Points operator, signal operator
Railway signallers operate the signals and points on rail tracks to keep trains running safely and on time.
Salary range: £20,000 to £32,000
How to become a railway signaller
You can get into this job through:
- a college course
- an apprenticeship
- applying directly
You could do a college course, which would teach you some of the skills and knowledge you need in this job. Relevant courses include the Level 2 Certificate or Diploma in Rail Services. You would usually need to be working in the rail industry or be on a relevant placement to be able to complete this course.
You’ll usually need:
- 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent, for a level 2 course
You can complete a rail infrastructure operator or rail engineering operative intermediate apprenticeship.
You can also do a rail engineering technician advanced apprenticeship.
You’ll usually need:
- some GCSEs, usually including English and maths, or equivalent, for an intermediate apprenticeship
- 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English and maths, for an advanced apprenticeship
It may be possible to apply directly to Network Rail, who operate the rail system. You’ll need a good general standard of education, including English and maths GCSEs.
You’ll go through initial checks before being invited to an assessment day and interview.
Non-technical skills are very important in this job, like safety awareness, staying calm under pressure and being able to deal with large amounts of information. These qualities will be tested during the assessment.
Professional and industry bodies
You can join the Institution of Railway Signal Engineers for professional development.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- knowledge of transport methods, costs and benefits
- patience and the ability to remain calm in stressful situations
- the ability to accept criticism and work well under pressure
- the ability to work well with others
- to be flexible and open to change
- physical skills like movement, coordination, dexterity and grace
- knowledge of public safety and security
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
Restrictions and requirements
You’ll need to:
- be screened for drugs and alcohol
- pass a medical check
What you’ll do
Your day-to-day duties may include:
- checking incident reports at the start of the shift
- tracking trains on computer systems and electronic displays
- operating controls in a manual signal box or electronic control centre
- speaking to drivers and other staff to give and receive updates
- contacting maintenance teams to report signal problems
- writing incident reports for managers
- training in track regulations and new technology
You could work in a control room.
Career path and progression
With experience, you could become a signalling supervisor or control room manager. With further training, you may be able to work as a signalling designer.
You may also be able to apply for non-signalling jobs through Network Rail’s internal promotion system.