The London Tube Service spans 250 miles of track, 45% of which makes up the London Underground is relied on daily by thousands of commuters daily. The lines are rich in historic stories and the service is continuing to grow to cope with the increase in passenger demand for the service.
Consisting of 270 rail stations, you’ll certainly need to know your way around the train lines, and navigate each of the lines safely, in accordance with rail regulations, obeying traffic signals, speed restrictions, relaying information to the control centre, and keeping logs of potential hazard spots on the lines, for your relief driver to be on the lookout for.
In a job where you’re driving on what mostly looks the same line as others, you’re going to be relying on your memory to help you navigate the Underground lines safely. Before you’re put on a train on any route, you’ll first be travelling the line with another driver in order to familiarise with the track layout. It’s that familiarisation that will feed your knowledge on how to drive the train safely through the tunnels and into stations at the appropriate speed.
When approaching stations, naturally you’ll be required to approach with caution, applying the brakes and taking the slow approach. Unfortunately, in the career of tube drivers, there’s an element of the unknown when they’re approaching crowded stations. That pertains to the statistics of an estimated 22 people each year who decide to take their lives on the Underground.
Each tube driver is alert to it, but they cannot let that dominate their day.
People in the career know it’s a risk that can happen and pray each day that it won’t. If it does, the Transport for London does offer counselling services to those affected. That’s only mentioned for the reason that there’s more to the job than knowing how to drive the train.
You need to be able to cope with the psychological demands of the job as well and that’s an area you cannot get training on.
It is just worth mentioning that before you can begin the Tube Driver training you must first under take the Aptitude Assessment, which is estimated to take around three to four hours to complete. This consists of an English test aimed mainly at spelling and comprehension.
You will then be asked to pre record a public announcement which is then assessed by the panel. This is then followed by a comprehension test, a fault finding exercise and lastly two computer tests one testing concentration the other looking at accuracy and your reactions.
Once you are successful with the aptitude assessment you will then be required to attend an interview. The interviewers will usually be a Recruitment Services representative and a Train Operations Manager. If you are successful in interview too you will then be selected for training.
So initially the training only consisted of a ten week course, this has now been extended as those trainees who had no previous knowledge of the underground were finding the course to intensive as they had no experiences to look back on.
It was decided that the current training be extended to a course of 22 full on weeks. This was to be followed by a Final Consolidation week where you would be given the opportunity to go over any elements of the training you might be unsure of still. You would be trained under the Direct Recruit Operators Scheme (DROPS).
The training is broken down into the separate weeks where you would cover the relevant topics. You would start with a general introduction to the London Underground in week one for example. Then move onto the more technical side of things, such as the Operational Procedures Training (OPT).
You will be required to refer to the Reference Manual throughout your training, which is a valuable resource. Other topics you would cover would be such things as Rail Gaps and Signalling Systems; you will also learn about the trains themselves and how actually they work etc.
The above are just a few of the topics that the training will cover just to give you an idea what is involved, there are of course more than this.
It might sound intense but then it needs to be, your employer will want to train to a very high standard as let’s not forget that the correct procedures must be followed as you are not only responsible for your own safety but of your customers and other members of staff.
Having discussed the training and advised you on the best way to get into the post of a Tube Driver it is important we now look at what the actual job entails and how your daily/weekly rota may look. It is worth mentioning that the London Underground service starts running at 05.15am and this working day continues until 01.30am the following morning.
So as a Tube Driver your shift will fall in between these working hours. The average working week is 35 and a half hours and the longest shift you will work is eight and a half hours. You will be expected to work five days out of seven, with the working week starting on a Sunday running to the following Saturday.
Once you have a post as a Tube Driver you are likely to start working in what is known as the “pools” to begin with. The Pools drivers are those that work outside the roster drivers, this means that their duties are allocated to them on a weekly basis.
Most Pools drivers are waiting on a post to become available within the roster but this will only happen if a driver resigns, gets promoted or transferred for example. The time spent in the pools can vary dependent on the depot that you are working at, you may only have to wait a few months to become on the roster.
Working on the roster does have its advantages, as you will know what shifts you are working months in advance. This allows you to plan your annual leave for example so you know exactly when and when you are not working.
Generally your hours of work will be mixed between early shifts, late shifts and nights.
When on the roster you are able to request certain patterns of shifts for example you may want all early ones, however this will depend on the depot as to whether this can be accommodated all of time. Working as a Tube Driver may seem challenging and at first and possibly even a little difficult to get into but it appears to be so worth it!
The job is flexible, well paid and your weekly roster will vary from week to week and even month to month which means it always stays varied. It is also worth mentioning here that your career path does not have to end at Tube Driver, once you are in this post you may see other roles within the station that might be of interest to you; for example the Duty Manager and/or Train Operations Manager.
So becoming a Tube Driver may open up all kinds of opportunities that you may wish to pursue!