Bus/Tram Conductor

The Job and What's Involved

Bus or tram conductors (sometimes called customer service assistants or passenger hosts) work in the passenger section of a bus or tram. They collect fares, issue tickets and answer queries about routes, fares and timetables. They are also responsible for the care and safety of their passengers.

Many bus and tram companies have combined the conductor and driver roles, with the bus and tram driver being responsible for taking fares. Route managers or revenue protection inspectors are increasingly used in these companies to deal with passenger issues and complaints, or to check tickets. See Route Manager for more information.

A bus or tram conductor's role may include:

  • Helping passengers on and off the bus or tram, and making sure everyone travels safely.
  • Helping to secure luggage, fold baby buggies and assist with wheelchairs.
  • Making sure that all passengers are safely boarded before signalling to the driver that it is safe to move off.
  • Calculating fares and issuing tickets from a machine, collecting money and giving change.
  • Answering queries about routes, timetables and fares.
  • Challenging 'fare-dodgers', vandals or troublesome individuals.
  • Passengers, and possibly having to evict them from the vehicle or summon help.
  • Coping with emergencies - dealing with any passengers who become ill, or moving passengers on to a replacement bus/tram in case of breakdown or accidents.
  • Checking season tickets and passes, making sure they are valid.
  • On request, warning passengers when their stop is nearby.
  • Checking that passengers do not stay on past the stop they have paid for.
  • Keeping track of which passengers have already paid.
  • Dealing with lost property and suspicious packages.
  • Counting money, recording amounts and checking that they match with tickets sold.
  • Writing journey reports if there are any problems.

Most bus and tram conductors work shifts covering days, evenings and weekends, and sometimes nights. Early starts and late finishes are common. The basic working week can vary from 37 to 48 hours, over five or six days.

Conductors spend most of their time on their feet. They walk about on the moving vehicle, which may be tightly packed. They must be able to balance without holding on, and climb up and down stairs in the case of double-decker vehicles. They may have to load luggage, pushchairs and wheelchairs.

Usually they wear a uniform, which the company provides. They may also carry a ticket machine and money satchel.

A small number of passengers, particularly at night, may be drunk or aggressive. There is a risk of verbal or physical abuse.

Starting salaries for bus or tram conductors may be around £12,000 a year. Salaries in London and the South East may be higher than in other parts of the country. Some companies offer free or concessionary travel to their employees.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are 217,000 people employed in the bus and coach industry. Eighty per cent of employment in the bus industry is with the six main companies - Arriva, First, Go-Ahead, National Express, Stagecoach and Transdev. Companies operate in all areas of the UK.

Around 1,400 people currently work in the tram or light-rail industry in the UK. Trams and light railways operate in eight urban centres. These are Birmingham, Blackpool, Croydon, London Docklands, Manchester, Nottingham, Sheffield, and Tyne and Wear. Edinburgh is also planning to introduce trams.

Most buses and coaches now operate with a driver only. However, the introduction of streetcar buses, designed like a tram but operating on roads and fast-track routes, has seen the re-introduction of conductors to work in some areas, for example York. As the number of conductors has decreased, there has also been a growth in the number of revenue protection inspectors in some areas.

Jobs may be advertised in the local press and Jobcentre Plus offices, and on the websites of bus and tram companies. Blackpool Transport Services recruits and trains seasonal conductors to work on its trams and cover the busy summer holiday season.

Education and Training

There are no formal entry requirements to become a conductor, although some employers may ask for GCSE/S grade passes in English and maths.

Bus or tram conductors must be over 18 years of age. Most employers require applicants to have at least an ordinary UK car driving licence so that they can also train as drivers.

Applicants should be in good health. A medical examination may be required.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

A number of operators offer their conductors the opportunity to work towards an NVQ/SVQ Level 2 in Road Passenger Transport or Rail Transport Operations (Passenger Services) or NVQ/SVQ Levels 2 and 3 in Customer Services and/or an NVQ/SVQ in Tram/Light Rail Transport Operations.

Most operators provide on-the-job training for new recruits. The training generally lasts for two to four weeks, and includes:

- operating ticket machines
- cash security
- route familiarisation
- disability awareness
- customer care
- conflict management
- security, and health and safety matters
- first aid

Tram operator training also covers understanding tram technology, power supply and the operation of track-side equipment.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Bus or tram conductors need:

  • An awareness of safety and security, with good observational skills.
  • Clear speech and good communication.
  • Numerical accuracy for recording ticket sales.
  • To be reliable and punctual.
  • The confidence to work with minimal supervision.
  • Money-handling skills.
  • To be calm.
  • Assertiveness for dealing with difficult passengers.
  • A polite manner.
  • An understanding of the importance of good customer service.
  • Physical fitness.
  • A smart appearance.

Your Long Term Prospects

Bus and tram conductors may progress to become a route manager, service inspector or revenue protection inspector.

In some companies, employment as a conductor is the first step towards being trained and employed as a bus or tram driver.

Get Further Information

Confederation of Passenger Transport UK,
Drury House, 34-43 Russell Street, London WC2B 5HA
Tel: 020 7240 3131
Website: www.cpt-uk.org

GoSkills, Concorde House, Trinity Park, Solihull, West Midlands B37 7UQ
Tel: 0121 635 5520
Website: www.goskills.org

Light Rail Transit Association, c/o Haslams,
133 Lichfield Street, Walsall, West Midlands WS1 1SL
Tel: 01179 517785
Website: www.lrta.org

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