Southern Rail and Gatwick Express celebrated a group of 69 trainee and newly qualified train drivers at an event at Fairfield Halls, East Croydon. The most recent recruits brought in to maintain the pool of employees who drive local trains, some had recently finished their classroom training, allowing them to go out in the cab with an instructor, while others have completed their course and can now drive solo.
It takes 15 months of intensive training to become a fully qualified train driver. After six months in the classroom, trainees then clock up 225 hours’ driving experience with an instructor before they take their final four-day initial competency assessment allowing them to go out on the tracks alone.
United in their enthusiasm to drive trains, they are a varied group. Claire Jackson, 35 and from Bexhill-on-Sea, worked as a train cleaner in Eastbourne for Southern for 12 years (on permanent night shifts) before her manager suggested she apply for the driver programme. She has just completed her classroom training.
Kofi Apau, 27, is based at Victoria depot and has also completed his classroom training. A graduate with a master’s degree in mathematics, he has several members of his family who are drivers and applied straight out of university.
Chantelle Joseph from Westminster, 29, also has a degree – hers is in biomedical sciences. She has always been a self-proclaimed ‘train nerd’ and rail enthusiast and, for four years, was a volunteer at the London Transport Museum. She, too, has just completed her classroom training.
Ben McKoy is further ahead with his training – he passed his driver’s test in September and is now based at Selhurst depot. He was a support paramedic in south London before joining Southern and changed jobs almost by accident. His brother-in-law is a Southern driver and was friends with Selhurst conductor Gary Allen, who sadly passed away a few years ago. Each year there is a football match that takes place in Gary’s memory and Ben was invited to watch the match one year. Whilst he was there, he met other drivers who suggested he apply. After an 18-month wait, he started his training.
Southern and Gatwick Express managing director Angie Doll said: “This was a fantastic opportunity to celebrate the hard work and achievement of both our trainees and their classroom trainers and driving instructors.
“Our drivers play a vital role for the local community where they live and quite often work. It’s also great to see more women join the industry as we continue to increase diversity among our people to better reflect the population of the areas we serve.”