Train Driver Training at Probus

The first speaker of the 36th season for the Probus Club of Basingstoke reassured the audience of retired professional and business men of the high safety standards when travelling by train. The topic “Training the Train Drivers” was expertly covered by Chris Vickers of South West Trains who became a train driver fourteen years ago. For the last seven years he has been a Driver Instructor, including eighteen month’s secondment to the training centre at Basing View in Basingstoke.
There is fierce competition to become a train driver with a waiting list of several years before the applicant gets to the initial interview. Typically, from 350 applicants only one is normally accepted on to the training scheme. Even then there is fall out as a result of candidates failing some of the rigorous examinations during the fourteen months in training.
The curriculum covers every aspect about the tracks, signalling, stations on each line, safety standards and that is before they reach the stage of getting their hands on a real train. Initially they are taught with simulators. The simulators, similar in principle to the ones used to train airline pilots, are based on the Desiro trains used by South West Trains. They are used to assess trainee drivers as well as qualified drivers on their knowledge of the latest rules.
Eventually the trainees are assigned to a Driver Instructor who acts as their mentor and sits with them in the cab whilst gaining experience driving real trains. Having completed all the necessary training they will take a final assessment that lasts for five days. Having passed that hurdle they have to learn the routes that they will drive over. The first time a driver goes solo is something they will never forget. Gaining a train driver’s licence is the fulfilment of the ambition of many but achieved by only a few.