Training and assessment

Once you have passed the medical and any other pre-employment checks you will then be enrolled on a driving training programme. This typically takes 18 months to 2 years and will teach you how to drive a train safely and competently.
The programme develops the knowledge, technical skills, non-technical skills and functional skills you need to be a safe train driver.

  • Technical skills and knowledge – These are the practical skills and theoretical knowledge you need to drive a train. For example, operating the train brake and knowing the braking speeds, distances and locations on your route.
  • Non-technical skills – These are the skills that influence how we process information, make decisions and take action. They tend to be the skills we often take for granted and may not even be fully aware of, but they have big influence on how you drive a train.
  • Functional skills – These are skills in English, numeracy, and information technology that you need to be a safe train driver.

The rail industry has identified 26 non-technical skills that have been grouped into 7 categories. The following is a description of each category. Information on each of the 26 non-technical skills can be found here on the RSSB website.

Non-technical skill categoryDescription
Situational awareness This is about how a driver maintains a clear understanding of their surroundings and any risks associated with the tasks they are undertaking or their surroundings. It includes how people maintain concentration and alertness and manage distractions when driving.
Conscientiousness This is about how a driver approaches their tasks, works in a logical and systematic way, checks what they are doing is correct and follows the rules.
CommunicationThis is about how a driver communicates to people (such as a signaller, passengers or the train guard) in terms of being clear and communicating at the right time. It also includes speaking up when you think something is not right and listening carefully to instructions or information provided to you.
Decision making and actionThis is about how drivers make decisions, weighing up the pros and cons of a decision and making sure a decision is made at the right time. It also includes the approach drivers take to diagnose and solve problems when something goes wrong, typically on the train.
Cooperation and working with othersThis is about how drivers support their colleagues and passengers, respect their opinion and are able and comfortable to help resolve aggressive or challenging behaviour.
Workload managementThis is about how drivers manage their workload. This could be high workload where there are many tasks to complete at once or low workload where certain tasks become very routine and there is a risk of switching off and going into auto-pilot.
Self-managementThis is about how drivers prepare themselves for their shift, how they remain motivated to do a good job and continue to develop their skills and knowledge so they can drive their train safely and progress their career.

The training will consist of class room based training, simulator training and also practical driving and handling. It will focus on your day to day tasks, what you need to do when something goes work such as a signal failure and the skills and knowledge you need and what to do when there is an emergency such a fire or fatality and the skills and knowledge you need. You will learn about the train(s) you will be driving, how to drive them and the routes that you will be driving.

There will also be staged assessments during the programme which you will need to pass to progress through the training. Some will be assess your knowledge while others will assess your driving ability. At the end of the programme you will be required to undertake and pass a thorough assessment of your knowledge and skill to demonstrate that you are competent to drive on the mainline railway. The number of attempts you will be given to pass this assessment will be set by your employer. For example, some employers allow trainees two attempts to pass this final assessment.

You will also be able to apply for your train driver licence and certificate, once you have passed your assessments. More information on the licence and certificate can be found here on the ORR website.

The Level 3 Train Driver Apprenticeship will run alongside the programme detailed above. You will go through a separate end point assessment in order to gain the Level 3 qualification.

Click here to find out more about the Level 3 Train Drivers Apprenticeship.