Rail Track Maintenance Worker

Become a rail track maintenance worker

Rail track maintenance workers inspect, repair and maintain railway tracks, bridges, tunnels and viaducts to help keep the trains running smoothly and safely.

If you want a job working outdoors, have good practical skills and can work to high safety standards, this could be an ideal career for you.

To get into this job ou will need a good general standard of education including GCSEs in English and maths. Experience or qualifications in engineering could also be helpful, and apprenticeships offer another route in.

Work activities

As a rail track maintenance worker, you would help repair and maintain the railways, tunnels, bridges and trackside equipment that makes up the country's rail network.

Your duties would include:

  • Fixed-line and mobile telephony networks
  • Copper wire and fibre-optic cabling
  • VoIP communication systems
  • Analogue and digital satellite systems
  • Wireless radio networks providing internet access via PCs, smartphones and tablets

Your work could vary in scale from setting up a communications network in a large organisation, to the installation of a home satellite system. Your work could involve:

  • Installing and renewing track, tunnels, embankments, cuttings, level crossings and bridges
  • Measuring tracks to check sections are at the correct distance apart and at the right height
  • Inspecting tracks for defects, using a combination of eyesight and equipment checks
  • Reporting and clearing potential obstacles, for example after bad weather
  • Carrying out site surveys to identify the maintenance needs of a track section
  • Reporting accidents and incidents
  • Performing lookout and hand signalling duties during trackside operations

As well as hand tools, pneumatic drills and welding equipment, you would operate heavy machinery to lay new track or carry out major repairs.

You would normally work in a small team and take instructions from a team leader under the supervision of a rail engineering technician or engineer.

Working hours and conditions

You would normally work in shifts covering days, nights and weekends and Bank Holidays in all weather conditions.

The safety of rail passengers and staff is very important and your company would provide you with protective clothing like reflective overalls, a hard hat and safety boots. There is also a strict policy on drug and alcohol use. You could be tested for drugs or alcohol at any time.

You may need a driving licence and use of a vehicle to start shifts outside of normal public transport hours.

Skills, interests and qualities

To be a rail track maintenance worker, you will need:

  • A good level of fitness
  • Ability in practical and mechanical work
  • Good team working skills
  • An awareness of safe working practices on the railways
  • The ability to use automated and hand tools
  • Good communication skills
  • A willingness to work flexibly

Training and development

When you start work you would normally be given induction training to learn the safety aspects of the job and company rules. Afterwards, you would work alongside experienced maintenance workers, learning on the job.

Training includes:

  • Personal track safety
  • Basic first aid
  • Lookout and hand signalling duties

On completion of the training you will be issued with your Sentinel Smartcard. This shows that you are competent to work trackside and can be updated online as you complete further training courses. The card lasts for up to five years.

You must hold a Sentinel Smartcard before you can work on the railway. The card is only available to workers employed by rail engineering companies. It is not offered to the general public.

What progression opportunities are available?

On completion of this qualification, individuals may continue working as skilled track operatives. From this point, individuals can go on to become team leaders and supervisors and eventually move in to management positions. Alternatively, completion of the Level 2 Certificate in Rail Engineering Track Maintenance (QCF) may support progression to the Level 3 Diploma in Rail Engineering Track Maintenance (QCF).


Course factsheet under review.