Railway maintenance engineering technicians (track) inspect, assess, maintain and renew the track to keep trains running smoothly and safely.
You could be:
inspecting the track (both visually and using measuring equipment) for signs of damage or deterioration
checking that the rails are stable and properly aligned to cope with the speed and weight of the trains using them
testing the rails using ultrasound
prioritising work and organising appropriate materials, equipment and staff to be onsite
finding faults and repairing them using techniques such as welding, grinding or stressing the metal
fitting sleepers and fasteners
dealing with track problems caused by changing weather conditions, overgrowing trackside plants or drainage issues
checking and repairing level crossings
assisting with site surveys.
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.
You spend a lot of time walking beside the track, with a lookout to warn you when a train is approaching.
You work mainly outdoors in all weathers, day and night.
You work in a wide range of locations, including inside tunnels.
You travel to different sites wherever a fault occurs or a repair is needed.
You work shifts, including evenings, nights, public holidays and weekends.
You are sometimes on call for emergencies and may 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:
an eye for detail to notice small defects
good manual skills
awareness of health and safety procedures
an understanding of engineering principles
good problem solving skills.
You need to be able to:
deal with emergencies quickly and calmly
work in isolation 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.
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).
Whatever your specialism, there are opportunities to move on within the organisation and become a team leader. With further experience, you could work on larger projects as a project engineer or manager.