The Sleeper's Blog

21.10.16

Virgin receives more than 15,000 applications for Azuma drivers

More than 15,000 potential train drivers have applied to drive Virgin’s new fleet of Azuma trains.

Virgin said the applications, which closed on 14 October, equated to nearly 200 for each of the 78 posts, the biggest recruitment drive on the East Coast route since the 1980s.

The successful applicants will begin a year-long training programme in January 2017, with classroom and on-the-job training, covering areas including getting to know the traction they will be driving, track safety and emergency situations.

A spokesperson for Virgin Trains said: “We have received a huge amount of interest in this fantastic opportunity at Virgin Trains on its East Coast route.”

The applications are a sign of huge interest in the new trains, which will enter operation in 2018. The 65 Azumas, which Virgin unveiled in March, are capable of reaching 125mph in four and a half minutes.

(Image c. Virgin)

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Comments

John Grant   21/10/2016 at 13:03

Why does it take so long to train a driver? In my industry, we reckon that if operators of a system need lots of training it's a fault in the design of the system.

Jerry Alderson   21/10/2016 at 13:50

This shows that the railway does not operate in a free commerical market. In a free market salaries would be driven by the need to recruit and retain. Clearly the salaries on offer (after training) are way above what is needed to recruit new drivers. In fact, a few weeks ago I spoke to a Network Rail manager who was going to become a train driver the next week. I doubt he was taking much (if any) of a pay cut. Of course, it will be near impossible to move the railway towards a recruit and retain basis for setting salaries. @JohnGrant: It is the learning of all of the rules that would intimidate me against even considering the role. Of course, train drivers do more than merely drive trains. They have to understand the trains they are driving in order to remedy certain faults. As technology progresses, however, such things could be resolved remotely. Route knowledge is really important in order to operate the timetable i.e. knowing precisely how fast to drive along the entire journey. With DAS and C-DAS in use I wonder to what extent such route knowledge is still needed. I would like to understand whether any railways around the world use the equivalent DAS and C-DAS (i.e. SatNav with speed info rather than route info) to advise train drivers so that detailed route knowledge is not needed. Most brand new metro lines are now 'driverless' (GoA4) but they are normally locked off systems e.g. platform-edge doors and no level crossings. With Deutsche Bahn proposing to run some passenger trains from about 2022 without a Lokführer (train driver) it will be interesting to see how soon 'driverless' mainline trains arrive in other countries. In most industries technllogy has reduced costs. This has rarely happened in Britain's railway as the cost of operating the technoloogy is high and jobs tend to migrate from many low-paid staff to fewer highly-paid staff (signal boxes to ROCs is a good example). The total employment costs of train drivers on Britain's railway is about £800 million a year (dwarfing the £200m+ total profits of TOCs), so there is enormous potential to reduce it.

Andrew Gwilt   23/10/2016 at 18:08

So Virgin Trains East Coast (VTEC) will get at least 65 Hitachi Azuma IEP which are Class 800 and Class 801 as well GWR (Great Western Railway) and Class 802 will be used for GWR, Hull Trains and Transpennine Express (all 3 are operated by First Group). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_800 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_801 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Rail_Class_802

Malcolm Dymott   24/10/2016 at 13:38

I recall criticism of Virgin when they were recruiting train drivers for the West Coast upgrade nearly two decades ago. I also recall that the very complicated Pendilino trains have always been remarkably reliable. Not so long ago at a talk at the I Mech E it was revealed that a well driven train used 9 MWh of power to get from London to Manchester, whereas poor driving technique could raise this to 13 MWh. I suspect virgin group have recouped many times the cost of driver training and salaries in reduced energy and maintenance bills. It was clearly well worth the effort of selecting the right people to do the job and paying them well on West Coast main line. Having people with the wrong temperament and inadequate training at the front of trains is not a good idea. Paying a bit above the average to get the best is worth it, even if it upsets some. I suspect the same will be true on the East Coast main line.

Dunnyrail   25/10/2016 at 02:22

Drivers of Trains need to be properly trained, it is not like driving a car or bus. No tolerence of bad practice is given to Train Drivers, hence the high salaries to keep and retain ones costly assets. Since Privatisation Train Companies have been poaching each others drivers. So it is vital to pay the best Salary with best cinditions. Training to the correct standard is not cheep. JonD

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