Signalling opportunities

Signalling matters to millions. Keep trains moving and people safe.

Network Rail signaller, looking at large computer screens showing the rail network.
Signal operations room

What is signalling?

If you’ve never considered working in signalling before, you might be wondering what it’s all about. So, here’s a quick introduction to what signalling is and why it matters to millions.

Signalling is essentially a sophisticated traffic light system for the railway. It gives us a simple way to keep a huge number of trains moving safely across the various routes in our network. Our signallers help us do this by keeping track of trains, maintenance work and other unexpected issues and deciding whether or not their section of track is safe at any given moment. They then quickly communicate this to train drivers and colleagues using specialist lineside equipment.

Without expert signallers, the railway simply couldn’t function, and passengers all over the country would be affected.

For a more detailed look, please watch this video.

Becoming a signaller

Signallers range from grades one to nine and although the level of responsibility varies, every signaller at every grade has passengers, freight and colleagues counting on them. We look for people who are genuinely interested in signalling. Individuals who are willing to learn, keen to develop and who want to transfer their skills here. We have opportunities for everyone, at every level to build a career with us.

If you’re an entry-level signaller, you’ll complete a comprehensive training course before being paired with an experienced signaller in a signal box. This will give you a chance to put your training into practice, boost your confidence and start doing meaningful work every day.

But as a higher-level signaller, you could be taking charge of some of the UK’s highest profile and busiest lines. As every signalling box and operating centre is different, you’ll be given support and time to settle in, working alongside an expert signaller who’s familiar with your new location.

What will you be doing?

Whatever grade signaller you are, you’ll be responsible for everything that moves on your section of track. And your decision-making skills, will make all the difference to the safety of that track and your colleagues.

You’ll need to react to changing situations, make quick decisions and stay calm under pressure. This is why all new signallers spend time on a residential course, where you’ll learn valuable skills that will set you up for an exciting career. After this initial training, you’ll start working alongside an experienced signaller until you feel ready to work by yourself.

Signallers typically work a range of shift patterns, which can include evenings, weekends and bank holidays. This means it’s not for everyone. Some people love the variety of work patterns, others don’t, and only you can decide what’s right for you.

There’s a real mix of lone-working and team-working too. This varies, depending on your grade and your location, but typically lower grade signallers will spend more time working by themselves, whereas higher grades often work more centrally, within larger teams.

It’s a very rewarding role. Every day you’ll face new challenges, some you’ll expect and some you won’t, but each day you’ll take satisfaction that your training, problem-solving skills and quick thinking have helped passengers and freight get to their destination safely.

Debbie, the signaller, standing near a signal box

Is it right for you?

You don’t need any specific experience to start a career in signalling. It’s more important that you’ve got the right transferable skills and behaviours. Here are the things that matter in signalling.

  • Good communication skills – share clear safety critical information with your colleagues and maintain the highest standards.
  • Eager to learn – stay curious. There’s lots to learn if you want to keep on growing and progressing.
  • Comfortable working alone – Independent thinking, self-confidence and motivation are essential to operating effectively on your own.
  • A good team player – Sharing knowledge and experience, collaborating and getting stuck in, enjoy the benefits of being part of our wider team.
  • Good attention to detail – Stay focused, alert and be able to quickly concentrate on tasks. It’s an important job that you’re doing!
  • Able to multi-task – Lots of things will be happening at the same time and you’ll need to safely and effectively manage them all.
  • Calm under pressure – Challenging events can happen at any time. So, you’ll need to be able to handle high pressure situations.
  • Decisive – Good judgement, knowledge and self-belief are vital to making safety critical decisions.

Where would you be working?

If you’re an entry-level signaller, you’ll usually be put in charge of your own signal box. So, you’ll be in a signal box overlooking the track, getting hands on and seeing the impact of your work every time a train full of commuters, mums, dads and students whistles past your signalling box.

At higher grades you’ll have the opportunity to work in our Rail Operating Centres. Working in these state-of-the-art centres means swapping levers for computers and remotely managing multiple signals across larger areas. This means you’ll be responsible for more tracks and more trains, but you’ll be a lot further away from what’s happening. You’ll also need strong IT skills at higher grades.

With a range of different environments available across the network, it will be important for you to consider which one is right for you.

Signal box with manual leverl frames
Signal box with manual lever frames.
Two Network Rail workers, looking at computer displays in a Rail Operating Centre.
Computer display technology at a Rail Operating Centre.

Higher grade signalling opportunities

Join us working on large, complex and challenging sections of railway. You could be taking charge of some of the UK’s highest profile and busiest lines. For example, our Grade 9 signallers working on the ultra-modern Elizabeth Line from the Thames Valley Signalling Centre.

Every minute matters to passengers and freight customers. Although you won’t need rail experience, you’ll have an excellent background in responding to operational and safety-critical situations, often balancing multiple tasks at any time.

It’s a big responsibility but it’s also a huge opportunity to do meaningful work everyday.

History matters: Maidstone West signal box

“Carrying on the tradition of a signaller is a great privilege to me.” Take a look inside the unknown world of the signal box.

Our people matter to us

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A range of pension schemes

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28 days annual leave entitlement

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My benefits – Our discounted online shopping site

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Subsidies of up to 75% on rail and underground season tickets

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A range of discounted offers and other benefits

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2 weeks paid reserve leave for our Armed Forces community

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