If you can travel to your designated depot within an hour, meet the required medical standards and are over 20 ½ years old at the time of applying – then you could reach a salary of circa £70,000 within just a few years. Becoming a Train Driver does come with lots of responsibility, so you need to be disciplined and customer focussed with a healthy respect for the rules and a strong commitment to providing punctual services.
Sound like you? Well, this isn’t your standard 9-5 and you’ll need to be prepared to make some sacrifices like turning down the odd social invitation. You should also be comfortable spending long periods of time alone, eager to continually learn and happy to work flexible shift patterns, whether that’s early mornings or late nights
There are plenty of perks, too. If you’re willing to put in the time and effort, then you’ll soon discover that driving a train is more than a job – it’s a career you can be incredibly proud of.
Hopefully, you’ll find all the answers to your burning questions below. But, if you think of something that’s not been covered then please feel free to contact us and we’ll do our best to get back on touch as soon as we can.
Trainee Driver Q&A
I joined the railway over 3 years ago and it wasn’t something I’d thought about before. But, during my apprenticeship course with the business, we were introduced to different roles and I thought – I quite fancy that! I love driving as it is, so why not try a train. There was also the added bonus of a great salary; it can really change your life and your family’s too. There is a lot of responsibility being a Train Driver and I felt up for that challenge. I didn’t think I’d pass the recruitment process, but as soon as I had a chance I gave it a go and was successful. It still hasn’t sunk in, but I’m loving every minute so far.
Firstly, you need to be sure you can work shifts and you’re happy in your own company. It may seem daunting at first with everything to learn, but every person from my trainers, instructors, mentors, driver managers and fellow drivers have been nothing but supportive and are there to help and get you through the course. I’ve had nothing but a positive experience so far – so go for it! There are points you think, how am I going to learn all of this, but you do and if you’re struggling you can ask anyone and they will help. I feel very lucky to be doing this job, as I am thoroughly enjoying every moment of it.
I’ve worked shifts pretty much all of my working life, so I’m quite used to working all types of hours. I’m also fortunate to have a very supportive family, who help me with childcare and allow me to do this job. I quite enjoy working shifts as each week is different and I like having a day off during the week. There are times when you have to make sure you go to bed at a certain time, if you’re up early, to make sure you are well rested. That can be quite tough at certain times of the year. But, you eventually find your own routine which works and it doesn’t take long to adjust.
It was quite hard going back into the classroom for 16 weeks, learning all about the train and what to do when things go wrong. Just training your brain to take in lots of information was difficult, but in time it started to stick. By taking each day as it comes, I find it easier to digest all of the information – and there’s a lot! So try not get too overwhelmed and break it into chunks. As time goes on, you realise you can learn it all and it’s amazing how much the brain can retain. The 3am starts can be tough to get used to, but they’re not every day and it’s all about getting into a good routine to make sure you get enough rest between shifts. Overall, I’m really enjoying the challenge of becoming a Train Driver and haven’t faced too much difficulty adjusting.
The training course can be intense at times. There’s a lot to learn in the first 16 weeks and you have regular assessments, reviews, workbooks and log books to keep on top of. It seems like a lot but the trainers are fantastic. They’re very knowledgeable and guide you through every step. If you don’t understand something, they’ll help in every possible way until you do. Your fellow colleagues on the course are also a great support; revision sessions before assessments are a must, as anything you might need clarifying can be discussed and this has always helped me a lot. Make sure to keep on top of your workbooks as they’re also a great revision guide for reviews and assessments. Once you complete the 16-week course, you then start the practical side of learning how to drive a train. The instructors and mentors are brilliant, they talk you through the process of moving the train and as time goes on, they trust you to do things on your own. It not only builds your confidence, but it also means they’re confident in your ability. So, yes – the training is intense but also great fun. Especially when you drive a train for the first time.
Your questions answered by our Recruitment Team.
What is the application process?
Fill out your application
Complete an online questionnaire
Online assessments – Situational Judgement Test & Visual Search Exercise
Assessment stage 1 – In person tests (paper-based test)
Assessment stage 2 – In person tests (computer-based tests and CBI)
Driver Manager interview
How often do you recruit and how long do you usually keep roles open for?
We will usually recruit once or twice per year. We receive a lot of applications, so sometimes roles will only be open for as little as a day. We recommend getting your application in as quickly as possible to ensure you don’t miss out.
If I’m successful in the recruitment process what happens?
If successful, you will enter into a talent bank and will wait to be allocated a course from there. Once you have been allocated a course you will be sent a contract and you will be booked in for a train driver medical. All offers are subject to passing a Train Driver medical.
When you join you’ll go straight onto an intensive training programme giving you all the skills that you need to be a great Train Driver. The training is made up of classroom-based learning, practical experience in the driving cab, as well as independent learning. The training is intensive, and you need to be prepared to put in the necessary hours.
Who are you looking for and do I need to have previous rail experience?
The great thing about the role of Train Driver is that you don’t need previous rail experience or qualifications. Train Drivers come from all walks of life; from teachers to shop workers and paramedics to stay-at-home parents. It isn’t so much about the experience, but more about your capability to do the role and pass the process.
What advice would you give to anyone looking to be a Train Driver for the first time?
Firstly, the fact you’re interested is music to our ears; don’t let the competitive nature of recruitment process put you off. There are a few things that you can do to prepare yourself, such as first and most importantly researching the role. Have a think about why you want to be a Trainee Driver and the qualities you have that would make you suited to the role. Whilst thinking about the role, take some time to consider how you would manage the shift patterns, working by yourself for long periods of time and the need to study. Getting your head around the practicalities of the role is really important and will stand you in good stead with the process.
It is also worth considering some of the essentials such as attention to detail, speed/accuracy, hazard perception start thinking about how you can prepare yourself as these will come up through the assessment process.
One train can take up to 500 cars off the road and we’re encouraging people to ride against climate change. With the latest methods, we coach and encourage our drivers to operate even more efficiently and you too could be at the front of the fight against climate change – driving some of the most high tech trains in the industry. View our COP26 page >
Our colleagues Darran and Dave have created a series of videos where you can see what it’s like sitting behind the wheel of a Pendolino, or should we say lever.