Train Driver Recruitment

You normally have to be at least 21 to become a train driver and work on the national rail network. Trainee drivers between 18 and 21 may be able to work in yards and depots away from passenger lines. (The minimum age to work on the London Undergound is 18.)


The normal way into the job is to apply directly to train operating companies.


You do not need any specific entry qualifications, although most employers will expect you to have a good general standard of education. Some mechanical or electrical knowledge may also be useful.


If you are successful in your application with a company, they will invite you to a test centre where you will sit tests on:

  • basic mechanical knowledge
  • ability to recall information
  • reaction times
  • concentration skills


If you pass these tests, you go on to the interview stage. You will also have to pass a medical examination, which will test your fitness levels, eyesight, colour vision and hearing. There is a rigid policy on drug and alcohol abuse, and random screening can occur at any time.


Train Driver Academy

The Train Driver Academy is a new system for training and becoming a train driver. Find out more and apply on the Train Driver Academy website here.




Once you have been taken on as a trainee driver, you start your formal training period, which takes between nine and 18 months to complete. At this point you will begin a Level 3 Apprenticeship qualification in train driving.


Some of your training may take place in a cab simulator, which can recreate real-life situations, such as trackside hazards, bad weather or mechanical failure.


Training is normally split into four stages:

  • Rules and Regulations - covering driver cab controls, signalling systems and track safety
  • Traction Knowledge - learning about engine layout, safety systems and fault identification
  • Train Handling - 200 to 300 hours' practical driving skills, including night driving
  • Route Knowledge - learning route information, such as braking distances, speed restrictions and signal positions (you can only drive on routes you have been assessed on, so you continue to learn more routes once you qualify).


You must complete assessments at the end of each stage to fully qualify as a train driver.


As a trainee driver, you also complete a Personal Track Safety (PTS) certificate during the training period.


Once working, you can take the NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Rail Transport Operations (Driving). There is also an NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Rail Transport Operations (Shunting).


You will be regularly assessed by a driving standards manager throughout your driving career.


(Information taken from Learn Direct)


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