How much do train drivers earn?

As rail staff prepare to strike, we ask how much do train drivers earn?

The inside of a train with a train driver working
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Train drivers and other rail staff have been involved in ongoing strike action for several months. We've answered some of the questions around the job, including how much do train drivers earn?

2022 became known as 'the summer of discontent' due to strike action, and it looks set to continue as the public are eager to know when is the next train strike or bus strike, and when is Royal Mail on strike too.

ASLEF - which represents train drivers - has staged a number of strikes in recent months. Much like the train strikes by the RMT have left people wanting to know how much general secretary Mick Lynch earns, many are now asking how much do train drivers earn too.

How much do train drivers earn?

The amount a train driver earns depends on the company they work for and their experience, but the Sun reports that ONS figures from 2021 show the average salary for train and tram drivers was £59,189. 

According to the National Careers Service, a train driver's salary can range from £24,000 per year as a starting salary, going up to £65,000 for the most experienced. However, some train operators have reported higher salaries for their most experienced drivers. The Express reported in June 2022 that train drivers with East Midlands Railway, Cross Country and Southwestern can earn up to £70,000 per year.

How much do London train drivers get paid?

In response to a Freedom of Information request in 2019, Transport for London revealed that: "A Train Operator’s full time salary is £55,011 and the average salary received by the 3,996 Train Operators employed by TfL is £52,329."

However, the figure for tube drivers appears to be slightly higher. My London reported in 2021 that the annual wage of a full-time Tube driver was £56,496. They added that, "Perks of the job include 43 days of holiday a year, free annual Tube pass for you and your other half and retirement at 60 with a full pension or on a reduced pension at 50."

Though they also revealed: "The downsides of the job include possibly working 17 weekends in a row, shifts starting as early as 4.45am and finishing at 1.30am, plus a no-alcohol policy for eight hours before your shift starts."

How much does a local train driver earn?

  • Scotrail: £50,659 to £56,245.
  • Northern Rail: £40,104 to £57,546.
  • East Midlands Railway: £54,403 to £61,467.
  • Great Western Railway: £49,807 to £67,304.
  • Merseyrail: £50,572 to £55,415.
  • Southeastern Railway: £37,261 to £58,503.

Train drivers salaries depend on the area they operate, which company they work for and their experience, but these figures from recruitment specialist Reed offer a good indication.

What qualifications do you need to be a train driver?

According to the National Careers Service, there are three routes to becoming a train driver: an apprenticeship, working towards the role and applying directly.

They explain: "You can start as a rail passenger assistant or train conductor, then apply for a trainee driver post. This is also a common way to become a London Underground driver."

When applying directly to a train operating company to become a trainee driver, training can last between 12 and 24 months.

The National Careers Service also says that applicants must: be over 20 years old, live within one hour of the depot they apply to, pass enhanced background checks and pass a medical check. Employers usually expect GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) in English and maths, or equivalent qualifications.

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Do train drivers get free travel?

Train drivers may get free travel, but only with the operating company they work for. For example, Southeastern says its drivers and eligible family members can enjoy free travel on their company's services.

Meanwhile, London Underground drivers get free travel around London for them and a partner.

Meanwhile, the Rail Delivery Group offers Staff Travel Cards which can be used to get heavily discounted national rail tickets.

How many hours does a train driver work?

Train drivers work between 35 and 40 hours a week, according to the National Careers Service. Train drivers work in shifts, which include evenings, weekends and public holidays, and overtime is common.

According to Train Driver Academy, a 35 hour week is generally averaged out over the whole year or shift cycle. For example, week one might be 32 hours, week two 39 hours and week three 34 hours, creating a 35 hour average. Shifts, or 'turns', usually range from around 6 hours to 11 hours.

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Ellie Hutchings
Family News Editor

Ellie is GoodtoKnow’s Family News Editor and covers all the latest trends in the parenting world - from relationship advice and baby names to wellbeing and self-care ideas for busy mums. Ellie is also an NCTJ-qualified journalist and has a distinction in MA Magazine Journalism from Nottingham Trent University and a first-class degree in Journalism from Cardiff University. Previously, Ellie has worked with BBC Good Food, The Big Issue, and the Nottingham Post, as well as freelancing as an arts and entertainment writer alongside her studies. When she’s not got her nose in a book, you’ll probably find Ellie jogging around her local park, indulging in an insta-worthy restaurant, or watching Netflix’s newest true crime documentary.