Teens could be recruited as train drivers to help ‘improve’ Britain’s railways amid ongoing strikes

Can they start tomorrow?

Emily Sergeant Emily Sergeant - 16th May 2024

Teenagers could soon be recruited as train drivers in a bid to help “improve” Britain’s railways, the Government has announced.

Amid what have been ongoing strikes for the past couple of years now, and following on from the announcement back in February that ASLEF train drivers at several train companies and operators had voted ‘overwhelmingly’ to continue taking industrial action for another six months, the Government has now proposed lowering the minimum age to become a train driver from 20 to 18.

A consultation on the somewhat-controversial move is to be launched as part of the Government’s efforts to open up more careers in the rail sector to young people.

Ultimately, transport ministers believe this could “improve the reliability of rail services” across the UK.

This surprising recruitment drive announcement comes after the Government has revealed that the train driver workforce is projected to shrink without opening up more opportunities for new recruits in the near future – especially given the fact the average age of a train driver in Britain is 48 years old, and many are set to retire within the next five years or so.


Under the new proposals set to go out to consultation, the Department for Transport (DfT) will create a new pathway for school leavers to take up apprenticeships and train to join the profession.

If agreed following the consultation, the new regulations to lower the minimum age for train drivers from 20 to 18 could be in place as early as this summer, according to the Government, which will apparently “help set thousands of young people on track to a career in transport” once they’ve bid farewell to their school days.


The Government says its proposal to lower the minimum age would “build resilience” across the railway.

The Government has launched a consultation of the lowering of the minimum train driver age / Credit: Northern

Not only is the proposal said to form part of wider Government plans to create more opportunities where young people can gain the skills they need to succeed, all while generating more jobs that lead to a “productive” and “high-skilled” economy, but transport ministers believe attracting more young train drivers would help the rail industry provide a “more reliable service” for customers when other staff are off sick or on annual leave.

By opening up the sector to young people, the Government claims this would be “a positive step” and one that directly benefits passengers.


“We want to open the door for young people considering transport as a career, and this proposal could give school-leavers a clear path into the sector,” commented Rail Minister, Huw Merriman, as the proposals were unveiled this week.

“By boosting age diversity in the sector and attracting more drivers, we can help support reliable services while creating opportunities for more young people.”

If the proposals are introduced, the Government says all prospective train drivers, regardless of their age, will continue to be held to the same stringent training requirements as before to ensure the safe use of our railways for everyone.

To become a licensed train driver in the UK, trainees must pass mandatory medical, psychological, fitness, and general professional competence examinations.

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They must also be trained by their employer on the trains and tracks they will be deployed on.

Featured Image – Northern