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Virgin Trains and ASLEF announce first train driver apprenticeship scheme

Press Release   •   Nov 14, 2017 09:56 GMT

Left to right: Joe, 19; Sam, 24; Simon, 29

Virgin Trains in partnership with ASLEF today has announced the launch of the rail industry’s first driver apprenticeship scheme. The apprenticeship scheme, which is the first to be launched by a train operating company, will develop the train drivers of the future and the youngest train driver in the UK will come from the scheme.

Over 1,200 applications were received for these positions, with three final candidates selected in February, following a 16-stage recruitment process aimed at identifying the highest calibre potential apprentices.

During a year-long training programme, apprentices will receive training in all aspects of the train driver role plus additional training in functional skills and English, Maths and ICT. They will shadow drivers as well as train managers and station staff so they can gain a full appreciation of how their role fits with others. Apprentices will also benefit from further rotations at Virgin Trains to understand everything from control and command,safety and fleet management, in addition to spending time with other Virgin companies, including Virgin Atlantic.

The first three apprentices comprise of 29-year-old Simon Tyrer from Preston, former branch manager of a phone shop, 24-year-old Samantha Jones from Manchester who spent some time working on-board trains before realising her passion sat behind the wheel and 19-year-old Joe Wilson from Liverpool who, having initially tried his hand at an automotive apprenticeship, decided to follow in his father’s footsteps and become a train driver. Joe will be driving on his 21st birthday, beating his Dad to the punch by four months.

The apprenticeship scheme was co-designed by a former Virgin Trains red track apprentice, Sam Edwards. Inspired by his own experience on the business management apprentice. He wanted to be able to offer more people the opportunity to learn at the same time as getting hands on experience and so worked with the company to develop the new scheme.

Director for Human Resources at Virgin Trains west coast, Patrick McGrath, said: “We are delighted to be launching the first ever train driver apprenticeship scheme alongside ASLEF. At Virgin Trains we believe in giving our staff the tools to innovate and it’s great to see that one of our former apprentices has used his skills to truly shake-up the industry. It’s clear that the appetite for high quality training in the rail industry is still there and we look forward to inviting the next generation of train drivers to come join us at Virgin Trains.”

Kevin Lindsay, District Organiser for Aslef, said: “We welcome this joint initiative and look forward to continuing developing the driver apprenticeship scheme with Virgin West Coast Trains as this is a great opportunity to bring young people into the rail industry and particularly the driving grade.”

Train driver apprentice, Samantha Jones, said: “I’m so happy to have the opportunity to be able to dive straight into this apprenticeship and build on the skills I’ll need as a driver. It’s given me a clear picture of what the role is actually like and everyone has been so supportive along the way.”

About Virgin Trains:

Stagecoach and Virgin are working in partnership to operate the East Coast and West Coast inter-city routes under the Virgin Trains brand. Together, they are on track to revolutionise rail travel across the UK.

The combined network connects some of the nation’s most iconic destinations including Glasgow, Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester, Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, York and London.

Virgin Trains is committed to delivering a high speed, high frequency service, offering shorter journey times, more comfortable travel and excellent customer service. Customers consistently rate Virgin Trains as one of the top long-distance rail franchise operators in the National Rail Passenger Survey (NRPS) commissioned by industry watchdog, Transport Focus.

On the East Coast route, £140m is being invested to create a more personalised travel experience. We have already invested over £40m in our existing fleet, including £21m refurbishing the interiors and £16m towards improving the engines of our trains. Customers can now benefit from 42 additional services between Edinburgh and London every week, and an extra 22 Saturday services between Leeds and London – a total of 1.74 million additional seats since May 2016. 2018 will see the introduction of completely new Azuma trains being built in the UK by Hitachi.

The West Coast route has a proud record of challenging the status quo - from introducing tilting Pendolino trains, to a pioneering automated delay repay scheme and becoming the first franchised rail operator to offer m-Tickets for all ticket types.

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