A railway engineer is a person who inspects and repairs railway tracks, bridges, tunnels and viaducts. This job can also known as a rail track maintenance worker, railway worker and track operative. They all mean the same thing.
Railway Engineers are in-demand professionals. They work in a highly specialised industry. Because of the importance of their role, working in this field can be a rewarding career choice. Being a railway engineer can build for a life-long career.
What Does a Railway Engineer Do
The work of a railway engineer is to inspect and repair railway tracks, bridges, tunnels and viaducts. The type of work you will undertake every day will be the same. It will most likely include:
- Installing and renewing tracks, tunnels, embankments, cuttings, level crossings and bridges.
- Carefully checking that sections of the track are set at the correct height and distance apart.
- Inspecting track lines for any defects and assessing the track for appropriate maintenance.
- Working with the rest of your team.
- Clearing potential obstacles and report incidents and potential dangers.
- Using hand signals appropriately and be a lookout when working on the track to keep your team safe.
Senior railway engineers are also needed. They will estimate the costs and timescales of a project. They also have responsibility for signing off projects to regulation and ensuring health and safety standards are kept to.
Who Employs Railway Engineers
Railway engineers are mostly employed by large engineering companies. Many of these are household names. These companies are then employed by Network Rail or Transport for London or other transport providers on a project basis. The engineering companies are hired to carry out rail track improvement and maintenance.
Job Salary for a Railway Engineer
The official UK Government statistics on the job salary for a railway engineer places the starting wage at £30,000. This rises to £43,000 for experienced railway engineers.
Another source estimates that the average railway engineer’s salary in the UK to be £41,432.42. This is based on a recorded minimum of £21,320 and a maximum salary of £91,000.
Some other figures are useful to allow you to compare salaries. In the UK, the national average wage is estimated to be around £30,000 according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). The current National Living Wage (which must be paid to people aged 23 and over) means the minimum untaxed income for a 40-hour week is over £21,000 per year.
As with other jobs, there are significant regional differences in the salary of a railway engineer in different parts of the UK. Railway engineers in London and the South East of England are paid more than in other parts of the UK. This is similar to other professions.
There will also be large differences in salary for railway engineers. This depends on the type of company where you are employed. Large multinational firms will generally usually pay more than smaller ones.
How Often is a Railway Engineer Normally Paid
Railway engineers will be paid a salary every month.
Who Negotiates a Job Salary for a Railway Engineer
Railway engineers working will be hired at a set salary. Trade unions in large workforces play a role in negotiating overall wage levels in the industry.
What Sort of Contracts Do Railway Engineers Have
Railway engineers will usually have a fixed contract. This will show clear rates of pay, working hours and a specific job description.
Earning Potential of a Railway Engineer
Railway engineers can make an additional income by doing overtime with their companies.
How to Become a Railway Engineer
There are three main routes to becoming a railway engineer:
- Applying directly to a company is another option. If you want to apply directly for jobs, you’ll usually need some experience that demonstrates your skills and aptitude for this type of work. This could be manual work in a related role like construction or engineering. If you do this, you will enter at the trainee level.
- Following a college course.
- Taking an appropriate apprenticeship.
Qualifications/Courses – Railway Engineer
Following a college course in engineering is a useful route into the profession of railway engineering. Options are either a Level 2 Certificate in Mechanical Engineering or a Level 2 Diploma in Maintenance Engineering Technology. To enrol on a course like this you’ll usually need 2 or more GCSEs at grades 9 to 3 (A* to D), or equivalent.
You can also take an apprenticeship route and do a Rail Engineering Operative Level 2 Intermediate apprenticeship. To enrol on a course like this you’ll usually need some GCSEs. This will usually include English and maths.
General Skills Required
- You will need good listening skills and analytical skills.
- To be a successful railway engineer you must be thorough and pay attention to detail.
- A positive attitude to problem-solving is needed to be a successful railway engineer. You will also need persistence and determination.
- You must be a good team player. This is because you need to work constructively with others carrying out aligned tasks in engineering.
- A good memory is helpful. This is because the work can often be repetitive. Therefore it is important to keep focus during complex engineering work.
- You must be able to carry out basic tasks on a computer or hand-held device.
- Strong communication skills are needed. This is because you will need to explain concepts and solutions in a way non-engineering specialists can understand. This also applies to maintaining correspondence when monitoring a project. You will also sometimes have to present solutions and results.
- You will usually have to wear protective clothing.
- The ability to pass your medical test and any occasional drug and alcohol tests.
- A driving licence is an advantage. This is because you can work in different locations as a railway engineer. Some railway engineers also need a driving licence if the work involves driving company vehicles.
Specific Engineering and Technical Skills of a Railway Engineer
- The ability to use, repair and maintain machines and tools is essential.
- Leadership qualities within a team will be needed by you if you are a railway engineer in a senior role. For instance, this includes being capable of delegating tasks. Senior engineers also need to keep staff focused. You also need to be confident that all members understand shared common goals.
- Basic knowledge of building and construction is required of you.
- You must possess physical skills like movement, coordination, and dexterity.
- You will need some design skills and knowledge to progress in the role.
- Some railway engineers are engaged in drafting technical reports.
- Organisation and time management skills are always needed. Above all, you will need to match your workload and multiple streams of work.
- Resourcefulness, project management, are critical. For example, prioritisation, workflow management and strategy planning must all be present in a successful railway engineer.
- Good mathematical skills are particularly helpful to you as a railway engineer.
Challenges of Being a Railway Engineer
- Railway engineering is always complicated. Knowing the scope of your abilities is important. If engineering issues go beyond your scope, then you must act. The right thing to do is to refer the issue to a more senior or specialised person in the team.
- Appropriate judgement is essential to identify problems and glitches. You will also need to exercise skill in every aspect of your work. Small mistakes can sometimes grow into big problems.
- As a railway engineer, you will need to be constantly vigilant to get things right.
- Your working environment will usually be physically demanding. Above all, you will need to be prepared to work outdoors in all weathers.
- Your working environment will also be a safety-critical environment. This is because of live wires and working on train tracks.
- You will have to have a medical test as part of the selection process. A medical test will include checking your hearing and vision.
- You must always use the correct hand signals to communicate with the rest of your team. This helps avoid accidents.
- Railway engineers need to properly assess risks and dangers on every occasion.
- The pressure of workload will always be a factor for you. Above all, you must keep focused to meet deadlines and deliver on time.
- There is a strong chance you will need to do on-call work. Because of this some companies ask that you live no more than an hour away from the location you wish to work
Type of Person Suited for this Work
- You should be a methodical person with a patient outlook.
- Railway workers must be able to deal with stress.
- You must be self-disciplined and focused. For instance, railway engineers must be able to follow rules and health and safety instructions.
- You must be someone who is methodical, intelligent and possesses an eye for detail.
- A person who can follow rules and instructions to the letter makes a good railway engineer.
- You need to be a good communicator. Similarly, this means communicating complicated engineering concepts in a way that others can easily understand.
- Railway engineers must be prepared to work shifts on a rota system.
General Expected Working Hours
It is estimated that railway engineers work around 45 to 47 hours a week. Most railway engineers work on a rota system. This will involve weekend, night-time and Bank Holiday work. This is because much of the maintenance of the UK’s rail network happens at night or on Sundays.
Location of Work
Railway engineers are usually employed by specialist engineering companies. In this role your working environment will usually be physically demanding and outdoors in all weathers.
Railway Engineers have a wide range of career prospects.
Some railway engineers specialise in an area. Specialisms usually come with a greater salary.
Another option is promotion opportunities. These opportunities can exist especially within large companies. When you get promoted you could become a project manager or get promoted to supervisor or team leader.
Other roles can open up for you with experience and further training. Over time you could have a role as a track inspector, engineering technician, track designer or manager.