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Career Advice

How to become a Train Driver

traindriverWhen speeding through the countryside, or a tunnel deep under ground it can be very easy to forget that at the front of the train is a person working hard to make sure that everyone gets to their destination on time (well most of the time at least).  You might imagine that it is quite an unfulfilling  job, hidden away quietly in the Cab, but in truth it’s a highly skilled and unusual role that offers some great benefits and the opportunity to see plenty of different places.

Normally at this point we would provide a succinct definition of the role under discussion, but ‘train driver’ couldn’t be more self explanatory, so we will jump right on in and look at the role in a bit more detail.

What tasks does a train driver undertake?

Well ‘driving trains’ would be the obvious answer, but it isn’t as simple as that. There’s a whole host of activities and responsibilities to be considered – here’s a few things that you could be expected to carry out on a day-to-day basis:

  • Driving a train along a predetermined route, stopping at a number of stations in order to pick up/offload passengers and freight

  • Manoeuvring of engines in sheds/yards

  • Completing both short local journeys and also longer cross country journeys

  • Checking that the equipment and engines are functioning properly before beginning a journey and reporting any faults to the appropriate person

  • Checking the general conditions of the carriages before departure

  • Maintaining regular communication with the control centre

  • Following the instructions given by the signalling system and driving at an appropriate speed

  • Making information announcements to passengers

  • Ensuring that all safety procedures are carried out effectively

Skills and Attributes

A genuine interest and passion for the work is of course the first thing that an employer will look for when recruiting trainee train drivers. If you have that, then here are a few more skills and attributes that you will also find helpful:

  • The ability to maintain concentration over long periods of time – particularly when the position will involve long-distance journeys

  • Outstanding customer service skills

  • The ability to work both calmly and safely to tight deadlines

  • Quick reactions and great problem solving skills

  • Flexibility to work within the shift pattern of a train driver, which may often include nights and weekends.

Entry Requirements

As with the vast majority of roles there is no legal minimum level of qualification which is needed to be accepted onto a driver training course – that being said, most companies will set their own essential and desirable criteria which need to be met. Each company will set its own parameters, so it is essential that you take a look at the job specifications for each before deciding to apply.

Here’s a few things which employers could consider when recruiting for new train drivers:

  • Generally employers will look for a good standard of basic education.  This normally means at least 5 GCSE’s to include English and Maths.

  • Some companies will set a minimum age limit of 21 for their new recruits – however this is not a universal rule with many (such as the London Underground) setting an age limit of 18. However you should also be aware that even if you are under the minimum age requirement which has been requested, there may well be other relevant trainee positions available to help get your career underway.

  • If your application is progressed to the interview stage you may also be required to attend an assessment centre which could assess things like;  level of mechanical knowledge, memory, reaction times and concentration.

  • You will also be required to attend a medical check which will assess various areas including general level of fitness, eyesight (including a colour-vision test) and hearing.  This medical check may also include screens for drugs and alcohol.

Training and Career Progression

driverThe training to become a train driver varies from company to company but generally it will last from 12-18 months and will take place in a number of environments including classrooms, simulators and working trains. There is a vast range of knowledge and skills to be gained and your will receive intensive instruction on things like; rules and regulations, engine mechanics, safety, train handling and navigation.

Over the course of your training you will be required to undertaking numerous assessments which will gauge the effectiveness of your training and readiness to progress to the next stage of development.  You must also complete and pass a Personal Track Safety (PTS) Certificate in order to legally qualify as a train driver.

You may be surprised to learn that being a train driver is a job which requires continuous training and development throughout your career.  The main reason for this is that you are only permitted to drive on routes on which you have been officially assessed, which means that in order to increase your qualifications you must continuously learn new routes.

You may also be pleasantly surprised to know that train drivers have the opportunity to receive a very generous salary with plenty of room for upward progression.  Although every company is different, here’s an idea of what you can expect;

  • Trainee drivers – Somewhere between £18,000 and £21,000 is standard

  • Newly qualified drivers can expect around £30,000

  • Experienced Drivers’ salaries can rise to £50,000 per year

For a list of UK operators check out the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC).

If you still fancy becoming a train driver then we hope that is article helps to be get you on the right track. If not then why not take a look at some of the other roles in our career directory?


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