Signallers control the movement and direction of trains by operating railway signals and points. They make sure that trains run safely and on time.
There are three types of signalling systems:
- manual lever frame boxes – levers that signal semaphore or colour light signals to drivers and control a few miles of track
- panel signal boxes – electronic instrument panels that uses buttons to control the movements of trains on around 50 miles of track
- signalling centres – modern computer-based systems that are used to control train movements over long stretches of track.
You could be:
- testing the signalling equipment to make sure it is working properly
- checking whether there are any disruptions to the train schedule, such as engineering works or incidents
- setting a route for each train, taking into account speed restrictions, timetables and number of trains running
- passing this information to other control rooms, signal boxes and level crossing guards to make sure trains move from one route section to the next safely
- communicating with train drivers and track workers, by telephone or radio, about any problems or access requirements
- using manual or computerised systems to set and lock track points to direct the trains
- using manual or computerised systems to change signals for the driver to follow
- monitoring train movements and data on a number of computer screens
- dealing with unexpected incidents and completing reports.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on the type and size of signal equipment you work on.
Signaller Pay Grades 2017:
- Grade 1 £24,165
- Grade 2 £27,665
- Grade 3 £29,999
- Grade 4 £31,664
- Grade 5 £34,999
- Grade 6 £37,081
- Grade 7 £39,997
- Grade 8 £42,497
- Grade 9 £44,166
- Grade 10 £46,387
You usually also earn shift allowance and possibly public holiday pay and overtime, especially working Sundays. You can typically add £10,000 a year for standard extras.
- You may work in a small signal box next to a track or in a large control room away from the tracks.
- Shifts can vary between 8 and 12 hours, depending on location.
- You may be working alone or with a team of other signallers.
- You may spend a lot of time in front of computer screens.
- You would have to work shifts, including evenings, nights, public holidays and weekends.
- The work may be mentally exhausting.
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- A good general education is useful and you are likely to need at least English and Maths at National 5.
- You complete the initial application online and if successful, you will complete a pre-learning exercise and then attend an assessment centre, where you undergo tests to make sure you have the right core skills for the job. If successful, the last stage is an interview.
- You must be at least 18 years old.
- You have to pass a medical examination.
- You need to be physically fit, with good eyesight, normal colour vision and good hearing.
- You will require a satisfactory PVG (Protecting Vulnerable Groups) check to show that you are suitable for this type of work. Contact Disclosure Scotland for details.
- 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.
- A driving licence may be necessary in order to get to work at any time of day or night.
Employment is with Network Rail, which is responsible for maintaining around 3,000 miles of track and related infrastructure in Scotland.
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What Does it Take?
You need to be:
- observant and thorough
- able to remain calm under pressure
- able to analyse situations and make decisions
- aware of the importance of health and safety
- able to understand and follow rules and regulations
- able to concentrate for long periods.
You need to have:
- good communication skills
- IT and numeracy skills
- the ability to work as part of a team as well as alone
- the ability to carry out more than one task at once.
- You will undertake the Network Rail Signaller Apprenticeship Programme for a minimum of 12 months. This would lead to Level 2 Infrastructure Operations Apprenticeship.
- Training covers railway rules and regulations, health and safety and operation of signal box equipment.
- You have to pass exams to progress to a full time position.
- Throughout your career you are continuously assessed to ensure that your knowledge and skills are up to standard.
- After some experience with less complex systems, you may undergo training to move into a highly technical control centre, controlling more trains.
- After a few years' experience, you may be able to gain promotion to supervisor or manager, leading a team of signallers.
Network Rail are in the process of replacing their signalling system to the European Train Control System (ETCS) and Traffic Management (TM) Programme. This may affect signaller jobs in the future as all signalling will be done out of Rail Operating Centres (ROCs).
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
People 1st - Careers That Move
People 1st is the Sector Skills Council for the hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism industries.
Careers That Move is in association with People 1st and the UKSP. It is the careers website for passenger transport and travel.
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