Candidate Interview: What’s it like to be a Train Driver?


Peter Hazre-Corte is a qualified Train Driver based in the UK. In December 2017 the Samuel Knight Rail team helped Peter secure a new rail job with DeutscheBahn (DB Cargo). We caught up with him almost a year later to find out how the job is going, what it’s like and how he sees the industry changing in the future.

What’s your background Peter and how did your career lead to you becoming a Train Driver for DB?

My career as a Train Driver started in October 2000 when I was hired for an Overhead Wiring Train Driver position. Following the training something like 52 of the 58 newly qualified drivers put their notices in. They realised they were getting paid a lot less than Train Drivers in other areas.

I decided to stay and worked on the tampers. These are the machines that carry out the maintenance on high-speed rail lines, helping increase the durability of the track and making it easier and safer for high-speed trains to go around bends.

I stayed in this role for 17 years (up to 2017) and hadn’t really thought about leaving until I was approached by Samuel Knight’s Rail team on LinkedIn. They told me about the opportunity to become a Freight Train Driver for Deutsche Bahn, and it got me really excited. I did my interview with them, got the job, and haven’t looked back since. I actually know around 20 other people that come into the company from a similar background since - so I kind of got the ball rolling with that one!

What do you enjoy most about your role as a Train Driver?

I think the main thing is that it is different every day. You’re going from a wide variety of A to B’s (and sometimes back from B to A!). Every journey and every train is different - there’s certainly a lot of variation. One day you can be shunting at 5 mph in the yard and the next day you might be going 75 mph with 4,000 tonnes down the line. It keeps the job interesting and it keeps it fresh - I really enjoy it.

What advice would you have for someone looking to become a qualified Train Driver, say someone who is or is hoping to become a Trainee Train Driver?

I’d say that anyone hoping to get a job as a Train Driver or Trainee Train Driver should be aware that you’ll often be expected to work unsociable hours and that there is a lot of work and learning involved. You have to realise that the railway isn’t just a job, it’s a way of life. To be successful you have to be dedicated and if you are it’ll lead to high levels of job satisfaction. I have a great job, work-life balance, salary and pension but I’ve certainly worked hard to earn it.

How do you anticipate the job changing in the future? Will technology change things?

The biggest change is moving to a no-signals railway in the next few years. As an industry, the transformation to a digital railway presents lots of challenges and in-cab signalling systems are one of these (as we move away from traffic lights). It’ll be a different way of working but I’m sure DB will support myself and our other drivers with training so that we have all the tools and can easily adapt when the time comes.

Does anything worry you when you look at the future of Train Driving and the industry?

I think that as an industry we have a massive hole and this is a bit of a worry. When I look around in my current role I don’t see many Trainee Train Drivers or Junior Drivers coming through. In fact, according to the latest statistics I think we’re supposedly a staggering 10,000 or so short. We do need lots more qualified Train Drivers, certainly.

One thing that I’ve been recently asked to do by my employer is to start visiting some local schools, doing talks about my career and really trying to inspire the next generation. I’ve agreed to the request and I’m really looking forward to taking part. DB Cargo as a company are leading the industry in that we’ve started both Trainee and Junior Driving programmes recently. This is helping to encourage more young people to pursue a career in the industry, with successful candidates receiving full and thorough training.

I think lots of people don’t realise what an attractive career it is. You may be working unsociable hours but it’s a 32 hour week, for which you’re usually paid around £50,000-£60,000 as a basic salary (with the option for overtime)  and given a fantastic pension. This, coupled with the enjoyment you can get from the job itself mean it is a career that can give you so much.

How did Samuel Knight International help you find your role? Was it a smooth process and how did you find working with the team?

Before I was approached by Samuel Knight Rail  I wasn’t actually looking for a new job. I think this is largely because I wasn’t aware of the fantastic opportunities I’d be suitable for. The team at Samuel Knight made me aware that I had all the right transferable skills to do the job and of the great career it could offer me. Had I already known all this I’d probably have made the move years ago!

Honestly, it was such an easy and straightforward process from start to finish. Samuel Knight helped me secure and arrange an interview which they then helped me prepare for. I went to the interview, it went really well and on the way home I had a call from one of Samuel Knight’s consultants to say that they wanted to offer me the job. The transition was smooth and I had no problems switching from dealing with Samuel Knight to dealing with the internal HR team. Within 28 days of the interview I was working and enjoying my new job!

Would you recommend Samuel Knight International to others looking to secure new rail jobs?

Absolutely and I already have. I’ve recommended a number of friends to get in touch with Samuel Knight International and I try to help the company by sharing posts on LinkedIn and things. I’m really grateful to all the Rail team at Samuel Knight for helping me find my current role and will carry on recommending them to others in the industry.


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