Underground train operators are employed by Transport for London. In the Underground, train drivers are called train operators. National Rail, however, are run and managed by individual train operating companies (TOCs). They have an association called ATOC. Train Operating Companies (TOCs) have to bid for a franchise from the Department for Transport (DfT). The London Underground is run and managed by London Underground Limited (LUL).

For National Rail the rail infrastructure is owned and maintained by Network Rail. The electrification is 700 DC on some lines and 25000 AC on other lines. There are also some lines without any electrification. So only diesel trains run these lines. The underground rail infrastructure is maintained by Tubelines. The electrification for the underground is 600 DC Volts.


What is the difference between train driving and train operation?


The rolling stock (trains) for train operators are different. It is nowadays, highly automated with train operators only opening and closing doors in some sections of the underground lines. The Jubilee line, Victoria line, and Central line are evidently fully automated – with operators doing nothing (except remaining vigilant) as the train pulls to a stop.


Once the train has stopped in a station, train operators will check CCTV on their dash board  or from the platform to see if it is safe to open train doors. Train Drivers on the other hand has to reduce their speed and brake progressively to bring their trains to a stop. For Driver Operation Only (DOO), Drivers will then check the platform mirrors or the cab CCTV and open the doors. If they have a conductor, then the conductor will open and close doors.


Daylight on the underground for the train operators is limited. As you may have noticed more than 95% of the time is spent in the underground, thousands of feet beneath the surface.¬† Though there are tunnels for train drivers to go through on a daily basis, they aren’t deep beneath the surface.


The signalling also differs fro underground train operation. It has the following sequence Red, Yellow, Small Double Yellows, and Green. Where as the surface (overground) train driving signalling comes in this sequence Green, Double Yellow, Single Yellow and Red. This has a significant impact on both roles.


Underground train operators and Overground train drivers take different psychometric tests. For example in the underground selection process candidates’ concentration level is assessed using Symbol Search Test. And aspiring drivers’ concentration on the national rail main line or overground are assessed by the 4-Dots Search Test.


Hey, that is the few insider know-how I can think of..

What are your experiences with both modes of transport whether as a customer or an insider?

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Situational Judgement Test