Train driver
Operators & Traffic Monitoring

Train drivers are responsible for transporting both passengers and freight. A train driver will be responsible for trains which may operate on local, national or underground networks. They may also spend time manoeuvring engines in sheds or yards. Train drivers play an important role in the transport industry.

Work Activities

In addition to operating the train and equipment train drivers need to keep to a schedule as best as possible whilst keeping their passengers and freight safe.

Typical job responsibilities include:

  • Transporting passengers and freight safely around the U.K.
  • Driving the train on set routes to arrive at the destination punctually
  • Checking the latest rail information to ensure no delays on the journey
  • Carrying out safety and equipment checks on the train
  • Observing railway signs, signals and speed limits during the journey

Train drivers typically work 35 – 40 hours per week on a shift system. The shift pattern will include early morning, late night and weekend work. Overtime is often available. Train drivers spend much of their time in their cab so should not mind lone working.

With experience it may be possible to become a trainer or inspector of other drivers. It may also be possible to progress into managerial roles with further training and experience.

Personal Qualities and Skills

Key skills for train drivers

  • Alertness and quick reactions
  • Excellent concentration skills
  • A responsible attitude towards health and safety
  • Good observation skills
  • Comfortable with lone working
  • Good hand to eye coordination
  • Good eyesight and hearing
  • Staying calm under pressure
  • Basic mechanical knowledge

Pay And Opportunities

Typical employers of train drivers

Most train drivers are employed by Train Operating Companies (TOCs) which include:

  • Passenger operating companies
  • Light rail companies including underground services
  • Freight operating companies
  • Engineering supply organisations


Qualifications and training required

Although there are no set qualifications required to become a train driver Train Operating Companies will often recruit candidates with a good general education with 5 GCSE passes grades 9 - 4 (A*-C).English, maths and a science are the most preferred subjects.

In Scotland, passes at National 4 or 5, to include English, Maths and a science or technical subject are helpful.

Candidates need to be 21 years or older before they can legally start to train as a driver. Applicants are required to take a number of tests to assess their suitability. These include operating hand and foot controls, basic mechanical knowledge, assessing ability to concentrate and stay alert and remain calm under pressure.

You will also be required to pass a medical which will assess your general state of fitness, eyesight, hearing and colour vision. You may also require clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS).

Once you have been accepted as a suitable recruit you will undergo a 9-18 month training course. This will include experience of driving trains as well as classroom-based learning. Some TOCs may run shorter and more intensive courses periodically to meet driver shortages.

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