People as young as 18 could become train drivers under government plans

People as young as 18 will be able to get behind the controls of a train as part of a government proposal aimed at boosting staff. 

The plans were announced on Thursday as thousands of train passengers up and down the country have been facing delays and cancellations due to repeated strike action in recent months.

The current age to be able to apply to become a train driver is 20.

The government said "thousands of opportunities could open up for younger people as early as this summer", if the proposal is approved.

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Lowering the age limit "would build resilience across the railway" as aspiring train drivers could get an apprenticeship upon finishing school and train to join the shrinking workforce, according to the government's proposal.

"With many train drivers set to retire in the next five years and the average age of a train driver being 48 years old, the workforce is projected to shrink without opening up more opportunities for new recruits," the proposal said.

'Transport as a career'

Rail minister Huw Merriman said: "We want to open the door for young people considering transport as a career, and this proposal could give school-leavers a clear path into the sector.

"By boosting age diversity in the sector and attracting more drivers, we can help support reliable services while creating opportunities for more young people."

In order to become a licensed train driver, trainees must pass mandatory medical, psychological, fitness and general professional competence exams.

Consultation to end in June

They must also be trained on the infrastructure and rolling stock they will be deployed on.

The consultation on lowering the age started on Thursday and will end on 13 June.