Train driving licences frequently asked questions (FAQs)

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Frequently asked questions about train driving licences.

Applying for a train driving licence (TDL)

All mainline train drivers are required by law to hold a TDL. An employer will normally apply for a driver’s TDL towards the end of a trainee driver’s training.

What qualifications and training do I need to get a train driving licence? Collapse accordion Open accordion

To obtain a train driving licence you must pass a general professional competence examination, a medical examination and an occupational psychological fitness examination. These will be organised by your employer. You must also be older than 20 years old and have at least nine years of school education (primary and secondary). You must complete basic training to at least level three (which is achieved by undertaking and passing your train driving competency training).

How do I apply for a train driving licence and how much does it cost? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Usually your employer, a train operator, will make a licence application on your behalf. Guidance is available. There is no cost to you as the train driver.

What is a ‘complementary certificate’? Collapse accordion Open accordion

All train drivers who drive on the mainline railway must have, by law, a train driving licence, as well as complementary certificate. The complementary certificate shows the rolling stock that the driver is competent to drive and the routes that the driver is authorised to drive upon.

I work for a train operator, handling train driving licence applications. How do I gain access to ORR’s train driving licence portal? Collapse accordion Open accordion

To access the TDL system, visit: https://tdl.orr.gov.uk 
     
The system is only accessible to predefined IP addresses. If you work for a train operator (or are responsible for administering train driving licence applications) but you are not able to access the system, please contact ORR by emailing TDL.Applications@orr.gov.uk.

How do I become a train driver in the UK? Collapse accordion Open accordion

You need to apply for advertised positions with UK train operating companies. Their recruitment and selection process includes psychological and medical fitness examinations, which are required for a train driving licence.

If you pass these tests, you will then be required to begin your train driver training with your employer. On successful completion of general professional competence training and examination a train driving licence application can be made and we process those applications within one month.

We employ drivers who only operate within our depots - do they need a train driving licence? Collapse accordion Open accordion

A train driving licence is only required for driving trains on the mainline railway. A train driver who only drives in depots, on heritage railways, in possessions or who drives trams does not require a train driving licence.

As a trainee driver, is it necessary to hold a train driving licence? Collapse accordion Open accordion

A trainee driver may drive without a licence (or certificate) if they are accompanied and supervised by an authorised driver (i.e. someone who does have a licence). 

Training and Examination centres, including driver training 

On successful completion of psychological and medical fitness examinations, a trainee driver must undergo training to enable them to drive particular rolling stock and routes. Many operators have their own training facilities approved by ORR, but it is also possible for independent training centres to operate.

As a train operator, can we train and assess our own train drivers? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Yes - providing your training and examination centre has been assessed by ORR and is listed on ORR's register of recognised persons - Training and examination centres. Inclusion on this register is based on criteria of independence, competence and impartiality.

Can anyone carry out the training and examination of train drivers? Collapse accordion Open accordion

No – ORR maintains a register of recognised training and examination centres who can carry out these functions. There are specific requirements to be an examiner or a trainer.

I already carry out driver training - can I also be an examiner for train driving licences? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Yes - subject to meeting the standards required, and being employed by an ORR recognised training and examination centre. Please see our “Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010: Guide to training and examination requirements" guidance for further details.

How can my organisation apply to be a training and examination centre for train driving licences? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Our website has more information, including this guidance: “Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010: Guide to training and examination requirements".

Please read this, including chapters three and four, which set out requirements. There is no specific application form, but you should supply details of how you believe you meet the requirements.

Our application for recognition as a training and examination centre has been declined. What can we do? Collapse accordion Open accordion

You have the option to appeal against the decision. The appeal process is set out in our guidance document: "Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010: Guide to training and examination requirements".

My organisation is thinking of opening a training or examination centre for train driving licences training. What action should we take? Collapse accordion Open accordion

The requirements set out in law are also laid out in our guidance document: "Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010: Guide to training and examination requirements”. Please refer to this.

Is there a centralised industry training programme that can advise on the training required for train driving licences? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Yes. The Rail Delivery Group (RDG) has established a driver  training academy which supports driver training across the  railway industry.

Train drivers leaving employment

When a driver leaves your employment, we expect you to follow your own internal HR processes. In addition, there is a requirement for you to inform ORR so we can update the register. You must also provide certified copies of complementary certificates to the driver.

What happens to my train driving licence when I move to a new train operator? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Your employer must let us know the date you left. We also need to know which train operator now employs you.

Your licence is your property and you keep this. But your complementary certificates should be retained by the train operator when you leave. You should be provided with certified copies of your complementary certificates and all the documents providing evidence of your training, qualifications experience and professional competence obtained or achieved while employed by them. You will need to provide these documents to your new employing train operator.

I have left my employer, but they have taken my licence. How do I get my licence back? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Your train driving licence belongs to you and should not be retained by your employer. Please contact your previous employer and request that they return your licence to you.

If I am dismissed by my employer, do I automatically lose my train driving licence? Collapse accordion Open accordion

This would not always be the case - it depends on the circumstances.

If you were dismissed for being under the influence of drugs or alcohol, your licence will be withdrawn by ORR. 

If you had been involved in a safety incident which brought your driving competence into question it will be for your employer to decide whether action should be taken in relation to your train driving complementary certificate (only ORR can make decisions about your licence).

Your employer must tell us when you cease to be employed by them. They must also notify ORR if their monitoring of a driver calls into question the validity of a licence at any point. 

If you are dismissed for non-driving reasons (e.g. attendance or timekeeping) this would not affect the validity of your train driving licence.

We have recently dismissed a train driver for gross misconduct due to inappropriate use of a mobile phone in the cab. Do we need to advise ORR about this? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Yes, The Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010 require train operators to inform ORR when someone ceases to be employed as a train driver. ORR is required to maintain an up to date register of train drivers in accordance with the regulations.

We will shortly be dismissing a driver following the outcome of an internal disciplinary process. Should we take their licence away from them? Collapse accordion Open accordion

No. The licence is the property of the driver, and stays with them. Their complementary certificate remains the property of the company, and you should give them a certified copy of this when they leave. The certificate should be amended to show that it has been suspended or withdrawn by you.

Psychological fitness

The TDLCR 2010, state that a train driver must have passed a psychological fitness examination as a condition for obtaining a licence (the examinations are time limited). Employers must also monitor their drivers’ ongoing psychological fitness through their safety management process, and if they have any concerns about a driver they should arrange for the driver to be re-examined.

Can I obtain a copy of my psychometric test certificate? Collapse accordion Open accordion

We do not hold this information. You will need to ask your employer or the testing centre for this.

Are drivers required to have periodic psychological examinations? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Train operators have a legal obligation to periodically monitor their drivers. If the results of that monitoring indicate that a train driver may be experiencing any issues around psychological fitness, they should book an appointment for them with an ORR recognised psychologist.

I am a train driver and I was involved in an accident recently. I have now returned to work. My employer has said that that I may need to take another psychological fitness examination - is that correct? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Yes - if you have been involved in an accident, your employer may refer you for a psychological fitness examination as part of their requirement to monitor their drivers’ ongoing psychological fitness in line with The Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010.

We have recently employed a new driver, who has had a break in service and has not held a train driving licence before. Are they required to undertake the psychological fitness examination? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Yes. There is no flexibility within The Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010. You will have to treat this as a new licence application and the driver must satisfy the medical and psychological fitness examination requirements in addition to completing all the necessary training and examination required to achieve the complementary certificate.

I am on ORR’s recognised psychologist register. Can I be removed from the register for any reason? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Psychologists may be taken off the register if we have any evidence that they no longer meet the criteria for recognition - this includes continued registration with the relevant professional body (BPS). 

We also need to be able to contact you. Therefore, if your contact details have changed, and you have not advised us, you may be removed if we are unable to contact you when we audit the Register. There is an appeal process in place should this happen.

Withdrawn and suspended licences

ORR may suspend and/or withdraw a TDL. Should this action be required, a formal letter outlining the situation will be sent to the driver.

I have received a letter stating that my train driving licence has been suspended because I have not driven for 12 months. Is it possible to have it re-instated and what action is required to achieve this? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Yes, it is possible. The letter you have received will outline the reasons why your licence was suspended and what you need to do in order for your licence to be re-instated. You will need to discuss these with your employer.

I have been involved in one (or more) operational incidents. Am I at risk of losing my train driving licence? Collapse accordion Open accordion

This would be an issue for your employer to deal with. Employers have processes in place to review their drivers’ performance. Whilst they cannot take your licence from you, as it remains your property, they may potentially suspend or withdraw your complementary certificate. This may have an impact on your licence (for example, if your medical fitness is called into question). Your employer will have processes in place to deal with these kind of incidents and you would be advised by your employer of any action they intended to take.

If my train driving licence is suspended or withdrawn, do I have the right of appeal against any such decision? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Yes. If your train driving licence is suspended or withdrawn, you will receive a letter from us outlining the reasons for this, together with information about how the licence may be re-instated, where applicable. There will also be details of who to write to if the licence-holder wishes to appeal against the decision. This will be the Department for Transport, and the full address details are included in the letter.

What does ORR consider when making its decisions to suspend or withdraw a train driving licence? Collapse accordion Open accordion

We base our decisions to suspend or withdraw a train driving licence on evidence provided by train operating companies. We set out the conditions for acquiring, and maintaining, a train driving licence. If ORR believes that those conditions are no longer met, then we may suspend or withdraw the licence. These conditions can be summarised under the following headings:

Medical Fitness

Drivers must pass medical examinations at set intervals (every 3 years up to the age of 55, annually after that). The frequency may be increased if the health of the member of staff requires it and in some other circumstances. 

Psychological Fitness

Drivers must pass an occupational psychological fitness examination to initially obtain a licence.
  
There may be occasions where an employer believes that a driver should undergo another examination, i.e. after an operating incident such as a fatality. This could in turn decide whether a driver is fit to continue in the role.

General Competence

Drivers’ performance is routinely monitored and assessed. If there are any grounds to believe that a drivers’ performance is not up the required standard, or where there have been some operational incidents logged i.e. SPADs, an employer may suspend or withdraw the complementary certificate pending further training and assessment. Whilst the certificate is suspended, the driver must not drive, and following 12 months of non-driving, the licence may be suspended by ORR.

Alcohol or Drugs

The rail industry has a zero-tolerance policy towards the consumption of alcohol, and the use of drugs. Where a driver tests positive for either, the train driving licence will be withdrawn by ORR.

Additionally, the refusal to take a drugs or alcohol test will be viewed in the same light as testing positive, and will also lead to the train driving licence being withdrawn.

Information regarding Doctors and medicals 

Train drivers are required to pass periodic medical examinations throughout their driving career. These medicals have to be completed by an ORR recognised doctor. Their content is defined in Schedule 1 TDLCR 2010.

How can I register as an ORR recognised doctor or psychologist? Collapse accordion Open accordion

You can apply to be a recognised doctor or psychologist by completing the application form on our website and returning it to: TDLapplications@orr.gov.uk. The application form explains the qualifications and experience required for recognition.

How do I maintain my position on ORR's recognised doctor register? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Inclusion in the register is based on the criteria of independence, competence and impartiality. You are required to undertake train driver medicals in accordance with the requirements of Schedule 1 of The Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010. You must advise the ORR as soon as possible if any of your contact details change.

Do I have to carry out train driving medicals on a face-to-face basis, or can I conduct a medical remotely over the telephone or video call? Collapse accordion Open accordion

There are elements of the medical which must be carried out face-to face, and cannot be done remotely. It is not possible to pass a train driving licence medical in accordance with Schedule 1 without completing tests which can only be taken on a face to face basis.

I am a mainline train driver. I have been advised that now that I am 55, I have to have an annual medical instead of every 3 years. Is this correct? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Yes, The Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010 state that until the age of 55 you must pass a periodic medical at least every 3 years. From the age of 55, you must pass an annual periodic medical to maintain your licence.

Can my GP carry out my medical for my train driving licence? Collapse accordion Open accordion

No. We publish a list of recognised doctors on our website - your medical must be carried out by one of those recognised doctors. This will normally be arranged by your employer.

What is ORR’s register of doctors for? Collapse accordion Open accordion

The Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010 requires us to maintain a register of recognised doctors. These are doctors who have applied to us for registration to enable them to undertake train driving medicals as per the requirements of Schedule 1 of TDLCR 2010. Without recognition, a doctor will be unable to sign a train driver’s medical certificate.

How long does it take to be added to the register of recognised doctors from the time of application? Collapse accordion Open accordion

We aim to complete all checks and inform the applicant of our decision within three weeks of receiving an application and all the required information. On receipt of your application we may contact you to clarify or obtain further information.

I have recently been added to ORR’s recognised doctor register. Is my inclusion for a set period of time only? Collapse accordion Open accordion

No - there is no expiry date once a doctor is entered on to our register. But we expect any doctor to advise us if there are any changes which may impact their ability to carry out examinations as specified. Any changes to details including practice address and contact details must be communicated to us as soon as possible, so that the register is up-to-date.

I am on the recognised doctor / psychologist register - can I be removed? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Doctors may be taken off the register if we have evidence that they no longer meet the criteria for recognition. This includes continued registration on the General Medical Council (GMC) professional register. 

We also need to be able to contact you, so if your contact details have changed and you have not advised us, you may be removed if we cannot contact you when we audit the Register. There is an appeal process in this guidance document (see Annex A) should this happen.

Psychologists may be removed from our register if they no longer meet the criteria for recognition: This includes continued registration on the British Psychological Society (BPS) register, and ensuring we have up to date contact details. Failure to be able to contact you at audit may result in your removal from the register. There is an appeal process in this guidance document (see Annex A) should this happen.

As a train operator, do we need to keep records of our train drivers' medicals and should I inform ORR when medicals have taken place? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Yes. Train operators are required by The Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010 to maintain records of all train driving licence medicals. You must inform us when medicals have been undertaken (together with the results). You should also advise us where any medical is overdue and the reason for this.

When a driver goes off sick, should ORR be notified? Collapse accordion Open accordion

We do not need to be advised of any periods of work incapacity lasting less than three months. However, we must be informed if work incapacity lasts over three months.

How often must drivers have a medical? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Every three years up to 54 years of age, and annually from that point. Therefore, a driver must have a medical between the age of 55 and 56.

What happens if a driver fails a medical, or fails to take a medical? Collapse accordion Open accordion

A driver must not drive trains if they fail a medical, or fail to take one, until such time as they pass a medical.

Maintaining Train Driver Licences 

A TDL is the property of the train driver and must be carried by them at all times whilst they are driving. The licence is valid for 10 years providing the driver maintains their competencies and undertakes and passes any required periodic medical examinations. ORR has the authority to suspend or withdraw a licence in certain circumstances. 

I am a driver and I am pregnant. Can I continue with my train driving duties? Collapse accordion Open accordion

You will need to discuss your individual situation with your employer. There are other areas of your employment in relation to pregnancy which are outside the Train Driving Licences and Certificates Regulations 2010.

However, as long as you remain fit and well then there should be no reason why you cannot continue to drive. However, if after your discussion with your employer, your employer is of the opinion that you are not fit to drive, then you can be temporarily removed from driving duties. 

I’ve lost my train driving licence. Can I apply for a new one? Collapse accordion Open accordion

The train operator or driver must advise ORR at the earliest opportunity that the licence has been lost. An application can then be made for a duplicate licence. Until the duplicate licence is received the train operator must take reasonable steps to provide evidence to a driver to prove that they hold a valid licence if challenged by an ORR inspector. (It is a requirement that a driver must carry the licence with them whilst driving).

I have changed my name - what do I do? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Please notify us by emailing: tdl.applications@orr.gov.uk with the relevant legal documentation (Deed Poll, Marriage Certificate etc.) together with a new photograph and signature, and we will reissue the licence with your new details.
name change.

I have changed my address - what do I do? Collapse accordion Open accordion

Inform your employer. Your employer must inform us at the earliest opportunity of your new address by emailing: tdl.applications@orr.gov.uk and we will update your record.

I now wear glasses and/or hearing aids. What happens with my licence? Collapse accordion Open accordion

We must be informed of this change promptly as you will need your licence to be reissued to show any changes. A new photograph will be required.

Is there a mandatory retirement age for a train driver when they must return their train driving licence? Collapse accordion Open accordion

No - there is no mandatory retirement age. As long as the conditions for holding a train driving licence are met – including regular medicals and assessment of driving competences - there is no licence requirement for a driver to retire or return their licence.