Railway Jobs, Rail Jobs and Careers
The UK has one of the busiest rail networks in Europe, with increased congestion on the roads sending more and more travellers to use it.
Despite this, there are constant pressures to save money across the networks.
As a result the overall jobs' market is on the decline, meaning strong competition can be expected for most roles.
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Following controversial privatisation in the mid-1990s, rail services in the UK are now operated by a range of different companies.
- Industry-wide organisations, such as Network Rail, own and operate the rail infrastructure.
- Train operating companies (TOCs) run passenger trains on the rail network. Each has its own staff and therefore recruitment processes.
- Freight operating companies (FOCs) move cars, containerised freight, coal, metals, oil, mail and construction material across the rail network.
The range of jobs available in the industry is considerable. Since so many rail companies are involved, the job titles and descriptions vary accordingly. Here, we look at some of the key roles that can be found on the advertising jobs boards for rail recruitment. For more information, it is wisest to research the individual companies' staffing requirements.
Railway Jobs: Work Areas
Customer Facing Rail Jobs
For obvious reasons, this is the area of employment that most users of the rail network are familiar with. Here are some sample roles.
- Customer service or community relations managers are responsible for the overall delivery of good customer service and problem resolution. They consider not only the travelling public customers, but with suppliers and other customers. This means overseeing the operational management of high volume calls and enquiries, as well as complaints. Strategies at national and local level are developed for data management, analysis and evaluation. Additionally, there is PR work to be conducted at all levels. Customer service representatives work in teams, responding to enquiries either in travel information centres at stations, or, increasingly, via call centres.
- Ticketing staff at stations undertake ticketing and reservations booking, with itinerary planning, on automated systems. They may also assist passengers with mobility issues. Depending on their exact role, they may also be involved in providing information to passengers, making announcements or other duties. The role can clearly be stressful and there is a need for accuracy under pressure.
- Conducting staff on passenger trains will collect tickets and fares, make announcements on board, and work to ensure the security, safety and comfort of passengers. On freight trains, they are involved with information relating to cargo being loaded, transport schedules, freight records, etc.
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Engineering Railway Jobs
- Locomotive engineers are responsible for the running of large passenger and freight trains, including electrically powered and diesel locomotives. Engineers assess the working condition of the vehicles before the trips and make any minor adjustments required. During the trip, they drive the locomotive by operating the throttles and brakes, while monitoring instruments to measure brake line and main reservoir air pressure, train velocity, battery charge and amperage.
- Civil engineers play an enormous role in the rail industry, being responsible for planning, designing, constructing and maintaining the physical infrastructure from tracks to bridges, tunnels, earthworks and drainage. They perform related construction tasks and supervise contractors. Specialist areas include track and civil design, structures, civil construction, project management and technical standards.
- Mechanical engineers design and oversee the development of passenger trains, equipment and mechanical services. They are responsible from concept to delivery, from researching and investigating technical issues, creating and developing concepts and working with draftsmen, to managing the supply, delivery and commissioning of work. Specialist areas include rolling stock, infrastructure, asset management and contract management.
- Structural Engineers work closely with architects, builders and mechanical, electrical and chemical engineers to oversee the construction of rail infrastructure. They are responsible for researching, developing and testing solutions to ensure the infrastructure is adequately constructed to withstand weight and frequency of rail traffic. The role is often combined with that of civil engineer.
- Electrical engineers are responsible for electronic and computer systems, telecommunications, control and electrical power engineering. They may be involved as project managers or field workers, with both being focused on the delivery of electrical infrastructure construction or upgrade, while always ensuring safety.
- Telecommunication engineers are responsible for planning, designing, commissioning and monitoring telecommunications networks and associated broadcasting equipment. They are involved with a wide range of network and systems technology projects, such as closed circuit TV, wider area networks (WANs), station passenger information, etc.
- Other engineering roles include environmental engineers, software engineers and specialist engineers.
Construction Rail Jobs
Railway infrastructure workers are employed by railway network operators and contractors to provide services maintaining and constructing the railway network infrastructure. It's possible to enter a rail construction career straight from school, although some training is usually required or offered.
Security staff are responsible for ensuring the travel experience is a safe and secure one for individual passengers. As well as responding to adverse situations involving criminal behaviour on the transport systems, security staff are also responsible for providing customer service to all passengers.
Other Railway Jobs
Other roles on the railway network and rail system include:
- Catering staff.
- Station announcers.
- Contract managers.
- Station managers.
- Commercial managers.
- Rail replacement bus co-ordinators.
- Platform and train cleaners.
Railway Training schemes and apprenticeships
Graduate Railway Jobs
Network Rail and a number of train companies offer graduate development programmes, which aim to develop project management abilities, alongside personal and leadership qualities. The goal is to establish the comprehensive technical and professional training required to prepare managers for such complex operating companies.
Student Rail Jobs
Undergraduate placements are available with many of the engineering disciplines in the network and the operating companies' contractors. It is also possible to gain experience in commercial management and quantity surveying, in addition to the engineering degree placement.
Some of the major international contractor companies even provide places on part-time degree courses for employees, enabling study combined with employment and hands-on experience, leading to management opportunities. This is commonly in areas such as mechanical and electrical engineering, as well as commercial management.
Network rail and certain companies sponsor apprenticeships in areas such as electrical and mechanical engineering, high-voltage engineering, construction and civil engineering. While there is uncertainty over employment in the industry, the biggest contractors are stepping in to ensure that apprenticeships are honoured with employment opportunities in the UK.