Teenagers recruited to drive trains under new plans

Credit: PA

Teenagers as young as 18 will be able to drive trains as part of new government proposals aimed at easing staffing shortages,

The Department for Transport is proposing to reduce the minimum age for driving a train on Britain's railways from 20 to 18.

The plans could be put in place as early as this summer.

A high number of train drivers are expected to retire in the next five years, causing concerns the workforce is projected to shrink. The average age of a train driver is 48, the Department said.

They said the plan would "build resilience", enabling school leavers to take up apprenticeships and join the profession.

"We want to open the door for young people considering transport as a career," said rail minister Huw Merriman, "by boosting age diversity and attracting more drivers, we can help support reliable services while creating opportunities for more young people."

Train services have faced a series of disruptions as a near two-year dispute over pay between drivers' union Aslef and train operators continues.

The union responded positively to the plans. Aslef General Secretary Mick Whelan said there should be "enough drivers to cover all available shifts."

"Not only will this increase the number of drivers, but we also believe that those at the pointy end of a train should reflect the communities they serve and that includes having young people in cabs."

A consultation on the plan is seeking views on how the processes for selecting, training, and supervising train drivers could be adapted to suit younger recruits.

Training to become a train driver usually takes between one and two years. Trainees must pass mandatory medical psychological, fitness and general professional competence exams.

The consultation began on Thursday, and will end on June 13.

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know…