Railway maintenance engineering technicians (signalling) install and maintain the signalling systems which provide information about train movements.
There are three types of signalling systems: integrated electronic control centres (IECCs), panel signal boxes and manual lever frame boxes, so the work you do will be varied.
You could be:
checking the signalling systems for faults and fixing them
checking and repairing individual aspects of signalling systems, such as track circuits and axle counters
taking and recording readings of electrical and mechanical equipment
checking the Automatic Warning System (AWS) and the Train Protection Warning System (TPWS) which apply the brakes on a train in an emergency
checking and adjusting the points which switch the rails to divert trains from one track to another
working with signalling equipment such as control panels and becoming completely familiar with the routes and train services they control
maintaining signalling equipment.
Employment is with Network Rail. The first year salary for Network Rail Level 3 Engineering Apprentices as of October 2022 is £10,609 plus £1,347 bonus after successfully finishing the year. Your salary will increase yearly up to £17,290 in the third year
Once you have completed the apprenticeship you can earn up to around £30,000 a year and more with further experience.
As a signal technician, you would work mainly outdoors in all weathers and you may have to work at heights.
You will also work indoors in rooms containing large amounts of equipment, known as relay rooms or re-locatable equipment buildings (REBs).
You would have to travel to different sites where the work is required.
You would have to work shifts, including evenings, nights, public holidays and weekends.
You would sometimes be on call and have to work overtime.
You will have to wear protective clothing such as high visibility jacket, hard hat and safety boots.
Network Rail offers a three-year Level 3 Engineering Apprenticeship Scheme which trains Maintenance Engineering Technicians in areas such as: Signalling, Track, Distribution and Plant, Telecoms or Overhead Line.
Entry requirements: 4 subjects at National 5 including English, Maths and a science or engineering subject.
Network Rail normally have two intakes a year, March and September. You can find the link for the apprenticeship scheme on the Network Rail website.
To qualify you need to be 18 years of age or older by the time you start your training.
If your online application is successful, you will then complete some aptitude tests followed by a telephone interview. If you pass these then you will attend the assessment centre for practical tests and an interview.
You need a good level of physical fitness, and have to pass a medical examination, which includes sight and hearing tests.
You will undergo regular drug and alcohol tests to make sure you are not under any influence during working hours – Network Rail have a zero tolerance policy.
Jobs are with Network Rail, which is responsible for maintaining around 3,000 miles of track and related infrastructure in Scotland.
What Does it Take?
You need to have:
a logical approach to problem solving
good manual skills
a good head for heights
awareness of health and safety regulations and practices
an understanding of engineering and electrical principles.
You need to be able to:
deal with emergencies quickly and calmly
understand technical drawings and diagrams
pay attention to detail
work on your own as well as in a team
work quickly and accurately.
Training is on the job combined with off the job training.
All apprentice technicians must attend the Westwood training centre in the midlands region of England, for their first 23 weeks of training. Accommodation, meals, work clothing and safety equipment is provided. The remainder of training is based at a depot close to your home address.
In year 1 you study NVQ Performing Engineering Operations Level 2 and a Level 3 Engineering Award.
In years 2 and 3 you study NVQ Level 3 in Railway Engineering and ILM Level 3 in First Line Management.
Network Rail has a training centre in Larbert near Falkirk for training Scottish staff in new techniques and updating their existing skills.
With experience and suitable qualifications, you may be able to gain promotion to a senior technician post.
There are also opportunities to move into technical support, new works testing or signalling design.
Once you have qualified, you may be able to do further study and gain more advanced qualifications in engineering.
With these advanced qualifications, you may be able to register as an Engineering Technician (EngTech) or as a professional engineer (IEng or CEng).
There can be opportunities for further promotion to supervisory or management positions.
There also could be opportunities to move into related technical posts within the rail industry.