I am a Train Operator at London Underground.

Anything I say is my personal opinion and not that of, or approved by, London Underground.

Staff pass, name tag, train op bag - https://imgur.com/KirUUIS

Comments: 1743 • Responses: 62  • Date: 

______V2367 karma

How was the username "TrainOperator" not taken?

TrainOperator2220 karma

I am as surprised as you are

Metalbloodfest1394 karma

Just got back from London. It always surprised me how the trains always lined up with the doors on the platform. Is that system automated?

TrainOperator1685 karma

Some lines are automated, some are manually driven. There is a stopping mark that tells you exactly where to stop...

FKFnz1271 karma

Does the phrase "please mind the gap" go through your head 24/7?

My favourite Underground automated announcement is "This is a Picadilly line service to Cockfosters" because I have a 12-year-old sense of humour.

TrainOperator1113 karma

I hate the phrase mind the gap.

It is burned into my brain

FartingJack934 karma

tube driver from vienna here, so greetings my fellow companion in misfortune ;)

  1. how long are your shifts? how long before you take a break? how long is a break?
  2. do you have like one week morning shift, one week late shift, or is it different every day?
  3. salary - can you talk net figures?
  4. if you pass a red signal, do you get a full on emergency brake, or are you able to quit that somehow?
  5. how do you know where to stop in each station? some kind of marker or is it just experience?

TrainOperator912 karma

  1. You can drive for 4 hours 15 minutes before you need a break, or 5 hours 15 minutes on duty.

  2. Each depot is different, some have rosters, some have links. Most depots have a Mafia. Not as sinister as it sounds - it’s basically a driver who swaps everyone’s shifts around to try and get you what you want. So if you want lates, he will take your earlies and nights and swap them with other drivers who want those, etc.

3 - depending on your tax situation and whether you have a student loan, etc you will clear £2750-£3000 every 4 weeks after tax, pension, etc.

4 - if you hit a red then the emergency brakes will automatically apply. You have to call it in and then reset it.

5 - there is either a marker in the 4 foot (between the rails on the floor), on the wall, or on a metal gate thing depending on which line/where you are.

nopointers877 karma

Favorite line? Do you drive them all?

TrainOperator1169 karma

You only drive one line unless you are an assessor or a test train operator.

Nazi_Marxist568 karma

The same line for life? Is there any kind of rivalry between the operators of different lines?

TrainOperator1662 karma

You can transfer to other lines.

Some drivers on manual lines look down on those on ATO a bit. Refer to them as button pushers or not “proper drivers” etc,

ThatSmallFighter285 karma

Is your line manual or automated?

TrainOperator2235 karma

I’m a proper driver

michaelbrules657 karma

How do most Tube drivers get to work,(since the tube is closed) and does the job influence where you live?

TrainOperator1012 karma

There is a network of shuttle taxis that stop at every station that ferry all operational staff around when the trains aren’t running.

rainforestreindeer570 karma

How did you become a train operator? Do you like your job?

TrainOperator854 karma

You need to join the underground and apply internally, as with all good jobs in the underground.

You used to be able to apply externally for night tube train operator then transfer to full time, but night tube train op is so popular internally now that their latest campaign is internal only.

I don’t think there will ever be another external night tube campaign

TheOtherNick386 karma

That’s funny. Back when we were arguing for a night service for years on end it was the union telling us that no drivers would want to work those hours...

TrainOperator561 karma

No one does really.

There is literally 1 night tube driver per line who is actually happy doing it, everyone else hates it and is just using it as a means to to transfer to full time.

nty146 karma

How long should you expect it to take before you can make such a transfer after starting as a "night tube driver"?

TrainOperator240 karma

1 year minimum.

Depends on what depot you’ve nominated. On lines with constant movement like the Piccadilly then you would probably move a year to the day.

aarondoyle90 karma

Why does the Piccadilly line have more staff movements than others?

TrainOperator189 karma

Has super bad relations with management

gumgum45 karma

You are leaving out the fact that it is the unions that prevent Transport for London from advertising externally for drivers, and that the last time they ran a public recruitment campaign was in 2008.

TrainOperator128 karma

Actually it’s TOPRA that prevents them from advertising externally, which states it can only happen if there isn’t sufficient internal interest to fill vacancies.

There is always sufficient internal interest for full time train op vacancies nowadays.

That is why the last few Night Tube driver campaigns were external - there wasn’t enough internal interest. As soon as there was then that means they can’t run an external campaign, hence why this latest one is internal only.

TrainOperator460 karma


Not sure if this allowed on here, but who cares.

Every year London Underground has a team of volunteers who design and sell London Underground themed poppy badges To raise money for the Royal British Legion for remembrance day.

About 10,000 badges are sold each year across Transport For London. They are only sold internally to staff and not available to the public.

I am willing to give away one of this years badges, the poppy roundel - https://imgur.com/4ohwznb - for free.

I will post anywhere worldwide at no cost if you provide an address.

To win all you have to do is correctly guess this bit of tube trivia.

On the 16th December 1977 Queen Elizabeth II opened the Piccadilly Line extension to Heathrow. The Royal Train was train number 465.

But what was the train number of the first train in passenger service to Heathrow?

One guess per user.

Edit: winner is u/CmdrMcLane

CmdrMcLane170 karma

Do you mean the other of the two special trains? If so that number was 464. After they removed the headboard (to stand in as a backup "Royal Train"), it ran empty from Northfields Depot number 274 and then with passengers from Heathrow as number 466!

Edit: Since you ask 'To Heathrow" it would have to be 274. Final answer!

TrainOperator104 karma

No the first normal passenger train in service to Heathrow. Not the guest train.

CmdrMcLane145 karma

Ok, since you specified first passenger train: That would be 313.

TrainOperator201 karma

Either you have an abnormal interest in the underground or very impressive google skills.

If you want the badge PM me where you want it mailed to and I’ll post it this week.

insaneintheblain408 karma

What's it like working for London Underground? What do you enjoy, and what are the bad sides of it?

TrainOperator1569 karma

The money is good, the benefits are good.

Honestly the best part of my job is that I don’t need to take anything home and actually have a real work life balance.

I stable my train in the depot, or hand it over to another driver, and I just go home.

There is nothing to worry about when I’m at home like deadlines or meetings, no one calls or emails me on my time off. I literally just come in, drive my train, go home.

Like people used to do.

My job before TfL involved long hours and having to answer emails and whatnot when I wasn’t at work. Being able to switch off is the best part of this job tbh.

down_vote_magnet130 karma

What’s a full time driver’s salary?

SatoshiSounds243 karma

depending on your tax situation and whether you have a student loan, etc you will clear £2750-£3000 every 4 weeks after tax, pension, etc.

Answered earlier. Before tax, thats 44k+

TrainOperator346 karma

You must have very low tax where you are... I’m actually earning like £55k, and I have a very low pension contribution compared to the rest of the UK public sector

SatoshiSounds66 karma

£44k per year here gives you 33.4k pa (2780pcm), not including student loans or pension contribution. In a place like London, where property is so expensive in terms of purchase and rent, that tax doesn't seem low.

Edit: sorry I thought I was replying to the Austrian train driver! I'm using a uk tax calculator.

TrainOperator138 karma

Well that’s per monthly for a start, I get paid 4 weekly.

My per monthly salary would be higher as I would be getting 12 pays per year not 13.

manwelI369 karma

Do you get free travel on your oyster?

TrainOperator356 karma


Klimskady286 karma

Do you like it when people wave to you from the platform and ultimately do you wave back?

TrainOperator756 karma

I wave back to kids, staff and police.

Anyone else I ignore.

ibaconbutty392 karma

Like a true Londoner

TrainOperator636 karma

He seems very happy... what a weirdo, better not make eye contact.

WC1V264 karma

What’s your honest opinion of union activity?

TrainOperator564 karma

I am very pro union.

I wouldn’t say I agree with everything they do, it would be a bit weird if I did.

But if I vote no and the vote passes I go with the decision.

nickgasm81 karma

What would happen, if anything, if you went against the decision?

(Presumably by saying that you go with the decision, you strike as welll if the vote passes?).

TrainOperator381 karma

Well let’s say there is a strike, and I turn up to work.

3 months later I mess up and end up at CDI (losing your job potentially).

The union puts out a vote for drivers to strike to save my job.

What do you think all those drivers who lost a days pay on the last strike will do after watching me book on and get paid?

If it was me, I’d vote no. Why should I strike to save someone’s job who isn’t willing to lose a days pay for someone else, etc.

thegroucho2 karma

Can you comments in regards to the 2003 alcohol incident at Farringdon where 100-odd containers of alcohol and many empty ones were found?

TrainOperator3 karma

I was in school in 2003...

liamnesss249 karma

Do you take any precautions against breathing in particulate matter all day? On some lines I've read it can be pretty bad, mostly because of the brake dust and poor ventilation.

TrainOperator366 karma

Some drivers wear masks because of the dusk.

I tried it but found it too annoying as I like to drink coffee and taking the mask on and off is a pain.

I do wear ear defenders to protect from the noise.

liamnesss157 karma

Ah yes - the screeching on some lines is truly horrible. I imagine you would be basically guaranteed to develop tinnitus if you were driving full time on the central line for instance without any protection.

TrainOperator292 karma

The underground denies it.. but there’s a few old school drivers with hearing aids who would disagree.

I notice the difference if I don’t wear them.

ljlukelj247 karma

Do you ever feel like a poop?

TrainOperator371 karma

Yes, there are hidden drivers toilets on some platforms where you can relieve yourself if need be.

Otherwise you can just leave your train and go to the staff toilets in the station.

kitty_cat_MEOW140 karma

So you can just leave the train sitting at the platform while you go to the bathroom?

TrainOperator205 karma


IntellegentIdiot20 karma

I've been stuck on a train on the platform for what feels like ages, now I'm wondering if the driver has nipped off for a wee

TrainOperator31 karma


sadthough232 karma

I know this is a little dark, and I apologize in advance. Have you ever seen someone jump? If so, what happened? How did you react? Are you okay?

-404-Name-Not-Found130 karma

Legend has it that if it happens 3 times you get retired on full pension, and I assume counselling

TrainOperator464 karma

That is a myth, based on a well known movie.

You get time off and counselling if needed.

missedthecue62 karma

I wonder why London and every subway system doesn't block access to the the tracks with a glass wall like China. It seems so simple, cheap, and effective.

edit: class->glass

Tijdreiziger104 karma

They do in London on some lines, but I imagine it might be difficult or expensive to retrofit onto the older lines

That being said, they opened a brand new line in Amsterdam without dividing walls, so that's a bit baffling

TrainOperator176 karma

£1m per station was the quote I heard.

Some of the older station platforms can’t handle the weight of the PED’s (platform edge doors) and would need to be rebuilt.

TechnicalVault67 karma

It’s amazing what they’ve managed to retrofit into the stations already considering how most of them were built either by the Victorians or very early 1900s by several different companies. Are there any interesting bits of “old” that you get to see as a driver that the rest of us don’t?

TrainOperator210 karma

There’s lots of abandoned tube stations that are still on the running line, you just can’t see them out the windows as it’s dark and the train is going so fast.

michaelbrules209 karma

1) Do you ever see unauthorised people in the tunnels? and what happens to those people.?

2) What are the rules as regards being sick or not sleeping the night before? (in case you fall asleep behind the wheel)

3) Do you drive the same train everyday or does it change, if you change do you have a favourite?

TrainOperator280 karma

1) they get arrested or detained under the mental health act by BTP

2) if you’re fit for work then you work, if you’re not then you tell the manager and go sick.

3) same kind of train but different individual trains

shylocxs172 karma

Maybe this might sound like a strange question: but are all of your bags and other so nicely designed? There was another AMA from a train driver a bit over a year ago and he had the nicest backpack. Yours looks pretty nice too!

TrainOperator205 karma

They look nice but the quality is terrible.

A lot of drivers wear their own ones.

faissaloo156 karma

Where the fuck's my fucking train?

TrainOperator251 karma


Mrselfdestructuk151 karma

Have you seen/heard anything paranormal?

TrainOperator175 karma


Sage_Raven149 karma

Last time I was in London Underground, I was going to Stanstead(might have been Piccadilly) , I almost passed out from the lack of ventilation and enormous heat. How do you survive?

TrainOperator579 karma

It’s designed to filter out the weak tourists.

Legit though if you’re travelling on the underground when it’s warm then always carry water with you and have something for breakfast.

Otherwise you’ll faint and hold everyone up.

choochoocharles135 karma

Do you operate on hours of service? Here in the US we're limited to 12hrs of service or 16hrs with a 4hr swing(break) in the middle of the shift. With a minimum 8hrs rest it can be exhausting, how do you handle fatigue?

TrainOperator420 karma

Oh no that is definitely not allowed.

My maximum shift is 8 hours 30 minutes (including meal break) and I need to have a minimum 12 hour rest period.

AstraGlacialia81 karma

Are the stations reasonably safe at night? E.g., are they patrolled by generally competent night guards / police, or did you have or witnessed unprovoked incidents?

TrainOperator143 karma

Safer than most places.

ibeecrazy79 karma

Can you easily tell if your passengers are making trouble or harassing others? Can you do anything about it as the Operator way up front?

TrainOperator316 karma

Depends what they’re doing.

If it’s a full scale riot I can probably tell, but some drunk idiot is singing wonderwall and annoying everyone then no I can’t tell.

FewPeace78 karma

Can I pull the horn please?

TrainOperator148 karma

It’s not a pull... it’s either a button or a little stick you move depending on the stock

goundeclared68 karma

Why haven't they addressed the steaming swamp mess of the Central Line? Each summer is it sweltering hot and muggy.

TrainOperator140 karma


NoSurprises9758 karma

What was the most difficult person you had to deal with?

TrainOperator156 karma

A vagrant who when asked to leave took a dump on the floor of the train

lord_lordolord44 karma

Who cleans that ?

TrainOperator184 karma

Not me...

Probably a very under paid cleaner who doesn’t get free travel as they are contracted and not LU staff.

gordie4446 karma

Do you need specific training for the different types of lines, or do you just have one certification for everything? Are you eligible to move into Overground as well or is that mostly separate?

TrainOperator105 karma

I have a licence that enables me to work on any line, but I would need to go through transfer training for that line.

I would have to learn how the train works and the routes/moves basically and that’s it.

ObsidianOrangutan41 karma

What do you think of the extinction rebellion protestors that were blocking some trains?

TrainOperator283 karma

I wouldn’t say they were blocking trains. They were up there for a few minutes before they got dragged down and got a beating.

Trains have been delayed because someone’s been sick on it for longer than that.

However I will say that dragging people off the train and beating them up is wrong and of course illegal. They should’ve waited for police. I was very impressed by the member of staff who tried to protect the protestors in the video.

I would say they clearly misinterpreted the travelling public in London and their distinct lack of patience.

I have been assaulted because someone got on the wrong train and didn’t want to go where my train did. Other people have been assaulted because of minor delays or what have you.

What happened to extinction rebellion was always going to happen. London’s commuters do not have the patience for that.

annamnesis91 karma

A friend witnessed a cardiac arrest awhile back on an underground platform. While paramedics were doing CPR, passersby were grumbling that they should've moved the patient and stopped blocking the area. The underground is a merciless place.

TrainOperator147 karma

Oh legit. People collapse and other passengers will just step over them.

Commuters in London have no mercy.

Grampionjr36 karma

What do you usually eat for lunch and what's your favorite tea?

TrainOperator58 karma

Depends what the canteen is serving

apples_and_plums19 karma

I've heard some seriously funny and sometimes cutting banter from tube drivers when people are idiots with the doors. How much freedom do you have in telling people off and at what point do you get in trouble?

TrainOperator55 karma

The PA’s aren't recorded... that’s all I will say on that

Hendi9310 karma

Are there any ghost stations in London, that are not operated anymore?

TrainOperator18 karma


dunnkw5 karma

Pacific Northwest USA Engineer here.

What do you call it when you go forward and when you back up? For instance if somebody called you on the radio and instructed you to proceed forward, what would they say?

Because here in the USA we say “go A Head.” A, sounds like “Eh” like the way a Canadian would say it, eh. So ahead, or forward would be A Head. And back up is just “back up.”

I think the reason we say A Head and not ahead for forward is because in the USA when we want someone to do something we say “go ahead and do it.” Which is akin to asking someone to proceed with what they were going to do anyways.

I frequently have Brakemen telling me to “go ahead and back up” over the radio and they fail to see the irony in this statement. Perhaps that’s just the difference between the big, juicy, well educated brain of a Locomotive Engineer and the simple brain of a Brakeman.

TrainOperator10 karma

We have computer controlled signals that tell us where to go... we have a time table worked out in 30 second intervals our trains are that frequent.

There is no time for me to call up big dave at the back of the train and ask him where to go...

DylanOakes5 karma

Do you get to choose which line you drive? Do you get a free pass to ride the tube whenever or do you still have to pay like everybody else?

TrainOperator22 karma

You get allocated a depot initially and then you can apply to transfer.

You get free travel for you and one other.

EnglishAlaskan4 karma

You said you're paid £55k pa and get free travel for you and one other. What other work benefits do you get?

Also, thanks! The tube gets delayed sometimes and people get frustrated but I've always found operators to be informative and sympathetic. So thanks!

TrainOperator14 karma

Great pension, 75% discount on national rail season ticket, get to ride up front with the driver on the way to work instead of sweating in the back, free coffee.

monkeybios3 karma

Why are you called a Train Operator and not a Train Driver?

TrainOperator35 karma

Because we operate the train