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Train driver Engine driver, underground driver, Eurostar driver

Train drivers operate trains on rail networks, making sure that passengers and freight get to where they're going safely and on time.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £20,000 to £60,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 35 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You'll need to apply for a trainee driver job with a train operating company. To apply you’ll usually need:

  • to be at least 21 to work as a train driver on the national rail network (18 to work on the London underground)
  • to live within 1 hour’s commute of the area you’re applying for

Some employers may expect you to have GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) in English and maths.

To be accepted for training, you’ll need to pass a medical check which will include eyesight, colour vision and hearing.

You could start out by doing another job like passenger assistant or conductor, which will show you have an interest in the industry. You can then apply for trainee driver posts when they become available.

You may also need clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS)

Careers that move has more information about how to become a train driver.

2. Skills required

You'll need:

  • the ability to concentrate over long periods
  • customer service skills
  • the ability to react quickly, calmly and safely to unexpected problems
  • a responsible attitude and a high level of safety awareness

3. What you'll do

You'll drive trains on local and national rail networks, stopping along your route to pick up and drop off passengers or goods. 

Your day-to-day tasks may include:

  • checking equipment and engines
  • contacting control centres for information about routes and any problems
  • following signalling instructions during the journey
  • making passenger announcements
  • controlling automatic doors
  • positioning and handing over engines to drivers on the next shift
  • recording incidents like equipment problems, dangers and delays

You’ll communicate and work with other staff like signal operators, train maintenance staff and station staff.

4. Salary

Starter: £20,000 to £30,000

Experienced: £35,000 to £45,000

Highly Experienced: £45,000 to £60,000

Free or reduced-rate travel is usually offered as an extra benefit.

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You'll usually work a 35-hour week. This could be spread over 4 or 5 shifts including weekends, evenings and nights.

On freight or engineering trains, you'll usually do more night shifts. On long-distance routes, you may have overnight stays.

6. Career path and progression

Your train driver training will usually take around 12 months. Once you’ve completed this, you could also work for a rail engineering company, driving on-track machines used in maintenance work.

With experience you could take further training to become a train driver trainer, teaching other trainee drivers.

You could also move into management, making sure there are enough train drivers and trains so that the service can run on time. From there you could move into operations or senior management.

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Last updated: 06 April 2017