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23 May 2024

Proposal to Attract Younger Train Drivers Aims to Future-Proof the Workforce

A consultation has launched into lowering the minimum age to become a train driver from 20 to 18.

The proposal is part of efforts to open up more careers in the rail sector to young people. The UK Government says the measure could help future-proof the workforce and support reliability of services.

If agreed, new regulations lowering the minimum age could be in place as early as the summer.

The Government says the proposal would build resilience across the railway by creating a new pathway for school leavers to take up apprenticeships and train to join the profession. With many train drivers set to retire in the next five years and the average age of a train driver being 48 years old, the workforce is projected to shrink without opening up more opportunities for new recruits, it says.

Rail Minister Huw Merriman, said:

“We want to open the door for young people considering transport as a career, and this proposal could give school-leavers a clear path into the sector.

“By boosting age diversity in the sector and attracting more drivers, we can help support reliable services while creating opportunities for more young people.”

Jaqueline Starr, Chief Executive Officer at Rail Delivery Group, said:

“Our railways play a vital role connecting people and communities. Working as a train driver is an incredible career opportunity, and we want to open the door to encourage a wider pool of young people to apply.

“These proposed changes will help us to recruit the next generation of drivers, lowering the average age of the workforce, and helping to ensure a resilient railway for our customers.”

Andy Bagnall, Chief Executive for Rail Partners, said:

“Taking forward these proposals would meet a long-standing aspiration for the industry which would have a positive impact on getting more young people into the railway.

“With driver shortages and an ageing workforce, it is critical to secure the skills we need for the long-term to help improve reliability for the customer. By lowering minimum age requirements for train drivers, working on the railways should be seen as a more attractive career choice for school leaders, including those from diverse backgrounds.”

To become a licensed train driver, trainees must pass mandatory medical, psychological, fitness and general professional competence examinations and be trained by their employer on the infrastructure and rolling stock they will be deployed on.

The consultation will seek views on how the processes for selecting, training, monitoring and supervising younger train drivers could be adapted to support a potential change in the minimum age.

The lowering the minimum age requirement for train drivers from 20 to 18 consultation closes on 13 June 2024.

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