Railway maintenance engineering technicians (telecoms) install and maintain the communication network which assists with and controls the safe and efficient passage of trains.
You could check, maintain and repair all aspects of Network Rail’s complex computer and telephone network, such as:
the cab secure radio system, which currently allows the signaller to communicate directly with individual train drivers and give them instructions
the copper and fibre optic cables that form the telecoms infrastructure and enable things such as telephone exchanges to work
the customer information systems, such as boards that display train information, CCTV and public address systems
the telephone systems, which provide communication between level crossings and the signal boxes that control them
the new railway communication system, which combines a fixed telecoms network (FTN) and a new digital network.
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 will work both indoors and outdoors as well as underground.
If you have to work beside the track you’ll work in a team with a lookout to warn when a train is approaching.
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 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 electrical principles and networks.
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.
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 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.
Network Rail is currently working towards a complete digital railway communications system based on the type of wireless networks that mobile phones use as well as fixed networks that use fibre and copper cabling.