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What is a Train driver? The School Leaver Guide

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What is a Train driver?

Rail networks across the country require train drivers to keep passenger and freight trains moving, to keep passengers safe and to help trains arrive on time. You’ll have to have good concentration, excellent reactions and customer service skills, but if you do a job as a train driver could be for you.

What does a Train driver do?

Train drivers are responsible for getting trains from point A to point B. This sounds simple, but is actually extremely complicated. Drivers are responsible for setting the speed of the train while in transit, working with guards and signalling systems to ensure that the line is clear for the train to pass through. While many systems are automated now, drivers have a fundamental role in ensuring that - if the computer systems haven’t spotted something - the train is still driven with the utmost care and safety.

Routine tasks include:

  • Check and enforce safety standards

  • Make passenger and station announcements

  • Follow signal instructions

  • Open and close automatic doors

  • Positioning trains for handovers with another driver

  • Recording notable incidents or delays

Skills & interests required for a Train driver

Train drivers need to be safety conscious above all else. You will receive lots of training about the correct procedures to follow, and it is extremely important that you pay attention during training and follow it to the letter. Train drivers also need great powers of concentration - you may have very little to do for extended periods of time on quiet/long stretches of the line, but need to remain vigilant for anything which could cause a problem.

- Ability to Work Under Pressure
- Customer Service
- Dependability
- Health and safety
- Problem Solving
- Professionalism
- Time Management

Working hours

35-hour weeks are typical. These hours could be spread over 4 or 5 shifts and will usually include evenings and weekends.

Work base

On trains and in train stations, sheds and maintenance facilities.


Yes, across the nation’s rail networks. Depending on the routes operated by your employer you may also be required to have overnight stays at far-flung locations throughout the country.

Salary ranges & earning potential

Train driver salaries start at £20,000 per annum, and highly experienced drivers can earn as much as £60,000.

Perks & benefits

Free or reduced travel.

Education requirements

To be accepted for train driver training you will need good GCSEs at grades A* to C, including English and Maths, and will also have to pass multiple medical checks. You may only be eligible to work on mainlines over the age of 21, though there are positions available for those 18 or older.

Useful resources