Ask a lot of kids what they’d like to be when they grow up and ‘train driver’ usually comes up.
There’s something so enjoyable about seeing trains zipping by and perhaps even getting a coveted ‘toot toot’. So when the thought of being a train driver plants itself in your mind, how do you go about achieving that goal?
In this month’s ‘A day in the life’, we chatted to Ashleigh Smart, one of our drivers at Glasgow Central. She started her ScotRail journey as a Customer Service Modern Apprentice in 2012 and worked her way up to become a train driver.
Hi Ashleigh, can you tell us a bit about being a train driver for ScotRail?
I’ve been a train driver for over five years now and really enjoy it. You need to have high concentration levels for long periods of time to ensure the safe and reliable running of train services. There are lots of different tasks and duties that need done every day so you have to be switched on at all times. Forward planning is key, especially when preparing to stop at stations and preparing for the weather conditions of that day. The weather can have a massive impact on the running of train services!
What’s your favourite thing about being a driver?
My favourite thing is getting to drive to different places every day. It also means I get to work with different people across the business. I love the fact that every day is different - I have different start and finish times each day and no two days are the same. The variety of work in driving trains is so rewarding that I get great job satisfaction.
What does a typical working day (if there is such a thing?!) look like for you?
I’ll start my day booking on for duty, gathering the latest information and publications that I’ll need that day and ensuring that I have my full driving kit. I’ll then familiarise myself with my diagram for that day which includes information on the train services I’ll be working and the stations I’ll be stopping at. I then head down to the platform and check that the train is in full working order and set up my driving cab for my journey. Being a train driver can be challenging at times but I can’t imagine myself doing anything else!
You mention it being challenging, what kind of challenges do you have to face?
Some of these challenges include infrastructure problems, like track or signalling issues, weather conditions and even people. These can all affect the running of a train. But with training and experience I know I’ve got all the right knowledge and tools to deal with any challenges I may face.
This last year with the pandemic has been tough, did it have a big impact on your own role?
The pandemic has had a big impact on my role. Train drivers are classed as key workers so I’ve been working on the frontline throughout. Due to train services being cut this affected my normal work/life balance due to timetable and rostering changes. I’ve been able to adjust to the changes in a positive way and look forward to the future with more customers using our train services again.
Can you tell us a bit about how you came to be a train driver?
After completing my Customer Service Modern Apprenticeship with ScotRail in early 2014 I moved onto the role of a Train Conductor at Glasgow Queen Street Station. This was my first role within the operational side of the business. During my time as a Conductor I worked very closely with the drivers. Working closely with them gave me a good insight into the role of a train driver which inspired me to pursue driving as a career. I decided to apply for the position towards the end of 2015 and was fortunately successful through the testing and interviewing process. I began my training as a Train Driver in February 2016 at Glasgow Central Station where I still drive trains today.
What’s been your proudest achievement working for ScotRail?
In 2014 I was nominated by the business for The Skills Development Scotland Modern Apprentice of The Year Award. I made it to the top three nominees in the country and it was an honour to attend the award ceremony on behalf of ScotRail.
If someone reading this fancied becoming a driver in the future, what advice would you give them?
I would advise anyone wanting to pursue this career to go for it! I would tell anyone to research the role, visit locations where if successful you would be working and speak to other drivers to get their knowledge and advice. If successful, enjoy the training but look and listen to everything you are told. That’s the key to passing out as a train driver and having a successful and enjoyable driving career at ScotRail.