SCOTRAIL has been flooded with applications to become train drivers, with nearly 8,000 received so far for the 100 posts available, The Scotsman has learned.
Applications have arrived at the rate of more than 1,000 a day since the train operator launched its “unprecedented” recruitment drive last week.
Aslef, the main train drivers’ union, predicted the total would reach 10,000 by the closing date next Wednesday, and said many other ScotRail staff were among those who had applied.
The jobs rush comes two years after more than 2,000 people applied for one of 18 driver posts based at Tweedbank for the Borders Railway, which opened on 6 September.
The latest new recruits will have a starting salary of £24,559, which increases to £43,212 following a probationary period.
A ScotRail spokeswoman said: “We’re very happy with the response - it’s great to see so many people who want to join the organisation.”
ScotRail needs to increase the 1,149 drivers among its 5,000-strong workforce so it can run more trains to cope with rising passenger demand.
Total annual journeys have increased by one-third to 91 million over the last ten years and ScotRail plans to grow that to 139m over the next decade.
The new drivers will also be needed for two fleets of trains which have been ordered.
Seventy electric trains, built by Japanese bullet-train maker Hitachi, will run on the main Edinburgh-Glasgow route and others across the Central Belt and in Glasgow from 2017.
A second fleet of 27 refurbished former InterCity 125 “High Speed Trains” will serve longer-distance routes between Scotland’s cities from 2018.
Phil Verster, managing director of the ScotRail Alliance, which includes track owner Network Rail, said: “These new roles present a great opportunity for those looking to embark on an exciting new career in the railway.
“Our staff are our biggest asset, and we’re looking forward to welcoming a further batch of driver recruits to ScotRail.”
Attributes required of the applicants include “excellent attention spans”.
Candidates selected will first undertake a psychometric test, followed by an interview.
Those successfully completing that stage will take a second part of the psychometric test, then a medical examination.
Recruits follow a one-year training programme, which combines classroom-based learning and supervised driving of at least 265 hours - the equivalent of around one month’s worth of shifts.
Trainees then undergo three weeks of driving exams, to receive their train driving licence if successful.
They will be based at depots including Aberdeen, Ayr, Bathgate, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Gourock, Helensburgh, Inverness, Perth, Stirling, and Tweedbank.
ScotRail said it would “love” to have more female drivers among the intake. 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. Kevin Lindsay, Aslef’s Scotland district organiser, said: “I’m delighted that so many people have applied to become a train driver with ScotRail.
“As a union, we welcome the development of Scotland’s railway and look forward to representing the successful candidates.”