How To Become A Train Driver In Australia: Explained

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Students want to know how they can become train drivers in Melbourne, Australia.


Are you comfortable working with machines and tools in a confined space for a prolonged duration?


A train driver in Australia operates a train, a locomotive, or multiple units. They are responsible for driving a passenger or freight train and handling its entire mechanical operation.


To become a train driver in Australia, you need a Certificate IV in train driving and pass necessary medical and pre-employment checks to assess your suitability for the role.


If you enjoy serving others and are interested in visiting different local places on a train, here is a complete guide on entering a role as a train driver in Australia.


You will learn about the train driver's salary in different cities in Australia, such as Melbourne and Sydney, the qualifications, steps to becoming one, and much more.



1. Who Is A Train Driver?


A train driver, also called an engine driver, train operator, railroad engineer, locomotive driver, motorman, or an engineman, drives trains carrying freight or passengers.


He is in complete charge of the mechanical operation of the train, including speed regulation, maneuvering, and handling of the train. 


A train driver can work for either a local or a regional railroad.


2. What Are The Duties Of A Train Driver?


A train driver should ensure team participation, effective communication, and service quality that comply with organizational and legislation policies throughout their work activities. 


A typical day of a train driver comprises the following duties:


  • Prepare, operate, and manage a train per the established safe-working standards and operational procedures. 

  • Open and close the door before and after passengers get in or off the train.

  • Achieve set corridor goals, implement fuel-saving strategies based on the train's performance, and utilize the engine fuel-saving features.

  • Manage train movements as per the needs of customers and the business 

  • Set train speed by road/rail conditions, train signals and indicator gauges, and surrounding traffic to ensure the safety of passengers and cargo.

  • Examine and ensure that braking systems are in proper working condition and per established procedures and standards

  • Identify and rectify minor failures and faults and communicate them with the concerned team to meet operational standards.

  • Check and test motor, fueling, rolling systems, etc., for proper functioning and maintain them as per specifications and operational procedures.

  • Offer advice to passengers to help them reach their destination.

  • Ensure the safe, affordable, timely, and well-organized operation of the train by applying the most suitable train management techniques

  • Prepare, clean, start, operate, examine, shut down, and stabilize the motive power units per the operational procedures.

  • Ensure the economic and safe movement of freight between different locations by validation and observation to the required standards

  • Identify, respond, and take corrective action to hazardous emergencies and maintain vigilance throughout their duties.



3. Skills For A Train Driver


To become and succeed as a train driver, you will require the following skillset:


  • Familiarity and experience with machinery

  • Basic literacy in mathematics and simple calculation

  • Ability to learn and follow guidelines and procedures

  • Enjoy doing practical and hands-on work

  • Responsible for the safety and health of people

  • Eye-hand coordination

  • Comfortable working in a closed cabin for several hours

  • Like working in solitary

  • Able to make quick and logical decisions to deal with emergencies

  • Excellent communication skills

  • Punctuality

  • Quick reflex action

  • Reliability

  • High precision

  • Able to form independent decisions

  • Results-oriented

  • Comfortable working with wood, machinery, and tools

  • Strong leadership and organizational skills

  • Administrative abilities

  • Analytical skills

  • Helping/serving attitude



4. Qualifications for Train Driver In Australia


If you are interested in becoming a train driver, then you must fulfil the following qualifications:


  • 18 years or above. 

  • Complete a traineeship and similar vet qualification. A Certificate IV in train driving TLI42615 is an ideal course to get the basic knowledge and skills to work in this role. 

  • Pass a category one medical and specific pre-employment checks for rail and operator roles. Candidates may need to undergo vision and hearing assessments, showcase physical capability, and pass periodic drug and breath screenings.

  • Attend a traineeship program to gain experience as a train driver

  • A valid driver's license.



5. Steps To Become A Train Driver In Australia


The exact pathway to becoming a train driver in Australia varies based on the specific requirements of the rail transport operators. 


Here are the basic steps to enter a role in Australia:



Step 1: Get Qualified


The first step for aspiring train drivers is to complete a Certificate IV in train driving in Australia. 


This nationally recognized qualification comprises elective subjects such as Freight, Country Passenger, or Urban Electric to let students specialize in their area of interest. 


Smart And Skilled is a nationally recognized institute undertaking a train driver course in NSW.



Step 2: Complete Track Safety Awareness Course


Aspiring train drivers who want to work within the rail corridors in Australia should complete the Safely Access the Rail Corridor program. 


This 1-day course is the minimum industry standard prescribed for such contractors and employees.



Step 3: Undertake a Safe Working Theory Program


The next step to becoming a qualified train driver is to complete a 3-weeks rules course. 


The course teaches you several safe driving practices, such as signalling, safe operating procedures, training working procedures, and more.


Many students take this course along with a 2-weeks traction course that trains a student about air, engine, and braking systems. By taking these courses, you can improve your employability and job prospects in the industry.



Step 4: Pass the Train Driving Assessment


Once you have undertaken the above qualifications, the last step is to take and pass a simple mechanical aptitude test.


The qualified train driver will have to drive the train on various routes to demonstrate practical train driving skills.


The exact parameters of assessment can differ from one rail operator to another. Once you successfully pass the examination, you are ready to apply for jobs in the rail industry.


Here are a few helpful rail operator links that can help you in your career research:




6. Relevant Certifications For Train Drivers In Australia


Certificate IV in Train Driving TLI42615 in Australia is the essential qualification to engage in train driving activities. The qualification helps trainee train drivers develop practical skills and knowledge to carry out specialized tasks within a train driving environment.


Presently, the certification course is offered at the following training institutions in Australia: 




7. How Long Does It Take To Become A Train Driver?


Each state in Australia operates distinct safe working systems. The exact duration to become a qualified train driver in the Australian Rail industry depends on your training pathway and rail industry-specific requirements.


The essential qualification required for this profession is Certificate IV in train driving which takes up to 2 years to complete. 


You may even need to take a Safely Access the Rail Corridor program and Safe Working Theory course. Further, pass a final assessment to become a fully qualified train driver in Australia.


You can expect to start working in this role in about 2 to 3 years.



8. What Is The Cost Of Becoming A Train Driver In Australia?


The approximate cost of "Certificate IV in train driving" qualification is $2000 (inclusive of GST).



9. Work Environment For Train Drivers





This outdoor and hands-on job requires a train driver to work in a closed vehicle with a public/ private local rail network. 


Furthermore, they must work under pressure to meet strict deadlines.



Nature of Employment


A whopping 94% of train drivers work full-time compared to the industry's average of 66%. 


This shows that the occupation is ideal for aspiring train drivers who seek full-time positions.



Work Hours


Full-time workers generally work 46 hours which is more than the industry's average of 44 hours per week.



Safety Accessories


A train driver is exposed to extreme weather conditions and various harmful elements, including dirt, pollutants, odours, and gases. 


External sounds and noises can be discomforting and distracting. The job requires working near risky equipment such as saws, machines with movable components, or moving traffic.


For safety and protection against these hazards, a train driver must wear protective gear such as safety shoes, hand gloves, glasses, life jackets, and hard hats.





The average age of the employed workforce is 48 years, of which 61% are 45 years and above.





The sector is most suited for male candidates when looking at a mere 8% contribution of female workers.



10. Employment Opportunities For Train Drivers In Australia


A career as a train driver offers job stability and a steady flow of work in all regions of Australia.


Completing a Certificate IV qualification can open the following career avenues:


  • Electric passenger train driver

  • Heavy haul train driver

  • Freight train driver

  • Locomotive driver

  • Train driver


Available Specialization Options for experienced train drivers include:


  • Electric Train Driver

  • Locomotive Observer

  • Rail Car Driver

  • Fireperson (Railway)

  • Steam Train Driver



11. Job prospects For Train Drivers In Australia


Based on Job Outlook 2022 data, this is a medium-sized occupation with around 10,000 workers. The sector expects moderate growth in the next five years. Most of the employed workforce work in Queensland.


The top industries that recruit train drivers are Transport, Mining, Manufacturing, Postal, and Warehousing.


Percentage breakup of job opportunities for train drivers in different Australian states:


  • New South Wales: 33.4%

  • Victoria: 16.0%

  • Queensland: 29.9%

  • South Australia: 5.7%

  • Western Australia: 14.1%

  • Tasmania: 0.7%

  • Northern Territory: 0.3%


Around 42.7% of employed workers hold a Certificate III/IV as their highest education. 6.1% have a Diploma/ Advanced Diploma, and 4.6% of workers hold a bachelor's degree.


This shows that a certification course is a great way to enter and sustain a train driver role in Australia.



12. How Much Do Train Drivers Get Paid In Australia?


Based on Seek data, Train Driver jobs are generally advertised between $100k and $170k in Australia.


As per the Job data 2022, the average salary of a train driver is AU$117,750 per year, or an equivalent of AU$9,810 per month and $2,304 per week.



Annual Salary Based On Experience


  • Entry-level train driver salary (< 1-year experience): AU$85,760

  • Qualified train driver salary with less than three years of experience: AU$89,000 

  • Mid-level train driver salary (4 to 9 years of experience): AU$114,000

  • Senior-level train driver salary (10 to 20 years of experience): AU$114,000



Annual Salary Based on Role


  • Australian Train Drivers, who are in their early careers, employed as Trainee Locomotive Drivers and possess a Certificate IV in Train Driving, earn the lowest salary.


  • Experienced Train Drivers who work overtime, Coal Train and Freight Train drivers earn the highest salaries.



Annual Salary Based on Area Of Employment


According to Jora, the average train driver's salary in Sydney is between $80,000 and $110,000.


Other top-paying Australian cities are:


  • Melbourne: $90,000 to $150,000

  • Perth: $120,000 to $170,000



13. Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



How Hard Is It To Become A Train Driver in Australia? 


Like any other job, there are a few challenges in the position of a train driver. It includes feeling stress when dealing with annoyed passengers, traffic, or the monotony of long road hours.


It is a highly responsible role as you are accountable for the lives of thousands of passengers travelling on the train. You must always stay alert and obey local driving laws and regulations, as a little carelessness can lead to casualties.


Some driver roles, like delivery driving, require physical strength. Others, like taxi driving, require good customer service.



Are Train Drivers in Demand in Australia?


Train Drivers is a medium-sized occupation, with 10,000 people employed as Train Drivers in Australia in 2023 (source:


As people frequently travel in trains for personal and professional work, there will always be the need for trained Train Drivers in the short and long term.


The demand for Train Drivers is uniform across Australia, with a large share of employment in Queensland and Western Australia.


The transport, Postal, and Warehousing industry present the maximum employment opportunities for Train Drivers in Australia. Once you gain experience as a Train Driver, you can advance into high-paying Management or Logistics roles.



How Much Does A Vline Train Driver Earn?


The average Train Driver's salary at V/Line can range from $85,284 to $91,033 per year.



Does Vline Pay Well? 


Yes. In addition to the annual salary, V-LINE also offers several benefits, such as bike leasing, coaching, flexible working hours, mobile working, etc., to help strike a work-life balance.  



How Much Do Rio Tinto Train Drivers Make?


When considering bonuses and extra compensation, a Train Driver at Rio Tinto can expect to earn an average of $150,000 annually.



How Much Do NSW Train Drivers Earn?


The average annual salary for a Train Driver in Sydney, Australia, is $85,000.



How Much Do Sydney Light Rail Drivers Get Paid?


Trains Driver in Sydney earn a weekly salary of $1,471, which meets the national average.



Is Being a Train Driver Stressful?


Yes. Stress is a major drawback of working in this profession. Several things can lead to stress, such as:


  • When the train is late, you must drive it fast to compensate for the delay.

  • You will have to deal with different types of passengers; some may complain and even insult you. You must be accommodating and maintain your composure when dealing with such annoying circumstances.

  • Many lives lie in the hands of a train driver. So, the position comes with huge responsibilities. You must always stay focused and alert, as a small mistake can become big one. 

  • Train drivers are required to work on weekends. So they get to spend less time with their family members. Trying to make their family understand their work commitments is another stress a train driver experiences while working in this occupation.



How Long Are Train Driver Shifts?


The shift of a train driver is 8 hours a day. However, based on the need, the timing may increase or decrease. Sometimes, they may work up to 9 hours or more. Train drivers receive overtime salary for additional hours. 



Can Train Drivers To Go To Sleep?


In the usual scenario, two drivers work alternating 8-hour shift rotations when driving the train. Some trains have domestic activities and sleeping quarters facilities, providing drivers with accommodation during rest days or non-work periods.



Where Do Train Drivers Sleep?


Train drivers usually sleep on the train either in their sleeping car, in the dorm car, in the case of the sleeper attendants, or in the case of the snack/ diner crew. However, the coach attendants have designated coaches to sleep with.



What's The Average age of a Train Driver?


According to Labour Market Insights, the average age of Train Drivers in Australia with most between 45 to 54 years.



How dDo I Become a Train Driver in Melbourne?


Follow these steps to pursue a career as a train driver in Melbourne:


  1. Consider completing a CERTIFICATE IV IN TRAIN DRIVING – Rail Train. Before you take the course, ensure you complete a Category 1 Rail Medical Assessment for this course. 

  2. Graduates from the course can gain a job in the railroad industry to build the necessary experience. 

  3. Apply for a train driver position.

  4. Complete employer-sponsored on-the-job train driver training. 



How Much Do Train Drivers Earn per Hour in Melbourne?


Metro Trains Melbourne Driver, on average, earns approx. $34.32 per hour is 6% higher than the national average.



What Are The Challenges of Being a Train Driver?


Most train drivers face five main challenges while working in this role. Some of these include:


  • The continuous vibrations and noise from the rail and train engine and the shaky movements of the vehicle may present physical discomfort to the driver.


  • Furthermore, they have to obey several rules and regulations and remain focused all the time. They have to bear the penalties for violating these could lead to dismissal or even death.


  • Train drivers constantly work under pressure, particularly under adverse atmospheric conditions such as snow or floods that can impact the regular running of trains.


  • Another challenge for train drivers is that they must behave professionally with passengers. They must stay confident and optimistic to effectively deal with situations that may or may not be under their control, like suicide attempts.


  • As both freight and passenger trains run 24 hours daily, covering long distances, it is common for drivers to stay away from home for extended periods. You may need to work Nighttime, during holidays, on weekends, and extra overtime.



How To Become a Sydney Train Driver?


New South Wales runs a complicated train network that runs round the clock. Whether you want to work as a train driver in Pacific National, or Sydney Trains, you must undergo an intensive training process to get started in this position.


You must undertake classroom learning, on-the-job training under strict schedules, home study, and assessments. Certificate IV in Train Driving is a standard qualification for all those engaged in train driving.


Whether you are looking for a role as a train driver in passenger or cargo trains, diesel or electric trains, you must enter the rail industry as a Rail Operator. It hires and signs aspiring train drivers into a traineeship where candidates complete Certificate IV in Train Driving.



Other Train Driver Courses in NSW


The following course is ideal for those who wish to work on or about the Sydney and NSW trains track.


The below nationally recognised training courses empower candidates with the skills and knowledge to safely navigate the rail corridor.


The course teaches you about basic safety principles and track terminologies, identifying and responding to safety incidents, and safety-critical communication and behaviours.


Undergoing this course, you learn about safety regulations and generic hazards to operating trains within the Sydney metropolitan area network.


Pre-requisites - You must have a Category 1 Rail Medical Entry Requirements to complete the below Rail Induction programs in NSW:




How Do I Become A Vline Train Driver?


If you have always wanted to drive a train, here are the steps to pursue your career goals:


  • Step 1: Complete a Certificate IV in Train Driving (TLI42621) course. It is usually available as part of a traineeship with the prominent rail operator in your state.


  • Step 2: Most train driver qualifications require undertaking and passing a Category One Medical and having a valid, unrestricted driver's licence.


  • Step 3: Gain an entry-level job in the rail industry to build practical knowledge about railways operation and obtain the relevant experience to work in the role. Job sites, niche job boards, and the job pages of railway companies are good places to hunt for entry-level railroad positions.


  • Step 4: Having gained relevant industry experience, you can apply for a train driver position at V-Line. Once hired, your employer would provide train driver training that teaches you the technical knowledge and skills to drive a train. 


The training covers various topics, including locomotive engines, onboard systems, industry and federal rules and regulations, and train operations in varying weather conditions. The training duration can range from three months to 20 months or more.



After You Submit Your Application:

After receiving your job application, V/Line reviews your experience and skills and matches them to the open positions' requirements.


Most V/Line roles require applicants to undergo short online assessments to validate suitability. The required test may include verbal and numeric, personality or safety testing, and values alignment. You may also need to undertake a medical assessment. If your application is successful, they will inform you via email or phone.


They may call you for further discussion or to complete a face-to-face interview. Perform a few final checks, including a national police check, authorise your working rights, and verify your qualifications based on the role.


On passing the above stages, the Talent Acquisition team will offer you an employment letter mentioning your start date and employment terms.



14. Conclusion


Job security, good pay, pension, minimal qualifications, and travel opportunities are a few reasons that make it a rewarding and fulfilling career. A Certificate IV qualification allows you to work in many roles in different settings. 


So, if you aim for a job that gives you steady employment prospects, becoming a train driver is a great way to fulfil your dream.


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