The managing director of Direct Rail Services has won a major award.

Debbie Francis scooped the Woman with Edge accolade at the prestigious Women of the Year Awards.

Judges said she demonstrated the courage to challenge and make a real difference in a male-dominated industry.

The Woman with Edge award recognises businesswomen who challenge the status quo and understand the road to success is not always straightforward.

Attended by over 500 people from across the country, the Women of the Year awards aim to promote positive female role models who provide inspiration across all areas of society and the business community.

Debbie said: “I am absolutely thrilled to win this award. It’s a great honour to even be nominated but to win when against such inspiring and amazing women is truly an honour.

“I’m hoping my work can inspire other women to break into industries which are traditionally male dominated and be catalysts for change.

“We’re committed to promoting equality across DRS, and across the whole of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority group.”

Debbie left school at the age of 16 with few qualifications, graduated from Liverpool Polytechnic and gained a masters from the Manchester Business School.

She has more than 30 years’ experience across a range of industries, including IT, infrastructure maintenance and railways and is now studying for a PHD.

Direct Rail Services is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

The company was established in 1995 as a supplier of transport and associated services to the nuclear industry.

In September, its business services director Natasha Hanson was named runner-up in the in the Outstanding Individual Contribution Award at the Rail Freight Group Awards.