There’s no denying it, some people are nutty about trains. There’s something about chugging engines that can get even the burliest of men welling up, but you don’t have to be completely mad about trains to have a career in the transport industry or to be a train manager.
Otherwise known as the train guard, the senior conductor, or slightly bizarrely as the “customer service inspector”, train managers are in charge of making sure train journeys run smoothly. They head the air cabin crew of the ground (e.g. the on-board train team) and are sticklers for customer service.
It certainly is a hugely customer-facing role. As a train manager, you’ll not only be checking tickets, but providing assistance to passengers and making sure that health and safety standards are met, such as checking that the doors are shut and the walkways are clear.
A train manager might also be responsible for ensuring the train is running on time and leaves the station when it’s supposed to.
If you become a train manager, your office will have wheels. You’ll be spending most of your working day on trains: you might be making the same journey several times, or you might be in charge of several different trains throughout your shift.
It isn’t the perfect escape from a desk job though – train managers will also have to spend some time in an office dealing with various bits of paperwork, such as detailing their work and reporting any incidents or problems they have encountered.
Salary & benefits
Salaries will vary depending on location, employer and length of journey. Starting salaries are usually around £20,000.
With more experience, most train managers can earn somewhere between £21,000 and £30,000 a year.
As for benefits, there is a Railway Pension Scheme (RPS) that you can join and, if you are working for a franchised operator, you will be given an ATOC Privilege Travel Card that gives you a sweet 75% discount on rail tickets. You’ll also get a travel pass from your operator, entitling you to free journeys on their services.
Train managers usually work a 40-hour week. Most of them will work shifts, which means they could be working early in the morning, late at night and during weekends, and working overtime is common.
No academic qualifications are necessarily needed to become a train manager, but employers will expect managers to be numerate and literate, so having GCSEs in Maths and English will certainly help.
Most people work their way up from the role of train crew member to train manager. Employers will be looking for people with experience in leading a team and working in a customer facing role.
You’ll need to be personable, calm, decisive, confident and a multi-tasker. You should be able to stay level-headed in emergencies and stressful situations. It’s often the train manager’s dulcet tones you hear over the train’s PA system, so you’ll need to have a clear speaking voice.
Above all, you will need good communication skills, as you’ll be interacting with passengers, managing a team and liaising with platform staff.
Training & progression
The length of training varies, but usually it is relatively short, around six months. Training will probably consist of ‘on-the-job’ and classroom training and a number of exams in areas such as health and safety, route questions, customer service, and how to diffuse an argument.
Train managers might progress in their career by stepping up to a team management and training role, or by moving into the off-train management aspects of rail services.