The railway sector could be for you – here’s why

Written by: Georgina Bloomfield
Published On: 21 Jun 2016

The railway industry in the UK is positively booming. Nearly 20% of all European passenger journeys take place in the UK alone. The network is the fastest growing in Europe, and opportunities will continue to expand in the sector. There are currently 2,500 stations in the UK running 4,000 trains with 32,000 track kilometres. This is only going to expand over years to come, and the sector will have a demand for engineers to not only create these new expansions but to maintain the current ones too. If you’re considering the rail industry as a potential career, read on.

Travel the globe

Rail opportunities are available all around the globe, not just in the UK. If you take up a career in rail, there can be plenty of opportunities to work all around the world.

There’s money in it

According to, the salary for a graduate scheme with Network Rail is at approx. £24,500. There’s also plenty of room to grow, learn and get salary increases along the way. According to Glassdoor, a project manager at Network Rail can rake in £44,699 and a project management assistant can earn approx. £28,172.

Job security

We all know that the rail industry isn’t going to go anywhere soon. There will always be a constant demand for railway in the UK, which means jobs are very likely to stay in demand too. It’s not just all about Network Rail. There are other equally important companies like Transport for London. There’s so much variety in this sector that you can effectively build and create your own career path. With the possibility of the HS2 and Crossrail projects, joining the rail industry has never been so exciting. 

You can specialise in anything

As with many engineering jobs, you can have a background in all sorts of different things and still have a fair chance of working in what seems like an unrelated sector. You can specialise in materials, electronics, mechanical, telecoms and more. There’s plenty of room for extra learning and progression, and if you have come from a different background, you’ll have plenty of transferrable skills you can carry over.

Fresh, new technologies

The UK is one of the most pioneering countries in the world to work in. If you choose to work in the rail industry, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to work with the latest state of the art technology.

It does have its perks

Every job has parks (or at least most of them do) and a job in the rail industry is one of them. Network Rail in particular boasts many perks, one of which is up to 75% off rail travel, as well as various other discounts and bonus schemes.

But you will face challenges

The rail industry is constantly changing, and as new plans are made, old plans get scrapped. We still don’t know whether HS2 will actually go ahead or whether the government will use the funding to update and maintain existing railways. Facing challenges is a good thing, but you’ll have to be able to adapt to change. Projects in rail must be prioritised based in the funding available.

You will need certain skills to work in this area.

Teamwork is vital in the rail industry, especially on long-term projects where you may be working with the same people for long periods of time. If you’ve come from an electrical engineering background or mechanical engineering, this will play to your advantage slightly more than other disciplines. If you have telecom skills, these too will be in great demand as Network Rail increases and maintains its traffic management system. If you’re a problem solver, the rail industry is for you, where you’ll be faced with many challenges along the way. You also need to have an awareness of health and safety, especially if you were to be working on site projects. A reasonable level of fitness is required for the same reason; you’ll most likely be doing a lot of manual work. A lot of rail jobs continue into weekends and bank holidays, so if you have a willingness to work during these times (and sometimes at night too) then this can be to your advantage.

If you’ve chosen to pursue a career in rail, you’ll find it to be one of the most varying and interesting engineering jobs you can get. You’re guaranteed a level of job security, travel, decent benefits and knowing you’re contributing to a constant demand the UK has for its transport. If you’re not sure where to start, Network Rail offers apprenticeships.

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