All aboard! Rail operators struggling to fill train driver positions

Photo: Reinhold Möller, CC BY-SA 4.0

Czech rail operators are struggling to find new train drivers. Many are nearing retirement age and not enough young people are entering the profession, the news site reported. Employers seeking to fill the shortage are training their own engine drivers, at a cost of up to CZK 1 million each.

Photo: Reinhold Möller,  CC BY-SA 4.0
According to the country’s Railway Authority, there are over 9,000 train drivers in the Czech Republic, said. However, around a third are now nearing the end of their careers.

What’s more, new lines are being created, increasing the need for additional drivers.

However, only a few dozen new faces enter the profession every year, a spokesperson for Leo Express told The rail operator currently employs 29 train drivers and is seeking another dozen.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the country’s biggest rail company, Czech Railways, has the biggest shortfall. It is on the market for around 150 drivers. The company currently has 3,500 on its books and some are forced to do overtime.

In order to fill the gap, Czech Railways is training up new drivers. At present it is preparing almost 190 people for engine driving exams. A spokesperson told that only it and daughter company ČD Cargo were systematically educating a large number of new drivers.

However, a representative of RegioJet said it too was training drivers. Such courses last for nine months and cost the firm around CZK 300,000 per student. This is considerably less than at Czech Railways, where the outlay can be up to CZK 1 million per new engine driver.

Basic training lasts for at least 120 hours and is followed by an exam set by the Railway Authority. The licenses acquired by successful applicants are then valid in all EU states.

Before freshly qualified drivers can man the controls themselves they must then undergo an additional 12 weeks of on the tracks training.

In the face of extremely low unemployment rates, rail operators are also finding it difficult to fill other positions, with conductors, IT specialists, stewards and labourers needed.

For instance, Czech Railways is now on the lookout for around 60 staff for repair and maintenance work, reported.

The Czech Chamber of Commerce, which represents 15,000 companies, recently said that the country’s employers were seeking no fewer than 440,000 staff.

Next year the figure could be as high as half a million, they association warned.