VIRGIN Trains has launched what it claims is the largest recruitment of train drivers on the East Coast Mainline since the 1980s.

The firm said it was offering drivers the chance to be part of a “new era” of rail as the search for new recruits coincided with the arrival of its new fleet of Azuma trains, built by Hitachi at Newton Aycliffe, County Durham.

In all 78 drivers are required to operate the 65 strong fleet when it launches in 2018. However would-be recruits, who must be 21 or over, only have a week in which to reply.

Virgin has already signed up 24 trainee drivers in January, the first such appointments for nearly three years.

New recruits undergo a year-long development programme including classroom-based and ‘on the job’ learning at different locations on the East Coast route.

They also use a state of the art state of the art simulator in order to familiarise themselves with the train cab.

The new fleet will provide an extra 12,200 seats, while there will also be a new and expanded timetable.

Clare Burles, people director at Virgin Trains East Coast, said: “The arrival of our Azuma trains is an important part of our plans and we need amazing people to join us on our journey.

“It doesn’t matter if you have never worked in rail or if you haven’t even considered a career as a train driver before, we are looking for people who are not afraid to do things a little differently and want to be part of something innovative and rewarding.

“As a train driver with us, you’ll not only get fantastic benefits and career development but also spectacular views of the iconic intercity East Coast route from a very unique working environment –how many jobs can offer you that?”

Tara Johnson, a driver for Virgin Trains east coast, said: “I love the freedom and benefits of the role and there is never a boring day on the job

“It’s a lot of responsibility too – the safety of our customers and getting them to where they need to be on time is top priority but the training and support we receive is brilliant.

“Some people ask what it’s like to be in the cab solo but it really doesn’t feel like that. I always feel part of a team.”

A spokesman for Virgin East Coast said retirements were another factor in the recruitment drive and it was not connected to the current dispute with the RMT rail union.

To find out more about the application process – which ends on Friday October 14 – visit