By Richard Marsden
Daily Mail – 27 December 2017
It was coined as a catchy term for the cast of thousands of boiler-suited engineers working on major railway projects. But the nickname ‘Orange Army’ is no more ... another victim of political correctness.
It is understood Network Rail scrapped the name amid fears it may be ‘too macho’ and off-putting to women. Instead, the 30,000-strong team working this Christmas and New Year are referred to as ‘Team Orange’. One rail insider said:
“There is a feeling that the industry is too macho and use of terms like ‘army’ didn't help, which is why the nickname has been changed. Only around 4 per cent of rail engineers are women and we are trying to attract more of them.”
Meanwhile Network Rail has confirmed that the name change has taken place to become ‘more inclusive’.
The term Orange Army had appeared in Network Rail publicity for several years and last Christmas there was even a video made by an Orange Army Choir. To the tune of the Christmas carol Away In A Manger, they sang:
“We are the Orange Army, And we're working for you, Upgrading your railway, So it's shiny and new.”
Now Network Rail is facing a backlash from supporters of the Armed Forces – which have made great strides to become more attractive to female recruits including allowing them to serve in the infantry and Special Forces for the first time.
Tory MP Dr Julian Lewis, chairman of the Defence Select Committee, said:
“It's a perfect Christmas present to learn that Network Rail has nothing more important to worry about than use of terminology. Some of our most courageous wartime activists including resistance fighters and members of the SOE [the Second World War's Special Operations Executive] were female, carrying out acts of extreme bravery and courage behind enemy lines.
“The idea that anyone would be put off from working in an industry through use of a term like ‘army’ is facile.”
Fellow Defence Committee member John Spellar MP said:
“I recently attended a celebration in Speaker's House to celebrate 100 years of the Women's Royal Naval Service — people who have proudly served their country. The Armed Forces now admit women to almost every role.
“This name change is just a nonsense and an insult not only to our superb Armed Forces but also Network Rail's own front-line staff. It will make no difference to recruitment of women whatsoever.”
Meanwhile Lord Tebbit said:
“Who do Network Rail think worked in the Land Army in the Second World War? The word didn't put women off then.”
And Tory MP Philip Davies said:
“Network Rail should spend more money employing actual engineers for the railways to get jobs done on time than politically correct idiots who dream up this kind of idea.”
A leading women's group said the rail industry should change its working practices – which include long shifts at anti-social times – to attract more female recruits. Sam Smethers, Fawcett Society chief executive, said:
“Language does matter so this change may make a difference but the structural barriers to women entering engineering must be addressed. More young women studying maths and science to level three or degree level and a transformation of the working practices of engineering companies would make a big difference.”
A Network Rail spokesman said:
“The phrase ‘Orange Army’ has been used to describe our workforce for several years and it has passed its sell-by date. The change is about being more inclusive.”