While each train company offers slightly different salaries, it’s important to be aware of the pay scales and benefits that every rail company offers across the country. To help you navigate this, here is a helpful guide to average UK train driver salary and benefits.

Average train driver salary ranges

The salary and benefits packages for the role of a train driver usually depends on the company, alongside external factors such as length of service, location, and qualifications.

The average train driver salary in the UK is £48,500 per year. Train drivers can expect to begin with an average starting salary of £30,000, with the highest salaries often exceeding £65,000.

Train driver salaries can also differ between commercial or freight roles. The average freight train driver salary in the UK is £44,418.

The average train driver salary in London is £58,795, with experienced professionals in the region having salaries that often exceed £69,000, while train driver salaries in Scotland start at £38,194 for newly qualified drivers, rising to £48,360 after the probation period has ended.

The average annual salary range for some company-specific train driver roles are:

London North Eastern Railway (LNER)

The average LNER train driver salary range is £30,000 to £70,000.

Transport for London (TfL)

The average TFL train driver salary range is £57,217 to £61,620.

Scotrail

The average Scotrail train driver salary range is £50,659 to £56,245.

Northern Rail

The average Northern Rail train driver salary range is £40,104 to £57,546.

East Midlands Railway

The average East Midlands Railway train driver salary range is £54,403 to £61,467.

Great Western Railway

The average Great Western Railway train driver salary range is £49,807 to £67,304.

Merseyrail

The average Merseyrail train driver salary range is £50,572 to £55,415.

Southeastern Railway

The average Southeastern Railway train driver salary range is £37,261 to £58,503.

How train driver salaries compare to other specialisms

Other specialist roles within the same sector as train drivers include bus and taxi drivers, train conductors and airline pilots.

The average annual salaries for these specialist roles are:

Bus driver

The average salary for a bus driver in the UK is £20,522.

Taxi driver

The average salary for a taxi driver in the UK is £27,509.

Train conductor

The average salary for a train conductor in the UK is £30,687.

Airline pilot

The average salary for a commercial airline pilot in the UK is £61,250.

Roles and responsibilities

Train drivers are expected to understand the routes and trains they are driving, the signalling systems in place along their route, alongside any rail safety regulations and emergency procedures that may need to be used throughout their shift. Shifts usually range from around six to 11 hours and vary from company to company.

On a day-to-day basis, typical tasks undertaken by train drivers include:

  • Checking engine performance and the general state of the train prior to each journey

  • If running a freight train, ensuring that the correct freight is loaded

  • Ensuring that the route is known and agreed with the control centre

  • Examining any problems which are currently affecting the route

  • Understanding the current track and weather conditions

  • Following signal instructions and safety regulations

  • Making announcements to passengers, as well as opening the automatic doors for passengers when arriving at stations

  • Alerting the driver taking over duty about any incidents or engine issues the train has

  • Keeping a written record of any problems and delays which may occur while on duty

Holiday entitlement

Employees in the UK must legally receive 5.6 weeks of annual leave if they are employed full time, and this is no different for train drivers.

This may differ depending on company policy. For example, TFL train drivers receive a minimum of 29 holiday days a year and traditionally work a 36-hour week, while Scotrail train drivers receive up to 28 days of annual leave entitlement including bank holidays.

Most train companies offer comprehensive benefits packages that can include discounted and free travel passes, as well as leisure and hospitality discounts.

Train driver pension scheme

The pension scheme for train drivers is a final wage scale that depends on the number of years’ service. The number of years is divided by a rate of 1/60 to reach a final monthly figure.

Pension schemes can also be organised by some unions such as the ASLEF Railway Pension Scheme, which covers more than 360,000 active members and pensioners.

Find out more about the train driver pension scheme.

Qualifications and training

Train companies usually expect applicants to be over 20 years of age and have GCSE grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) in English and Maths, in addition to some mechanical and electrical knowledge.

Before being accepted onto a railway training course, applicants must go through psychometric testing, as well as a manager interview, a structured interview, and a medical interview.

The length of the training course depends on the rail company. The course typically lasts for approximately nine months and features plenty of driving, some of which takes place on a simulator.

After successfully completing the course, drivers are employed as a post-qualified driver (PQD). A trainee train driver salary is £25,000 on average.

Here are the following ways you can become a train driver:

An apprenticeship

Apply to a train operating company and begin a train driver advanced apprenticeship, which lasts approximately 12 months.

Working towards the role

Start out as a rail passenger assistant or train conductor within a rail company, then apply for a trainee driver post when the opportunity arises.

Direct application

Apply directly to a train company to become a driver. It is expected for training to last between 12 and 24 months. Once drivers have completed the training course and gained the right experience, train drivers may choose to work driving either passenger or freight trains.

Professional development

After successfully completing the training course, participants are employed as a post-qualified driver (PQD) in a probationary year. Once the probationary year is completed, train drivers are evaluated every two years on railway rules and regulations, ensuring they keep up to date on processes across the industry.

Additionally, when pursuing a career in the rail industry, continued learning and development is vital to success. Train drivers must continue to adapt to the latest technologies and be competent in successfully providing a quality experience to travellers.

Career progression

There are a variety of development opportunities available for train drivers, including progressing to an instructor or manager level.

Experienced train driver

A train driver with four-nine years of experience can earn an average salary of £47,300, while an experienced train driver with 10-20 years of experience earns £55,000 on average. Train drivers with more than 20 years of experience earn an average of £65,000.

Train driver instructor

With experience, you could combine your job with instructing trainee drivers who are learning new routes and cabin controls. You could also become a driver trainer, teaching new starters in the classroom, working with driver simulators and accompanying new trainees on journeys.

Train driver instructor salary ranges from £55,000 to £70,000 depending on experience, the company and location.

Manager

Train drivers can also move into a management position, supervising other drivers and making sure the rail network route runs effectively.

The average train driver manager salary for West Midlands Trains is approximately £72,650, while Northern Rail manager salary ranges from £59,250 to £61,500.