pilot the new-age, state-of-the-art Vande Bharat Express train,” Yadav said. Piloted by Yadav, the Vande Bharat Express departed Solapur at the right time and reached CSMT five minutes before time.
Yadav underwent intensive training before she took over the piloting of the train on the route. The learning process involves signal observance, hands-on training on the new equipment, co-ordination with other crew members, and observance of all parameters for running of a train, among other things.
Hailing from Satara, Yadav started her career as an assistant driver in 1989 and worked her way up to become a goods driver in 1996. Her next destnation was that of motorwoman in 2000.
In 2010, she graduated to a ghat driver, after which she was allotted duty on the Deccan Queen, which runs between the city and Pune, negotiating the steep inclines of the ghat in between.
Bhor Ghat, with a gradient of 1:37 (for every 37-metre run there is a rise of one metre), is among the steepest and the toughest in the country.
The railway said it was on a mission to empower women employees. In 2017, Matunga station on the Central Railway became the first station to be managed by an all-woman staff. A few months later, the Western Railway introduced the concept at Matunga Road station.
Yadav completed her schooling from St Paul Convent in Satara and went on to pursue a diploma in electrical engineering. She applied for a job in the railways and inspired women across generations to take up the challenging job of a loco pilot.
Railways officials said that there were around 1,500 woman locomotive pilots in the country.