See how Mark became a train driver while studying part time for a degree

Becoming a train driver takes 18 months of intense training before you’re allowed to drive on the tracks on your own. Here’s how Mark made his way up the ranks in the rail industry to become an award-winning train driver while studying for a degree at the same time!

Mark started off his career in rail working in a busy ticket office. He worked his way up and now is a high-speed train driver who drives passengers up and down the country to their destinations safely. But his role doesn’t stop there. He also instructs, assesses and trains up other train drivers to make sure they’re well prepared for the journey ahead. Plotr jumped on board to find out more about being a train driver.

Tell us about your job…

I’m a Train Driver, based in the North West. The main part of my job is driving modern high-speed trains anywhere from Manchester Airport to Edinburgh. I’m working a variety of shifts at all times of the day (and night).

I’m responsible for getting trains full of people safely where they want to be, hopefully on time! I also train, instruct and assess other drivers, which adds even more variety to my role.

What are the best bits about your job?

I love being out and about, travelling across the countryside with great views and getting a huge amount of job satisfaction from driving smoothly and efficiently. This is not a career for those who want to be in the same office or building every day. I get to see amazing scenery, in all types of weather and times of the day and night, all from the best seat in the house. I also work with a great bunch of people, so the times when I’m not out driving there’s a great team spirit and often a good laugh!

What 3 top skills or qualities are important in this job?

  1. Responsibility
  2. Reliability
  3. Being calm under pressure

How did you get into this job?

It’s really hard to get a job as a train driver straight away; so many people work in other roles first before applying. I started my railway career in a busy ticket office, and was promoted to supervisor and management roles before getting a driver’s job.

That’s one of the great things about working for a train operating company. There are always opportunities to progress for those who want them, and each job is great experience to prepare for the next.

The application and assessment process is challenging. There are a range of assessments designed to test everything from your reaction speeds and understanding of mechanical and technical principles to how you respond in an emergency and cope with pressure.

For those who pass their assessments and the interview that follows, there’s a strict medical test to make sure you’re fit and healthy. This includes hearing and eyesight tests, and making sure you’re fit enough to climb up into the train where there’s no platforms, and able to carry out emergency procedures.

For those who pass all the tests and are offered a job, it’s then up to 18 months of intensive training before you’re allowed out to drive a train on your own.

The good news is that all the effort is worth it – it’s a great job!

Describe your best moment…

I was really proud when I first qualified as a driver and drove a passenger train by myself, as it was a long process and lots of hard work to get to that point!

I’ve also been lucky enough to win a couple of awards, including ‘Driver of the Year’ this year – it’s always nice to be recognised for working hard and doing the best you can.

What advice would you give someone who wants to do your job?

The best advice I can give is to gain as much work experience as possible, particularly in jobs that involve responsibility and flexibility in working shifts.

Other than that, keep trying and applying, even if you get rejected several times – always ask for feedback and use that as a learning experience to help your next attempt. If you really want to do something, keep going until you get there!

When applying to become a train driver, usually you’ll take part in an assessment centre.

Tell us something we didn’t know about your career!

Train driving is not just for people who want to sit around and be lazy all day - the national rule book dictates you have to be able to cover 1 ¼ miles in an emergency to protect your train!

Give us your best job hunting tip…

Any job in the railway industry will want to see that you can be responsible and reliable, so any work or volunteer experience you can show will really help demonstrate this.

I’m a great believer that interviewers are looking for reasons to give you the job (rather than trying to catch you out), so relax and be yourself – there’s no better way to show people who you really are and what you’re like. Do a bit of research about the job and company you’re applying to – it’ll make your application better and set you up for the interview.

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