Train driver

Transport, distribution and logistics

Career outlook for train driver

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would drive trains on local and national rail networks, making sure that passengers and freight get to their destination safely and on time.

You would:

  • Check equipment and engines before a journey starts
  • Contact control centres for information about routes
  • Follow signalling instructions during the journey
  • Make stops along your route to pick up and drop off passengers or freight.
  • Make passenger announcements
  • Control automatic doors
  • Prepare engines for handover to drivers on the next shift
  • Record any delays or issues that occur

The passengers would be putting their trust in you to act responsibly and keep them safe. It would be very important to follow safety rules closely.

Working conditions


Most companies operate on a 35-hour week. This could be spread over four or five shifts (known as turns) including weekends, evenings and nights. On freight or engineering trains, you would usually do more night shifts.


You would usually work alone in the driver's cab during the journey. Sometimes a trainee driver or driver inspector will be with you.


On long distance routes, you may have overnight stays away from home.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Adaptability
  • Resilience
  • Building relationships
  • Reading
  • Verbal communication
  • Observation
  • Respecting
  • Concentrating
  • Taking initiative
  • Recalling

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


You'll need to apply for a driver trainee programme with a train company. Most train companies expect drivers to have qualifications in English and maths at SCQF Level 4/5.

You would attend a year-long training programme with learning in the classroom and simulators. You'd pass tests on subjects like:

  • Mechanical knowledge
  • English 
  • Maths 

You must pass all stages of the training and complete a Personal Track Safety (PTS) certificate to fully qualify as a train driver. 

Trainee train driver vacancies don't come up often. Some people start off as conductors or passenger assistants and work their up by showing an interest in train driving. 

Useful subjects

  • English
  • Maths
  • Science subjects
  • Technologies subjects

You will also need

You will need to be aged 21 or over before starting your training. You'll also need to pass medical examinations which include eyesight, hearing and colour vision tests.

You could be tested for drugs or alcohol at any time. 

You may need to be approved for membership of the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) Scheme run by Disclosure Scotland.

Helpful to have

Qualifications and experience that show the ability to follow instructions, concentrate, show quick reaction time and a basic mechanical such as:

  • Skills for Work Engineering Skills (SCQF level 4)
  • Uniformed and Emergency Services (SCQF level 4) 

Relevant work-based experience and qualifications such as a Scottish Vocational Qualification in Rail Engineering (SVQ level 2) or be willing to work towards qualifications once in a job.