SEVERAL PASSENGER operators restarted driver training during August, training having largely been stopped at the onset of Covid due to social distancing requirements which prevented more than one person being in a cab.

Following a pilot project on Greater Anglia and London Overground using ‘bubbles’ (as we reported last month in our GWR feature), a national agreement is now in place for this to be rolled out with drivers’ union ASLEF. How swiftly individual operators were able to restart varied according to local agreements, but several reported by mid-August that training had already restarted or was due to do so imminently.

The cessation of training had two key implications. For operators introducing new types of train, it will have delayed by some months the introduction of these; for instance, both Northern and Transport for Wales were carrying out training on Class 769s with introduction into service imminent as Covid took hold. Perhaps more significant is the disruption caused to completing the training of new staff to replace drivers leaving for retirement or a change of job. As an example, ScotRail has reported it had over 150 trainees whose training was disrupted by the pandemic and the stop on driver training (see more in our feature, p58).