Government to lower minimum age for train drivers in move to secure rail workforce’s future

The government is exploring the possibility of lowering the minimum age to become a train driver in a bid to fortify the workforce and secure services in the long term.

The Department for Transport (DfT) says regulations changing the minimum age from 20 to 18 could be in place as early as this summer, with a consultation on the matter now open until 13 June.

The number of young people joining the sector remains low, but the government intends to open up pathways for school leavers to take up apprenticeships and bolster the workforce.

This is especially pertinent given the amount of train drivers set to retire over the next five years and the fact that the average age of a train driver is 48.

The reliability of services has been specifically earmarked by the DfT as something that would improve with an influx of young talent into the sector – i.e., a deeper workforce could deal with service pressures deriving from sickness and annual leave better.

Huw Merriman comment

“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,” said the Rail Delivery Group’s CEO, Jacqueline Starr.

“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.”

The consultation will also take the opportunity to seek views on adapting the processes for selecting, training, monitoring and supervising younger train drivers, although the DfT emphasises all prospective drivers will be subject to the same stringent requirements as before.

Rail minister, Huw Merriman, commented: “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.”

Andy Bagnall, the CEO at Rail Partners, added: “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.”

Image credit: iStock


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