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Investing in our people

Britain’s railway rests on the skills of its people. As part of our continued commitment from In Partnership for Britain’s Prosperity, the rail industry is investing in the 240,000 people who work in rail, including more than 16,000 train drivers, unlocking the potential of diverse new recruits and developing the transferable skills we need for today’s and tomorrow’s railway.

As part of this commitment, rail companies are focusing on four key areas:

  • ensuring our people have the skills they need as we harness new technology and innovation to run a better railway
  • building a more diverse and inclusive railway that better reflects our society
  • supporting our people to become the next leaders of the industry, with the skills to manage, lead and inspire their teams to deliver what passengers want
  • engaging closely with our people and working together to keep improving for our passengers

Train Driver Academy

It takes more than a year of practical and theoretical training to learn how to safely drive a train, which could carry up to around 1,000 people at the busiest times. As rail companies run an additional 6,400 services a week by 2021, we plan to recruit more people into the industry, including thousands of new drivers.

The Train Driver Academy opened its virtual doors in May 2019, with standardised training for new drivers across the industry. Through the Academy and on-the-job work with train operators, trainees learn to drive passenger, freight and depot trains as well as on track machine operations. In 2020 the Train Driver Academy will welcome hundreds of new drivers into training, offering the opportunity of a Level 3 apprenticeship qualification.

Case Study: Stadler in Liverpool 

In 2017, Stadler won a tender to build new trains for the Liverpool City Region and to service and maintain them for 35 years. The contract, awarded by Merseytravel, represents an investment worth £460 million, and trains are set to enter passenger service in 2020. A new state-of-the art depot, built to accommodate them, is practically ready.

A few months after the contract was signed, Stadler assumed responsibility for service and maintenance of the legacy fleet, taking on around 150 staff, who had formerly worked for Merseyrail.  Many of these employees will work on the new fleet, and people are currently being trained at the various plants around Europe to work on the new trains.

In summer 2019, Stadler’s five apprentices completed their vocational courses and are now qualified maintenance technicians. All of them have been given permanent jobs within the business. Their training, which encompassed daily maintenance, overhauls, the function of technical office, testing and reliability, as well as electronics and stores, will prove invaluable, not just for the new trains, but for a career on the railway.

The next generation

The rail industry is addressing skills challenges in a co-ordinated and collaborative way to attract and train people who have traditionally been under-represented in the sector - young people, women, Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) candidates and part-time employees.

Working with the Strategic Transport Apprenticeship Taskforce, rail and freight operators, supply chain companies and Network Rail pull together to:

  • create new, high quality apprenticeships
  • improve diversity in the transport sector
  • promote transport careers to young people and their influencers


Apprenticeships help create specialised rail knowledge and skills. They also act as an essential tool in addressing inequality and driving social mobility. The latest Strategic Transport Apprenticeship Taskforce figures show 8,200 apprenticeships have been created in rail, road and the supply chain since 2016, with 2,900 apprentices starting in 2018/19. We expect the growth in apprentices to continue in 2020, with thousands hired by the rail industry and wider supply chain.

What big changes do you want?

Rail companies are calling for big changes but what matters to you?