Job type

Train driver

£20k - £60k

Typical salary

35 – 40

Hours per week

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

More info

  • Drive passenger or freight trains around the rail network
  • You'll need specialist training, plus a strong sense of responsibility and safety awareness
  • You may need to work shifts or stay away from home overnight if travelling long distances


  • Check equipment and engines
  • Contact control centres for information about routes and any problems
  • Follow signalling instructions during the journey
  • Make passenger announcements
  • Control automatic doors
  • Position and hand over engines to drivers on the next shift
  • You'd also record any incidents during your shift, like equipment problems or dangers and delays


Train drivers operate trains on local and national rail networks, stopping along their route to pick up and drop off passengers or goods. You could work as part of a national rail service travelling across country or to Europe, on freight trains that carry commercial goods, or on local trains or the London Underground. 

Train drivers often get free or reduced-rate travel as an extra benefit.

You'll usually work a 35 to 40 hour week and this could be spread over 4 or 5 shifts (known as turns) 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. 

You'll need

Typically you would apply directly to a train operating company to become a train driver. There are no set requirements, but some employers prefer you to have GCSEs in subjects like maths and English, or equivalent qualifications. Some mechanical or electrical knowledge may also be useful.

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, and a willingness to work flexibly.

You could start as a rail passenger assistant or train conductor, then apply for a trainee driver post. This is also a common way to become a London Underground driver. You can also apply to a train operating company for a train driver advanced apprenticeship.

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.

You'll also normally need to be over 20 years of age to start, live within 1 hour (travel time) of the area you're applying for, pass enhanced background checks, and pass a medical check.


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.