‘Driver’ isn’t the only job on the railway

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LowLevel

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I am on £31k for a 37 hour week as a guard (plus Sundays and whatever overtime I do). It is enough money to be happy with. I could double it as a driver but have no desire to really. I've always said I'd consider it if I no longer enjoyed my job but I have a massive route card and the job is so different day to day that I don't find it gets old, though of course it has it's frustrations. Being a driver is much more regimented than being a guard (I can organise unorthodox but clever solutions to problems that aren't safety related and that keeps me happy).

The ones I feel sorry for are the people who chase the drivers wages in their 20s and 30s and realise that apart from being a driver manager or some limited opportunities in back office roles like ops standards they have nowhere else to go for decades without taking a wage drop. I've been lucky enough to experience a few different roles and I've done a bit of project stuff as well. I never thought I'd settle as long as I have in one job.
 

Simon11

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I have to agree with comments here and people should also consider transport roles which aren't directly on the railway.

As a consultant advising the transport industry, salaries are better than train drivers after just a few years and there is no shift work! Flexible working patterns, bonuses, able to take leave whenever, no stressful training to pass, able to enjoy a few drinks the night before work and your ability to lead with ideas which can change the direction of the whole industry. Every few months, you move onto another project so you get a fantastic opportunity to really understand the whole industry. The experience you gain in a year as a consultant is the equivalent of spending a few years in head office at a TOC or Network Rail! So a very quick route to a senior position in the industry.
 
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Stigy

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I am on £31k for a 37 hour week as a guard (plus Sundays and whatever overtime I do). It is enough money to be happy with. I could double it as a driver but have no desire to really. I've always said I'd consider it if I no longer enjoyed my job but I have a massive route card and the job is so different day to day that I don't find it gets old, though of course it has it's frustrations. Being a driver is much more regimented than being a guard (I can organise unorthodox but clever solutions to problems that aren't safety related and that keeps me happy).

The ones I feel sorry for are the people who chase the drivers wages in their 20s and 30s and realise that apart from being a driver manager or some limited opportunities in back office roles like ops standards they have nowhere else to go for decades without taking a wage drop. I've been lucky enough to experience a few different roles and I've done a bit of project stuff as well. I never thought I'd settle as long as I have in one job.
Agreed you have to do what you’re happy doing. To me, the driver’s wage was naturally appealing, but that’s not why I applied to be a driver. I strongly believe you have to want to do a job because it’s something you like doing, not because of the money alone.

Disagree about the prospects once you’re a driver, as there’s a load of promotional directions you can go in management, as well as sideways steps. The key is keeping your record clean and more important than anything, keeping your job, as it’s so easy to become complacent.
 

Horizon22

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There are indeed a variety of roles in the railway as I'm sure we are all aware. It is clear though that the most sought-after (for whatever reasons) appear to be drivers and then perhaps signallers and guards. The first two even have dedicated topics in this forum which number thousands of posts. It's understandable; these are the "flagship" roles that many see or even dream of as a kid.

I agree that some want to join the railway and go straight in as a driver. That's fine of course, but accept that it is a hugely competitive role (we're talking 1:1000 vacancy/application ratio at least). The more traditional route was to become a dispatcher then a guard/TM/conductor and then onto driver. And there are of course many negatives that you don't hear about as much (extreme shift times for instance, the significant responsibility drivers have over them etc).

But we're all individuals and there are ticket office roles, customer service roles, technical depot & engineering roles at both TOCs, FOCs and NR, other aspects like training and performance and finance which might suit others better and allow for a broader understanding. And it might give you the experience to eventually go for driver if that's what you want. Personally I'm on the control / service delivery / performance side and, apart from maybe trying to apply for a signaller is an area I'll likely stay in for the long-term as I really enjoy it, the shifts/terms/pay are good and it suits my skills.

Money is a key part but isn't everything. You have to go for what you will truly enjoy and suits your skills. Battling through the driver recruitment process but ending up miserable is not an ideal. The railway is a huge and varied sector, so consider all the options that are right for you
 
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bramling

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And after tax it's hardly worth it

It possibly is if someone has a mortgate to pay, is in debt or max'd out their credit cards. There's certainly people in that position.

I don't really get the ones who are reasonably financially settled that still chase OT like a shark though. Some people do seem to be simply hard-wired to chase pennies.
 

ExRes

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The ones I feel sorry for are the people who chase the drivers wages in their 20s and 30s and realise that apart from being a driver manager or some limited opportunities in back office roles like ops standards they have nowhere else to go for decades without taking a wage drop. I've been lucky enough to experience a few different roles and I've done a bit of project stuff as well. I never thought I'd settle as long as I have in one job.

There is another side to that though if you can earn £60k pa during your 20s and 30s, if you have half a brain that's a mortgage sorted and what should be a debt free period bringing up a family, that seems a fair swap to me for limited options to move on from being a driver, I certainly wish I'd been earning that sort of salary when I was 20/30ish
 

bramling

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There is another side to that though if you can earn £60k pa during your 20s and 30s, if you have half a brain that's a mortgage sorted and what should be a debt free period bringing up a family, that seems a fair swap to me for limited options to move on from being a driver, I certainly wish I'd been earning that sort of salary when I was 20/30ish

Yes it's great if you're happy to stay driving trains until retirement. The difficulty is that this also means being tied to shiftwork, which doesn't suit everyone. I suspect this is one of the main reasons why there are some of the well-known issues like weekend coverage - some (not all) people malaise to shiftwork over time, and want everything structured in a way which minimises it, hence why weekend coverage can be such a problem. The people who hit the sweet-spot are those who like days off in the week and enjoy working late turns, most people (IME at least) don't want this pattern so it tends to be easy to get - so with swaps one could end up with something like Sunday/Monday off every week and permanent late turns for everything, the only real pitfall with that is running into tiredness issues.

There's often a bit of tension with the "I want as many weekends off as I can get" brigade, as it essentially leads to rosters being unbalanced. And it tends to be that the people who make the most noise about hating working weekends are the very first to sniff them out on overtime!
 

LowLevel

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There is another side to that though if you can earn £60k pa during your 20s and 30s, if you have half a brain that's a mortgage sorted and what should be a debt free period bringing up a family, that seems a fair swap to me for limited options to move on from being a driver, I certainly wish I'd been earning that sort of salary when I was 20/30ish

If you have such a plan and can stick with it then without much of a negative effect then that's great - the problems come if people get bored and start dropping clangers or having other problems.
 

DriverEight

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It possibly is if someone has a mortgate to pay, is in debt or max'd out their credit cards. There's certainly people in that position.

I don't really get the ones who are reasonably financially settled that still chase OT like a shark though. Some people do seem to be simply hard-wired to chase pennies.
I worked with a guy that was completely obsessed with money. We were on a monthly salary, but overtime was paid by the hour. At any point over the course of the month he could tell you EXACTLY how much overtime he had. He worked every hour he could (within the law) and when he was forced to use his generous holiday entitlement, he'd sign on for an agency for a couple of weeks and keep on working.
 

jettofab

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I have to agree with comments here and people should also consider transport roles which aren't directly on the railway.

As a consultant advising the transport industry, salaries are better than train drivers after just a few years and there is no shift work! Flexible working patterns, bonuses, able to take leave whenever, no stressful training to pass, able to enjoy a few drinks the night before work and your ability to lead with ideas which can change the direction of the whole industry. Every few months, you move onto another project so you get a fantastic opportunity to really understand the whole industry. The experience you gain in a year as a consultant is the equivalent of spending a few years in head office at a TOC or Network Rail! So a very quick route to a senior position in the industry.

Is that something you can do without qualifications? Genuinely interested.

I agree that some drivers have a God complex and there is some intra grade animosity in both directions. I think it is exacerbated to some degree by the way drivers are treated by management, compared to guards or platforms.

As for the money aspect; I wouldn't do the job for substantially less. I guess you could see that as being money focused, but it's more that with the inherent risks of making a mistake, and potentially losing your career, a lower salary wouldn't tip the balance to this being worth it for me. I enjoy it, and were we not so heavily monitored and 'developed' for incidents, then I might consider it if pay were lower, but not as things are.
 

bramling

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I worked with a guy that was completely obsessed with money. We were on a monthly salary, but overtime was paid by the hour. At any point over the course of the month he could tell you EXACTLY how much overtime he had. He worked every hour he could (within the law) and when he was forced to use his generous holiday entitlement, he'd sign on for an agency for a couple of weeks and keep on working.

I know quite a few not too far off that. If there’s overtime going there will be a frenzy to get in there first.

I don’t get it, but by the same token I always seem to have more money in my bank account than I wish to spend. The funny thing is some of these overtime sharks are utterly mean in terms of what they spend, so I don’t really know where it goes. It’s certainly not worthwhile to work every hour under the sun just to leave it in the bank accruing almost zero interest, so one can only assume they have historic debts and that’s why they need the money.

I worked with a guy that was completely obsessed with money. We were on a monthly salary, but overtime was paid by the hour. At any point over the course of the month he could tell you EXACTLY how much overtime he had. He worked every hour he could (within the law) and when he was forced to use his generous holiday entitlement, he'd sign on for an agency for a couple of weeks and keep on working.

I know quite a few not too far off that. If there’s overtime going there will be a frenzy to get in there first.

I don’t get it, but by the same token I always seem to have more money in my bank account than I wish to spend. The funny thing is some of these overtime sharks are utterly mean in terms of what they spend, so I don’t really know where it goes. It’s certainly not worthwhile to work every hour under the sun just to leave it in the bank accruing almost zero interest, so one can only assume they have historic debts and that’s why they need the money.
 

RJ

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I’m a ticket office clerk and possibly the lowest paid UK TOC employee on a salary of £4K a year. Yet my role is in high demand!

If the train drivers pay as rubbish like it was before 1997 nobody would be applying. It's all about the money. Train drivers can earn 75-80k without even trying. Then the big hitters are hitting 6 digits.

Some people do the job because it appeals to them. And I imagine the salary is a big draw. Many people believe it’s not that easy to earn that kind of money from a job where training is provided and higher education/years of experience are not required.

Personally I take a different philosophy to income. I question why it’s accepted as the norm that we exchange a large amount of time for a little bit of money. Why can’t we exchange less time for more money? A bit of out of the box thinking and it becomes apparent there are plenty legal opportunities to make money that are more time efficient for those who do question the norm. Good to mix things up though!

There is another side to that though if you can earn £60k pa during your 20s and 30s, if you have half a brain that's a mortgage sorted and what should be a debt free period bringing up a family, that seems a fair swap to me for limited options to move on from being a driver, I certainly wish I'd been earning that sort of salary when I was 20/30ish

Unless you live in London and want to live somewhere that's close to your roots!
 
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PupCuff

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Absolutely - Driver is a good job, if you're happy with getting up at silly o clock one week, then going to bed at silly o clock the next. Clambering around the cess when it's belting it down with rain trying to isolate a vehicle brake. Not able to go out having a bit of a boogie with your mates down the bars and clubs on a Saturday night because you're working, or you're working tomorrow, or you've been working all day and you're knackered. But that lifestyle isn't for everyone, and it's critically important that folk remember there's more to the railway, things with a more sociable work/life balance.

I've done shift work on the railway in the past, I've done the weeks where I've thought, yeah, I'll hammer the overtime, treat myself to something nice, but I suppose as I've got older I've started to question the point of running myself into the ground for the sake of a few extra hundred in my pay packet. I do a primarily office based job which I enjoy, with regular travel around the network, working alongside a team who put 110% into everything they do, work very few weekends and when I do it's by mutual agreement with the gaffer, make a visible contribution to the effective running of the railway; and earn enough to afford a reasonable standard of living, not with caviar for tea each night or bathing in champagne, but with enough luxuries like cable TV to put my feet up in front of, a few beers down the pub (when Covid allows) and a nice PC to game on at the weekends to keep me happy outside work hours.

My advice to folk is don't chase the money, and instead try to find a role in the railway that you're a good fit for and you'll get a lot out of - you'll enjoy it more, you'll perform better, and you might find it leads you down a path you hadn't even considered (where likely over time the money will be as good as, or better than, a driver role anyway).
 

Astro_Orbiter

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I have to agree with comments here and people should also consider transport roles which aren't directly on the railway.

As a consultant advising the transport industry, salaries are better than train drivers after just a few years and there is no shift work! Flexible working patterns, bonuses, able to take leave whenever, no stressful training to pass, able to enjoy a few drinks the night before work and your ability to lead with ideas which can change the direction of the whole industry. Every few months, you move onto another project so you get a fantastic opportunity to really understand the whole industry. The experience you gain in a year as a consultant is the equivalent of spending a few years in head office at a TOC or Network Rail! So a very quick route to a senior position in the industry.
Pls expand on how one becomes and what qualifications/experience are required to be a rail consultant?
 

JH9

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Absolutely - Driver is a good job, if you're happy with getting up at silly o clock one week, then going to bed at silly o clock the next. Clambering around the cess when it's belting it down with rain trying to isolate a vehicle brake. Not able to go out having a bit of a boogie with your mates down the bars and clubs on a Saturday night because you're working, or you're working tomorrow, or you've been working all day and you're knackered. But that lifestyle isn't for everyone, and it's critically important that folk remember there's more to the railway, things with a more sociable work/life balance.

I've done shift work on the railway in the past, I've done the weeks where I've thought, yeah, I'll hammer the overtime, treat myself to something nice, but I suppose as I've got older I've started to question the point of running myself into the ground for the sake of a few extra hundred in my pay packet. I do a primarily office based job which I enjoy, with regular travel around the network, working alongside a team who put 110% into everything they do, work very few weekends and when I do it's by mutual agreement with the gaffer, make a visible contribution to the effective running of the railway; and earn enough to afford a reasonable standard of living, not with caviar for tea each night or bathing in champagne, but with enough luxuries like cable TV to put my feet up in front of, a few beers down the pub (when Covid allows) and a nice PC to game on at the weekends to keep me happy outside work hours.

My advice to folk is don't chase the money, and instead try to find a role in the railway that you're a good fit for and you'll get a lot out of - you'll enjoy it more, you'll perform better, and you might find it leads you down a path you hadn't even considered (where likely over time the money will be as good as, or better than, a driver role anyway).
Would you be comfortable sharing what role you are in/referring to? :)
 

RJ

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I have to agree with comments here and people should also consider transport roles which aren't directly on the railway.

As a consultant advising the transport industry, salaries are better than train drivers after just a few years and there is no shift work! Flexible working patterns, bonuses, able to take leave whenever, no stressful training to pass, able to enjoy a few drinks the night before work and your ability to lead with ideas which can change the direction of the whole industry. Every few months, you move onto another project so you get a fantastic opportunity to really understand the whole industry. The experience you gain in a year as a consultant is the equivalent of spending a few years in head office at a TOC or Network Rail! So a very quick route to a senior position in the industry.

A select few people know where the real money is on the railways and how to get access to the bottomless pit of funding it has. To be in with a chance of getting this kind of work, you have to know about it and know how to get in. There are reasons why it isn't talked about much online.

Meanwhile there are millions of people who only see the most visible jobs and there is a much higher level of competition to get those.
 

LAX54

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Of course if you wish to guarantee going home on time, then don't be a Driver ! Not unusual to get 'put away' somewhere due to an incident 50 to 70 miles away or more, and the time ticking away.
 

ExRes

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Yes it's great if you're happy to stay driving trains until retirement

Why? if you passed out at 25 for example and did 20/25 years earning £60k plus you could easily move into a non driving role before retirement

Of course if you wish to guarantee going home on time, then don't be a Driver !

Or work in any other on-train role
 

387star

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There is another side to that though if you can earn £60k pa during your 20s and 30s, if you have half a brain that's a mortgage sorted and what should be a debt free period bringing up a family, that seems a fair swap to me for limited options to move on from being a driver, I certainly wish I'd

Why? if you passed out at 25 for example and did 20/25 years earning £60k plus you could easily move into a non driving role before retirement



Or work in any other on-train role
I can afford mortgage overpayments with no Rest Day work and no Sundays and should be mortgage free within eight years. I qualified in my twenties.

I love the time off that comes with the Grade. Pre Covid I'd spend five day weekends absorbing all the culture places such as Florence have to offer whilst enjoying free rail travel on coupons! Rather that than chase overtime.

Of course some Drivers have huge mortgages and other expenses whilst those in London have eye watering house prices to contend with.
 

Simon11

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Pls expand on how one becomes and what qualifications/experience are required to be a rail consultant?

There are two types of consultants in the transport sector- people are who consultants as a career or people with rail technical experience becoming consultants. I shall just talk about the later bit.

Most consultant roles require a degree and a few have masters (however a master doesn't really make a difference). The key is to get a wide range of experience across the whole rail sector such as working with different private operators, Network Rail and DfT to get a well rounded background. It does require jumping between jobs and building your network of contacts along the way.
 

choochoochoo

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There are two types of consultants in the transport sector- people are who consultants as a career or people with rail technical experience becoming consultants. I shall just talk about the later bit.

Most consultant roles require a degree and a few have masters (however a master doesn't really make a difference). The key is to get a wide range of experience across the whole rail sector such as working with different private operators, Network Rail and DfT to get a well rounded background. It does require jumping between jobs and building your network of contacts along the way.
Are there many ex-drivers in your consultant community ?
 

Stigy

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There are two types of consultants in the transport sector- people are who consultants as a career or people with rail technical experience becoming consultants. I shall just talk about the later bit.

Most consultant roles require a degree and a few have masters (however a master doesn't really make a difference). The key is to get a wide range of experience across the whole rail sector such as working with different private operators, Network Rail and DfT to get a well rounded background. It does require jumping between jobs and building your network of contacts along the way.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned about the railway over the years, is that you can move between most jobs without a degree, and simply build on your network. It’s a game really, and is often not what you know, or indeed what level of education you have, but more who you know (when talking about ‘one-off’ management grade roles rather than entry level, or roles which are recruited en-mass). Nepotism is also rife, but that’s another thread :D
 

peters

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The vast majority of threads are of people looking to find driver jobs, pass the psycho tests, get through interviews and sitting in talent pools, waiting for offers etc etc

There are some fantastic jobs on the railway although not many pay as well as drivers earn it seems. Customer facing roles are much more satisfying and don’t involve sitting alone for hours on end although some people don’t mind it

Drivers go through a gruelling recruitment process to prove themselves and show they have what it takes. I really admire anyone who has made the grade. I don’t think I would!

Just to add, my previous background is aviation. The key jobs are Pilot or Cabin Crew. So this kind of trend isn’t just specific to the railway.

If someone wants a customer facing role then there's roles available in banks, post offices and similar places and I would presume people who are jobless who are applying for ticket office clerk roles would also be applying for the customer service roles in those other places. It's also likely to be easier to find a local non-rail one than a local rail one. I think if you're the only ticket office clerk on duty then in the current lockdown situation you may be sitting there for a long time without talking to anyone, especially if you're on duty on a Sunday.

What's the most similar role to a train driver outside the rail industry? Presumably a bus driver for those working on local trains and a coach driver for those working long distance trains. So perhaps not surprising people want to ask questions about the train driver positions as many of the features of a train driver role won't apply to bus and coach drivers. The difference is even greater for pilots.

Perhaps the surprising thing is people are apparently asking about cabin crew roles in aviation but not conductor roles on trains when they are similar roles combining passenger safety and customer service.

I wonder whether the development of regional signalling centres will make signaler's jobs more attractive. I feel it's making it more like an air traffic controller's role than a traditional signaler's role and from what I've heard trainee air traffic controller roles attract hundreds of applicants, despite only being available in a limited number of locations.
 

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