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Virgin Trains launch recruitment programme to find drivers for new Azuma trains

Press Release   •   Oct 07, 2016 00:00 BST

Virgin Trains has begun the largest single recruitment programme for drivers on the east coast route since the 1980s, challenging people who may not have previously considered becoming a train driver to think about whether they’ve got what it takes to take on this exciting and rewarding career.

The initiative coincides with the arrival of its new fleet of Azuma trains that are set to revolutionise travel on the east coast, providing an extra 12,200 seats, a new and expanded timetable and increased capacity into Kings Cross by 28% during peak times. When it launches in 2018, the Azuma, built in the UK by Hitachi, will be one of the most advanced trains on the UK’s rail network and Virgin Trains needs 78 drivers to operate the 65-strong fleet.

Recruitment needs to begin now to allow for a year-long development programme before becoming fully-qualified trainee train drivers.

Over the course of the year trainees will take part in a mix of classroom-based and ‘on the job’ learning at different locations on the east coast route. Modules range from track safety, understanding operational route risks and emergency situations to getting to know the traction they will be driving.

New recruits also go through rigorous immersive practical learning including driving Virgin Trains’ state of the art simulator in order to familiarise themselves with the cab and build train handling experience.

Clare Burles, People Director at Virgin Trains east coast, said:

“We’re getting ready for some really exciting changes and as part of that we want to challenge people’s perceptions of rail and shake up just what it means to travel in the UK. The arrival of our Azuma trains is an important part of our plans and we need amazing people to join us on our journey.

“It doesn’t matter if you have never worked in rail or if you haven’t even considered a career as a train driver before, we are looking for people who are not afraid to do things a little differently and want to be part of something innovative and rewarding.

“As a train driver with us, you’ll not only get fantastic benefits and career development but also spectacular views of the iconic intercity east coast route from a very unique working environment – how many jobs can offer you that?!”

Tara Johnson, a driver for Virgin Trains east coast, said:

“I started my career on the east coast route just over nine years ago as a customer service assistant before becoming a train guard. I was really interested in the operational side of the job; I enjoyed working shifts and being onboard a train. The opportunity to apply to become a driver came up and I thought it was the perfect mix of challenge and reward so I went for it.

“I haven’t looked back. I love the freedom and benefits of the role and there is never a boring day on the job!

“It’s a lot of responsibility too – the safety of our customers and getting them to where they need to be on time is top priority but the training and support we receive is brilliant.

“Some people ask what it’s like to be in the cab solo but it really doesn’t feel like that. I always feel part of a team. There’s such a strong sense of family across Virgin Trains.”

This is the next phases of Virgin’s plans for the east coast route that will see investment of £140m to create a more personalised travel experience. This includes £21m that has already been invested to completely revamp the existing fleet.  

Notes to Editors:

  • 1.East coast recruited 24 trainee drivers in January, the first appointments for nearly three years.
  • 2.Find out more information on becoming an Azuma driver by visiting
  • 3.To find out more about the application process visit:
  • 4.Applicants must be over the age of 21 (set standards for anyone applying to be a train driver).
  • 5.Applications close on Friday 14th October 2016.
  • 6.Applicants must live or be willing to relocate to within one hour of Edinburgh, Newcastle, Leeds, Doncaster, or London King's Cross.
  • 7.A Virgin Trains East Coast trainee train driver will benefit from:
  • A competitive salary
  • Free rail travel with Virgin Trains
  • Discounted rates of travel with other Train Operating Companies
  • Benefits across the Virgin group
  • Final salary pension
  • 30 days holiday including bank holidays 
  • 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 £21m to completely revamp our existing fleet and customers can now benefit from 42 additional services (22,000 extra seats) per week between Edinburgh and London. 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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    Press Office: 0845 000 3333.