Railway Train Conductor

The Job and What's Involved

Railway train conductors may also be known as train managers, guards or ticket inspectors. They work on passenger trains, making sure that travellers are safe, comfortable and have paid for their journey.

Throughout a train journey passengers are getting on and off trains, so much of the conductor's time is spent walking through the carriages checking tickets and carrying out other duties. Their work varies depending on the route they are working on, but responsibilities generally include customer service work such as:

  • Making announcements, giving information about approaching stations, the time of arrival and updating passengers about any delays.
  • Providing information to passengers about connecting trains and dealing with queries.
  • Dealing with any problems on the train, such as rowdy passengers.
  • Operating the doors and making sure passengers get on and off the train safely.
  • Looking after people who need particular help, such as children travelling alone, elderly people or people with disabilities.

Safety:

  • Checking that equipment, doors and controls are working properly.
  • Making sure the train is clean, safe and ready for departure.
  • Using the brake in an emergency.
  • Reporting and dealing with any on-train incidents.
  • In an emergency, looking after the welfare of the passengers.

Revenue protection:

  • Walking through carriages en route, checking passengers' tickets and making sure that they are valid for the journey.
  • Stamping tickets to show they have been checked.
  • Where appropriate, selling tickets to passengers who do not already have them.
  • Making sure passengers are sitting in the right area and the correct seats.
  • Dealing with passengers who do not have tickets and are unable to pay on the train.

At the end of a journey, conductors write a report, including any delays, problems, incidents, hazards or difficulties they encountered.

Railway conductors normally work 35 to 37 hours a week. Daily hours vary depending on the route they are assigned to. Overtime is common. Trains run through the day and night, so conductors work shifts covering days, evenings, nights, weekends and bank holidays. Conductors on long-distance routes may be required to stay overnight at the end of a journey before they start their next shift.

Conductors usually have a small compartment/office on the train, from where they can talk to the driver and make announcements. The office may be fitted out with a computer terminal and CCTV. Most of a conductor's time is spent moving around the train and talking to passengers.

They wear a uniform, which is provided by the employer.

Conductors' starting salaries may be around £13,000 a year.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Railway train conductors are mainly employed by train operating companies (TOCs) who run rail passenger services throughout the UK. There are currently 24 rail franchises in Great Britain. A full list is available on the National Rail website, www.nationalrail.co.uk.

There is currently an increase in the number of driver-only trains on short suburban routes, with job opportunities for conductors being mainly concentrated on the longer-distance routes. There are job opportunities for conductors across the country.

Vacancies are advertised on the websites of individual train companies and may also appear at Jobcentre Plus offices and in local newspapers. Some TOCs recruit conductors from their existing train or station staff.

Education and Training

There are no set qualifications to become a railway train conductor. However, TOCs typically look for a good standard of education, such as some GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), preferably including English and maths.

Applicants also need to pass a series of assessment tests and a full medical for fitness, eyesight, colour vision and hearing. There is a rigid safety policy on drug and alcohol abuse, and random alcohol and drug tests may be conducted at any time.

The minimum age for this job is 18 years, and most companies look for people who have experience in other customer service work. It may be possible to start work with a TOC at a younger age as a member of station staff and apply for the job of conductor at a later date.

There are a limited number of Apprenticeships available for passenger service roles, which can include work on-board trains.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

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A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training for new entrants normally lasts up to six months. It includes sessions both in the classroom and on-board trains. The training includes information on the rules of the TOC, health and safety, the skills and knowledge needed to follow and interpret timetables, and issue and price tickets, and customer service skills. These are updated from time to time as regulations or routes change.

Conductors may work towards NVQ/SVQ at Level 2 in Rail Transport Operations (Passenger Services).

Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

Railway train conductors need:

  • An awareness of safety and security, with good observation skills.
  • Clear speech and good communication skills.
  • To be calm and have the confidence to work with minimal supervision.
  • To be able to give information in a way that is easily understood.
  • To be able to deal quickly with unexpected situations.
  • Assertiveness in dealing with difficult passengers and problems.
  • To be good at working with people from diverse backgrounds.
  • The ability to understand complex fare systems, timetables, routes and regulations.
  • Good numeracy skills for cash handling.
  • Writing skills for reports and forms.
  • To be medically fit with good eyesight, hearing and normal colour vision.
  • A clean, smart appearance.

Your Long Term Prospects

Railway train conductors may be promoted to senior conductor or train crew team leader, and then train crew manager or train manager.

Conductors can also move into revenue protection jobs and general management posts. They are also in a good position to be considered for training as a driver.

Get Further Information

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

Individual train operating companies (TOCs) are listed on the websites www.nationalrail.co.uk and www.careersinrail.org

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