SCOTRAIL has launched its biggest driver recruitment campaign for up to an extra 100 staff as it prepares for the delivery of two new train fleets.
However, news of the £43,000-a-year jobs come days before what could be a similar number of other ScotRail staff being accepted for voluntary redundancy.
The train operator described the scale of its recruitment drive as “unprecedented”, and it is also amongst the largest in Britain.
Candidates must be “enthusiastic and reliable with excellent attention spans”.
ScotRail needs more drivers to cover two fleets of trains to cope with the forecast growth in passengers from 91 million to 139m over the next decade.
A total of 70 Hitachi electric trains will start arriving in two years’ time to serve the main Edinburgh-Glasgow route and others across the Central Belt.
They will be followed in 2018 by 27 overhauled InterCity 125 “High Speed Trains” from the 1970s, to be introduced on long-distance routes between Scotland’s seven cities.
Trainee drivers have a starting salary of £24,559, increasing to £43,212 after a probationary period.
ScotRail already has 1,149 drivers among its 5,000-strong workforce, which contributes to the company’s average salary being one-third higher than the Scottish average.
Drivers will be recruited for depots including Aberdeen, Ayr, Bathgate, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Gourock, Helensburgh, Inverness, Perth, Stirling, and Tweedbank on the Borders Railway.
ScotRail said it would “love” to have more female drivers. Their numbers have doubled over the last eight years to 54, or from 2.3 per cent to 4.6 per cent of the total, which is just under the British average.
While welcoming the new jobs, the main rail union fears 100 or more other posts could be shed following the formation of a joint-working alliance between ScotRail and track owner Network Rail in May.
The Rail, Maritime and Transport union has claimed the alliance is seeking 80 voluntary redundancies in engineering, and others among train cleaners.
Scotland secretary Mick Hogg said: “A circular has been issued asking if anyone is interested in applying for voluntary severance. We have requested an update, but the company has said it is not in a position to advise us on numbers. The railway is growing. They should be increasing the head count, not reducing it.”
The Scotsman understands that staff who have expressed interest have been told they will hear the outcome around the end of the month.
A ScotRail spokeswoman said: “We’ve never commented on numbers sought and that remains the case.”
Alliance managing director Phil Verster said of the new drivers’ jobs: “We’re investing in Scotland’s railways by modernising trains, expanding timetables and adding journey options – and recruiting a large group of new drivers is vital to make these improvements possible.
“We are proud to be supporting local communities and the Scottish economy by creating quality jobs that will make a real impact for customers.
“It is an exciting chance for people to embark on an interesting career with great prospects – while also playing an important part in the transformation of Scotland’s railway.”
Kevin Lindsay, Scotland district secretary of Aslef, the main drivers’ union, said: “This is a great opportunity for all sections of our community to apply to join the railway.”