MTR Elizabeth line: Transforming travel in London

Alison Bell, People and Culture DirectorMTR Elizabeth line. 

When the new Elizabeth line opens it will provide a fast, frequent service linking the east and west through the heart of London, improving customer journey times and increasing rail-based transport in the capital by 10%.  

As the train operating company of this transformative and ground-breaking new railway, we have worked diligently since our inception in 2015 on building a diverse workforce that represents the communities we operate in with the goal of providing an outstanding travel experience that meets the expectations of our customers. 

To help achieve this goal, we committed to creating jobs for local people and have welcomed over 1,250 new colleagues, 75% from within local communities, and facilitated up to 550 apprenticeships – and counting – vastly surpassing our initial target of 53. 

Being a new railway afforded us a number of opportunities to set a new standard in transport and creating career opportunities for young people has been a key part of our strategy. When we developed our flagship apprenticeship programme (which has since been adopted as a model for other TOCs and the wider transport industry), we included a range of different types of apprenticeships, from customer experience to head office.  

Present and future opportunities available include entry-level apprenticeships for roles such as trainee train drivers, customer experience assistants, station control room operators, and customer service specialists. We will also shortly launch a new traineeship opportunity for young people to undertake a work placement within the business that could offer a pathway into an apprenticeship in 2022.  

Our apprenticeship programme is undoubtedly one of our success stories. Over the past few years, we have begun to see more and more examples of brilliant hard-working individuals complete their apprenticeship and move onto other roles in the business. In 2020, we were recognised for our efforts in providing vital skills through apprenticeships by being named fifth in the Top 100 Apprenticeship Employers 2020, and we were also proud to be awarded Apprenticeship Employer of the Year 2020 by Personnel Today Awards.   

When MTR Elizabeth line was first awarded the concession to manage the line, we entered into one of the biggest recruitment drives ever seen in the rail industry, which included a significant number of train drivers. Since then, 97% of our trainee train drivers have elected to undertake our Train Driver Apprenticeship, which is pivotal to the success of our operations and require a high degree of skill and commitment. In addition, more than half of our train drivers are under the age of 35 and we have attracted more women to the role of train driver than any other operator. 

Attracting a workforce that represents the communities we operate in is core to our success. Providing a range of opportunities – from work experience to apprenticeships – particularly during this time of economic uncertainty is an important way for us to support future generations. Working with industry partners we continue to look at new opportunities to support young people entering into the rail industry. We are currently developing concepts with the Careers Enterprise Company focusing on Education and Careers Support initiatives, and also looking at the potential for T-Levels and how we can support this qualification in the very near future. 

A career in rail offers exciting challenges and an opportunity to develop skills for life. We are invested in continuous learning through innovative training and development, complemented by regular ‘Connect’ meetings to facilitate constructive and meaningful feedback sessions between individuals and line managers to aid progression. Looking after our people is our number one priority and these regular manager meetings place that level of care front and centre, in line with our robust mental health and wellbeing strategy, which includes 24/7 access to an employee assistance programme. 

MTR Elizabeth line is proud to support the One Million Chances campaign and to play our part in offering young people from all backgrounds meaningful opportunities to nurture and develop their skills and help them unlock greater career choices in the future. 

It is vitally important that companies reach out to young people through any means possible. By supporting this campaign, we are taking a positive step towards resolving the problem of youth unemployment and making a constructive contribution to improving employer engagement with young people, helping them transition successfully into the world of work. 

Innovation across rail is bringing an increasing number of opportunities and it remains an exciting industry to build a long-term career packed with transferable skills. Preparing young people for work supports the talent pipeline into the rail industry and improves workforce diversity, something we are passionate about.  

Now, more than ever, the UK needs a flourishing rail industry to boost the economy when we emerge from the pandemic. Public transport will increasingly become a vital part of our country’s journey to reduce cars on the road as we fight against climate change. We also want to encourage people to explore the city safely and reconnect with their friends and family, so they can enjoy all the amazing places and activities the UK has to offer.  

With an estimated 200 million passengers predicted to use the Elizabeth line annually across 41 stations, our team focuses on working collaboratively and supporting each other to ensure the safety and wellbeing of both colleagues and customers at all times.   

We are on an exciting journey as an organisation and look forward to more talented and ambitious young people joining us for the ride.  


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