Blog

01 Jul 2022

Becoming a trainee train conductor: Let the journey begin

Dod yn arweinydd trên dan hyfforddiant: Gadewch i'r daith ddechrau

Following our recent Driver blogs, where we read the stories of Jeff Baldrick and Jeremy Parsley as they journeyed from trainees into fully qualified drivers, we’re excited to introduce our latest series of memoirs - this time offering a glimpse into what it’s like to become a Train Conductor!  

Over the next few months, we’ll be following 2 members of our latest cohort of trainees; former TfW Customer Relations Advisor Thomas Williams, and Natalie Bailey, formerly of Rondda Cynon Taff Council, as they embark on a new chapter and begin their Conductor training with us here at TfW.  

This year, Thomas and Natalie are enrolled on our Conductor course for the South Wales Mainline (running between London and South Wales), which they have recently just began in April. We’ll be checking in with them both throughout their training and sharing their progress with you via our series of blogs. But first, as part of our first instalment of the series, we spoke to Thomas and Natalie to get to know them a bit more, as they tell us all a little bit about themselves, how they’ve found the start of their course and how they feel about their upcoming journey.  

 

Background and how/why you decided to join TfW 

Thomas: Hi everyone, my name’s Thomas Williams, and I’m 24 years old and living in Coychurch, Bridgend. So, a little bit about me then: after leaving Sixth Form back in 2016, I spent my first year in the working world at Asda in Bridgend, with duties on the shop floor and on the checkouts. 

Natalie: Hi all, I’m Natalie. I’m a cheery, bubbly person who loves to be busy and on the go. I worked for Rhondda Cynon Taff council for nine years, working various management roles in their leisure centres and gyms. I really enjoyed working for RCT but wanted to challenge myself and fancied a change of career. 

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Thomas: So after leaving ASDA, I started my career as a Customer Service apprentice with TfW back in October 2017, managing to complete my level 2 qualification in February 2019, before completing my level 3 qualification by May 2020 after I was encouraged by my Team Leader.  

The apprenticeship consisted of monthly check-ups with my NVQ assessor, Kay, to make sure I was staying on track, and there were also monthly apprentice days where me and my fellow apprentices would meet for a day with all of the other apprentices in the company. This included colleagues from all over, including Fleet from Canton and Machynlleth, Train Planning, and the Community Rail Team.  

On these days, we would take part in training sessions provided by Training and Development Manager Mark Hector to develop our skills, focusing on communication and leadership skills to use in the workplace and in our personal lives. It was also fantastic to experience and meet people from other areas of the business. Other activities included a tour of Canton Depot, a go in the driver simulator at Cardiff Central, a tour of the WROC, and a visit to Shrewsbury station where we got to meet some Station and Train Crew Managers from the northern part of the network.  

The apprenticeship was wholly voluntary and free for me to enrol on, proving why they are so valuable. It’s allowed me to gain a qualification equivalent to an A-Level and a chance to show off my skills, which has allowed me to progress my career even further.  

After finishing my apprenticeship, I became a permanent part of the TfW Rail Customer Relations Team, and immediately felt like I was a part of that team from day one. At first, I was nervous about starting a brand-new job, and being the youngest person in the office too… but everybody was so friendly and welcoming that I felt at home right away. I couldn’t have asked for more supportive colleagues.  

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Natalie: I’ve always been interested in the railway, too, but for some reason never took that leap to apply. I already knew a few people working for TfW, and I’d only ever heard very positive feedback from them, so I kept checking the recruitment site and when I saw the trainee conductor role, I decided I had to go for it! The role very much appealed to me as I’m a people person. I love meeting and talking to different people on a day-to-day basis, and I’m also very hands on and like to deal with different situations as they arise. I like the fact that no two days will be the same! 

 

How has your first few weeks been on the Conductor training course? 

Natalie: During the first week it was fascinating finding out more about TfW from the inside on induction day and getting an insight of what it’s actually like to work for TfW.  

Since the start it’s also been great getting to know my trainer Paul Lawrence, as well as the other trainee conductors. My course mates are great! We all come from different backgrounds, with different experiences from previous roles. It’s nice to have such a diverse team. Every member of TfW staff have been very welcoming and friendly whenever I’ve crossed paths with them so far, and it just feels great to get started. As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, this isn’t always easy. But since I've started with TfW, everyone has been so lovely. It's an inclusive environment with a diverse range of staff, and I’d already recommend anybody in the LGBTQ+ community thinking of applying for a job with TfW to go for it.  

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Thomas:  The first few weeks have been brilliant! It’s been great to finally get started, and it feels like it’s come around quick since I first applied. My favourite part so far has been getting my uniform and rucksack with all of the gear and keys I'll need to carry out my duties as a guard. Now I've got my uniform and kit, I really do feel part of the team. 

Natalie: A few of the other technical aspects of training we’ve covered so far includes personal track safety (PTS), booking on and off, customer service, retail and signalling. My favourite parts have been the retailing and signalling by far! 

We also went to Radyr to observe and learn the different types of signals. It was great to get out and to see the signals in action. We also went to Newport to assist with selling tickets, which was busy with the recent Ed Sheeran concert! I particularly enjoyed this, and it was great to get some experience using the ticket machines, interacting with customers, and to sell our first tickets.  

Everything has been so well organised, and we’ve now been given our schedule for our training over the next 6 months, outlining what we will be learning every week and the dates of each assessment. I’m looking forward to learning traction training over the next few weeks and going to Canton depot to see how it all works.  

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Thomas: One of the other things we covered in our first few weeks was Accessibility and Inclusion, which looks at how we can best provide customer service and assistance to people with disabilities.  We also recently started our Personal Track Safety training. It's a little daunting looking through how much we have to learn and how much is ahead of us, but I'm confident we can all do it.  

Everyone on the course is wonderful and we all get along so well. It's nice to see people joining TfW from so many different backgrounds and starting their careers on the railway. I'm looking forward to our traction training and getting hands on with the trains in our fleet, although I must be honest, l’m still getting used to the earlier starts and commuting!  

 

We look forward to following Thomas and Natalie and sharing their experiences with you as they progress through the course! 

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