273 - Transpennine - OnurRailway Companies

Working conditions of loco drivers in UK

Second chapter of interview with Jools, a loco driver in UK:

How is the daily life of a loco driver in UK?

In my current post as a driver for Eurostar my regular work takes me to Paris or Brussels. A typical day would be a return trip from London to Paris or Brussels, with some days spent as a depot driver moving units around the depot as required.

Could you be more specific about what you do in a typical day?

An example of a day work is:

  • Start work 14.09
  • Prepare unit
  • Depart London 15.04
  • Arrive Bruxelles 18.05
  • Break
  • Prepare unit
  • Depart Bruxelles 19.52
  • Arrive London 21.03
  • Depart London 22.15
  • Arrive depot 22.26
  • Depart depot as passenger 22.58
  • Arrive London 23.10
  • Finish work 23.29

So you are working 8 hours a day?

Our working day has changed since I started with it being a lot more flexible now. We can now be rostered to work for between 6 and 12 hours (11 at Eurostar now), depending on the needs of the company.

Isn’t there regulations? Limits?

Since privatistation, things have become more flexible, and do vary between each of the operating companies. However as a rule, the maximum hours permitted to be worked is 12, and there must be a rest period of 12 hours between shifts.

So how many hours you are working a week?

Most companies employ a 35 – 37 hour week now, which has dropped from 40 when I started on the job. Generally the maximum that is permitted to be worked (including overtime) is 72 hours in a week, or 13 days continuously. This follows the accident at Clapham in 1989 where it was found excessive hours contributed to it.

So you don’t have a regular working hours?

We have a roster that we work to, although this can be changed so it is often difficult to plan your life! The roster is published each week for the following week, and will include all the moves to cover for holidays and sickness etc. I can be moved up to 2 hours either way from the time shown on the roster the day before, but up to 8 hours either way the week before. My working week is spread over 7 days, but a few companies still have Sundays outside the working week.

Each company will have its own holiday arrangements, but these will vary from 4 – 5 weeks of annual leave per year, and an amount of lieu days to make up for having to work on bank holidays etc.

What qualifications must a loco driver have in UK?

There are no formal qualifications required to my knowledge, although part of the process to be employed includes a series of psychometric tests. These are designed to show that candidates have the required skills for the job, such as concentration, coordination, ability to work alone or under pressure etc. Far more details for this can be found at http://www.traindriver.org/

How were you trained for being a loco driver?

My training as a driver was based on my time as a secondman gaining experience, and then a training course which took about 6 months. This was split into 2 main sections, rules and traction. At the end of this I sat a 2 day exam, day 1 on rules, and day 2 on traction and driving, and having attained the required results was qualified as a driver. I then was sent on lots of training courses for different types of traction, as required by my depot, although these were spread out over a period of two or three years, in between normal working.

What’s an average salary of loco driver?

The wages vary company to company, but I would suggest that the salary varies from £40k – £60k depending on the company and the work. Some places have the option of overtime on top of this. At Eurostar we do not work overtime normally, and are contracted to work around 1600 hours per year.

Interview: Onur Uysal
Cover Photo: Onur Uysal ©

Categories: Railway Companies

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