Michael Zander is a train driver at NordWestBahn and, among other things, makes sure that new colleagues successfully complete the practical part of their training. Zander has been on the rails for six years and knows the beautiful and difficult sides of the job.
In this interview, the passionate train driver gives an insight into his everyday life and explains why he made his way from carpenter to train driver and why he enjoys his job so much.
Michael, the situation is not easy right now. Many positions are unoccupied, and, in some cases, trains cannot run because there are no drivers. The passengers are of course angry. How is the situation for you?
We are of course trying to close the service gaps, but that is only possible to a limited extent.
And in contact with the passengers, what is your experience?
It’s like in life, too, there are people who cannot contain themselves and sometimes get offensive, but most of the passengers are friendly.
In your opinion, why are there too few train drivers?
There are many reasons for this: On the one hand, of course, there has not been as much training in recent years as would have been necessary. On the other hand, for many, the job is no longer a childhood dream as it used to be.
And can you understand that?
Of course, mobility is much more natural today than it used to be. Traveling was something very special and the drivers, like pilots, were admired by the people. Today there is no longer any applause when landing in a plane and the train driver is no longer seen as it was 20 or 30 years ago. In addition, leisure activities are becoming increasingly important for many, as a shift system is sometimes just not what young people imagine. But the train also runs at night and on weekends.
Does that mean that new candidates no longer come automatically?
Exactly, we must promote the profession because the job is still just as great as it used to be.
What is the job?
Carrying the responsibility for hundreds of passengers and getting them safely from A to B is a challenge that naturally makes you proud to master. The job is varied, and you move hundreds of tons on rails with almost 1000 hp, which is of course something very special. In addition, the job is absolutely crisis-proof and the salary is decent.
What do you have to bring with you to be able to work as a train driver?
There are of course the legal requirements, such as physical and psychological suitability. The minimum age is 20 years, there is actually no maximum age. We also have colleagues who start their training with us at 55. However, you also have to have a feeling for people, discipline, flexibility and of course the willingness to take on responsibility.
You came to the NordWestBahn later in your career, before being a carpenter and then a radio and television technician. What moved you to join the railroad?
Unfortunately, I got sick and had to reorient myself professionally. I spent a long time looking at what would be suitable for the future and came across the job of a train driver. At the beginning of my training in Bernau (Brandenburg) I already knew that I wanted to join the NordWestBahn. It’s worked out!
What is your everyday life like?
My everyday life as a train driver is simply described.
I have to prepare or dismantle my vehicle in accordance with specified safety criteria. I drive my train according to the duty roster and must get our passengers safely to their destination. As an apprentice train driver, I am at the side of all colleagues and especially the new train drivers with words and deeds.
Do you have a family, what are the advantages and disadvantages of shift work?
The advantage of shift work for me is that I can meet many appointments within the week. My wife and I have two children with disabilities and my employer, and our personnel coordinators help me a lot so that we as a family can cover almost all appointments. To do this, I have to be flexible myself and, in return, support our personnel coordinators.
What is the NordWestBahn for you?
For me as an employee, NordWestBahn is a reliable partner and I can work here in absolute peace.
Michael, now tell us in the end what was your best experience as a train driver?
I have had a lot of great experiences; I don’t want to emphasize anything. Maybe that a passenger said that the strict train driver was back on duty and we both laughed at it. Afterwards it became clear that I am very committed to the safety of the passengers and that he feels safe with me!
Photo by: Stefan Höggemann