How to Become a Train Driver: The Application Process

Trainee train driver

Thinking about becoming a train driver? Find out all the key stages of the application process before making an application.

Becoming a train driver is not a particularly easy undertaking: typically there are 317 applicants for each vacancy and the high level of responsibility of the job means that the train operating companies are keen to select only the best candidates. As such the application process usual follows a four stage program as detailed below and can take in some cases as long as a year to complete.

How to Apply for a Train Driver Job

Stage One Application – The initial application is the first stage of the long process to becoming a train driver, yet it is also a stage at which many fail. Due to the volume of applicants most train operating companies will only accept applications for live vacancies. Applications typically take an online format with a list of questions and a chance to upload your CV. In making an initial application it is critical to communicate to the company any experience of a health and safety critical environment, experiences of lone and shift working and a high degree of customer focus.

Getting Through the Train Driver Assessment Centres

Stage Two Assessment Centres – All candidates for a train driver job will have to pass a number of tests at an assessment centre. Mandatory elements must be tested by all train operating companies however, TOCs may add their own elements to an assessment centre. Due to the number of applicants and time taken to assess individuals, assessment centres are often now broken down over two days. Mandatory elements include:

  • The Group Bourdon Test
  • Trainability for Rules and Procedures Tests (TRP)
  • A Reactions and Coordination Test
  • A Criteria Based Interview (CBI)


If you pass all of these tests plus any additional tests such as the mechanical reasoning test or driver fault finding test then you will be invited to stage three. However, there are some things to note about the train drivers assessment centre. Firstly, a candidate can only ever fail an assessment centre twice: fail twice and you will never be able to apply for another train driver job in the UK. Secondly, most TOCs will not allow candidates to complete the whole assessment centre if an element is failed: typically candidates are let go if they fail to meet the standard on any given test.

Becoming a Train Driver: Interviews and Medicals

Stage Three Managers Interview – If you have managed to pass the tests in the assessment centre you will then be invited to a manager interview. The interview will be conducted with two or three managers including a HR representative and usually a depot manager. The managers interview will vary in format from TOC to TOC: think of it as another run at the CBI with additional elements such as run through of your CV and some additional questions about the company and why you want to be a train driver.

Stage Four The Medical – If passing the manager interview you will then be offered a place on condition of passing a medical. Here the medical consists of an eye exam, test for colour blindness, a hearing test, some heart tests and a drugs and alcohol screening. While the standards are not overly high it pays to be in a reasonable state of health before attending and obviously having a drink the night before is a no-no. You should also inform the clinic if you are taking any medicines even if they are over the counter cold remedies.

As such, the process of becoming train driver or gaining a trainee driver position is a rigorous one and not to be taken lightly. The whole process can take up to a year or more and significant preparation is required to pass all elements. However, for those who put the time and effort in, the rewards of the job can be considerable.