Posted on May 5, 2024

Train Drivers Overwhelmingly Middle-Aged White Men

Paul Clifton, BBC, April 29, 2024

The average train driver is 46 years old, male and white, according to new data compiled by an industry body.

The National Skills Academy for Rail (NSAR) figures show that only one in ten drivers are non-white, with even fewer being women.

The rail industry has long recognised itself as being one of the least diverse employment sectors.

Southern Railway said it is trying to enable a wider range of people to apply for jobs.

Donna Pryce is an apprentice driver at the company, on a training course at Selhurst Depot near Croydon.

“It was my experience, growing up, that all the drivers were fifty-plus, white men,” she said.

“But lately I am seeing a lot more diversity. More younger people, black people, women. I’m here for it, I love it!”

22-year-old George Browning, from Portsmouth, is Southern’s youngest trainee driver.

He said: “It has been a dream goal for me since I was a little boy. The median age of train drivers is quite high, so I definitely feel like one of the young ones. Age doesn’t matter, but I’m proud to achieve that at a young age.”

Zoey Hudson, head of talent, diversity and inclusion at Southern railway, said recruitment methods had changed to enable a wider range of people to apply for jobs.

“It’s really important that we have diversity of thinking within the railway, which is as important as diversity of ethnicity,” she said.

“It freshens us as an organisation, it brings creativity, so that we get different people enriching the working environment for the railway of the future. Ultimately, the railway will look and feel different, and that will make a more successful business.”

But train drivers remain overwhelmingly male, and overwhelmingly white.

Fewer than one in ten drivers are women: 91.5% are men, 8.5% are women, up from 6% two years ago.

More than nine in ten drivers are white: 90.8%, with 9.2% coming from other ethnicities.

NSAR also compiled statistics for drivers under the age of 40. It found the proportion of female drivers is significantly higher for this younger group, at 14%. The proportion of non-white drivers is higher too, also at 14%.

NSAR told the BBC: “Indicators are heading in the right direction, often as a result of government action to improve the deployment of apprenticeships for new train drivers.

“Average age is decreasing, gender balance increasing.”

NSAR’s data does not include services run by Transport for London.

It said that Elizabeth Line and Overground services, run by MTR and Arriva respectively, show greater diversity – with two in three Elizabeth Line drivers under 45 years old, and one in three non-white.

On Overground services, more than half of all drivers are from non-white backgrounds. But on both operators, nine in ten drivers are male.