Nick Illsley was born in 1957. In 1976 he became a Traffic student at British Rail Headquarters in York. From 1980 he worked as an Assistant Yard Master at York Dringhouses and then became the Station Manager at Malton and Scarborough before moving to London Marylebone to work as a Terminals Manager. He became London Project Manager for Network SouthEast based at their headquarters. He then joined Anglia as teh Terminals Manager and then moved to Thames and Chiltern as the Planning and Marketing Manager. He was appointed the Commercial Director of Thames Trains. He then served as Chief Executive of National Rail Enquiries for the Association of Train Operating Companies. He has also worked as the Chief Executive of Transport Direct for the Department of Transport.