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Recruiting more drivers

Sometimes you may see that a service has been cancelled due to a member of train crew being unavailable. We know how frustrating it can be and would like to apologise.

There may be various reasons for a member of train crew being unavailable, for example when the service is disrupted this can lead to train crews being displaced and unable to crew their next scheduled service. 

However, one of the underlying factors is that sometimes we do not have enough drivers to carry out both day-to-day operations and the large amount of training required to enable long-term passenger service improvements, without asking drivers to work rest days. 

We have been working flat out to address this with the UK’s biggest driver recruitment and training programme.

What are the pressures?

We are bringing in lots of new trains on both Thameslink and Great Northern. On Thameslink, there is also a continuous programme of driver training and retraining required for new routes around the London Bridge works, for new depots and diversions. This will ultimately transform our service with new and longer trains, greater capacity and new cross-London routes. We also have 30 more services to cover because of changes made to the timetable so there are more services to resource.

On Great Northern there is a large training programme for new fleets of trains, a new depot and, in the future, new routes and services.

The amount of rest day working we need fluctuates, depending on factors such as labour turnover and sickness levels as well as covering for holiday leave and this high level of training.

What we’re doing

We have under way the biggest driver recruitment and training programme in the UK to steadily reduce our reliance on rest day working. This will reduce to a minimum our dependence on drivers working rest days so that we can deliver a more consistent service for our passengers.

How we’re doing

  • On Thameslink and Great Northern we have 158 drivers in training (101 on Thameslink and 57 on Great Northern)
  • We have doubled the number of driver trainers (16 compared to 7 before franchise)
  • We have tripled the number of courses being run annually with more to follow (from 4 previously to 13 currently)
  • Between the start of 2015 and 4 March 2017 we have brought 85 more trained drivers onto the Thameslink route and 107 on to Great Northern

How long will this take?

It takes over a year to train a driver to the high safety standards expected in the industry – that’s a minimum of 240 hours in practical training and an additional 840 hours learning theory – and we cannot train the large number of drivers we need all at once so there is a rolling programme. 

Also, while we are recruiting and training, existing drivers retire and leave for personal reasons. 

There are also new fleets of trains coming on stream this year on both Thameslink and Great Northern which we are  training drivers to use. Both Thameslink and Great Northern introduced a new improved timetable in December 2015 which required more drivers to provide additional overnight services on Thameslink and later services weekdays and weekend services into Moorgate on Great Northern.   

As a result, there continues to be a risk of cancellations, in particular during periods of high annual leave – but we are steadily overcoming this. In the meantime we will continue to keep you informed of any possible cancellations via our station screens, app and website. Thank you for bearing with us.

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