Train driver

Career outlook for

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary

Currently employed in Scotland

Jobs forecast

This information is supplied by LMI For All, where data is currently available for Scotland.

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

Hours

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.

Environment

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

Travel

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

UK employment status

Full-time

Part-time

Self employed

Here are some of the skills that people in this job would be most likely to have:

  • Following instructions
  • Helping customers
  • Working on your own
  • Accuracy
  • Coping with pressure

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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.

Qualifications

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.