Kiwirail: Youngest train driver takes first solo service

Kiwirail: Youngest train driver takes first solo service

KiwiRail’s youngest locomotive engineer (train driver), Todd Hewetson completed his trainings and taken his first run in sole charge of a freight train one week before his 21st birthday.

Twenty year old Todd Hewetson will be at the controls of a freight service which leaves Christchurch to Otira.

Todd has just completed his on the job training and all the necessary certifications. He turns 21 soon.

While age is no barrier to driving trains, a level of maturity with the right attitude and skills are essential, says Southern Region Freight manager Murray Young.

“Todd has met this admirably showing a mature outlook beyond his years during his time in the Middleton yard and during his on the job training.”

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Todd’s demeanour may be attributed to growing up with an appreciation of what the role of LE entails - his father Murray Hewetson is an LE based in Picton.

Todd joins the ranks of KiwiRail’s Christchurch based team and is one of many new LEs coming through the system.

KiwiRail currently has around 450 locomotive engineers. Expected growth in both freight and passenger services means at least 100 more are required over the next two years to meet that demand, says freight operations manager Aaron Temperton.

Staffing levels had been static for a number of years, with only comparatively low numbers of recruits needed each year to fill vacancies when staff retired or moved on, he said.

“However customer demand arising from our new business direction means we now need to bring in substantially more trainees each year.”

“It is critical we get people with the right attitudes and skills for this job - they will need to be prepared to work unsocial and often long hours in rotating shifts, and have the right approach to driving.”

Training to become a locomotive engineer can take up to two years, and includes a theory component, followed by substantial on the job training.

There is never any shortage of applicants for the job, but they face a rigorous screening process to be selected, and the hunt is always on for the right candidates.

Todd started with KiwiRail in Christchurch in mid-2009, after leaving school half way through Year 13.  He worked initially as a Rail Operator and was accepted into LE training at the beginning 0f 2011.  He completed his theory training and moved to practical training in May last year, and through hard work completed his on the job training in 12 months.

It is a job he has always aspired to -“the idea of seeing the country, the freedom of the shift-work certainly always appealed,’ he says.