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How to: Get into the UK rail industry

24 Aug

In 2016, the number of passenger journeys on Great Britain’s railways totalled 1.69 billion, a record high since the 1950s. Right now, the UK is seeing major, exciting developments in the transport industry and the demand for skilled workers is on a high.

There’s no time like the present, so if you’re considering moving from another industry or simply starting out in your career, the rail industry is diverse and can open up a variety opportunities in your working life.

Now, how to get into the industry? That’s something our rail recruitment experts are here to help with.

Where do I fit into the rail industry?

You might have seen a job description that has taken your fancy and matches some of your skills, or you could still be figuring out where you’d fit into the rail industry.

If you haven’t already done so; firstly, get an idea of the industry. Do your research on the industry as a whole and the type of work you’re interested in to build your knowledge on it. Still sure it’s for you? Look up some relevant job descriptions and see how you fit into those.

What are your skills, your interests? What are your drivers and most importantly, what do you see yourself doing? Whether you enjoy problem solving, manual labour or you’re simply enthusiastic to learn new skills in an exciting and fast paced industry, rail can be the step towards your dream job.

Talk to the experts

You’ve decided where you want your career to go and what kind of jobs you’d like to apply to; for example, Trackman, Lookout or a Machine Controller. It’s now worth taking time out to consult with a recruiter who deals with rail applications on a daily basis. They’re experts in the field and know what they’re looking for, so it’s worth seeking their advice before you do anything else. As a Resourcer for Primat, I get a lot of calls from people asking for advice, so please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn and get started on your journey into the industry!

Ask about any qualifications, certifications or courses you may need to complete for the types of roles you’re interested in. A lot of workers in rail operate in ‘gangs’, so it’s also worth joining some Facebook rail groups so that you can start to build up some contacts in the industry.


It should go without saying that you should be able to ‘walk the walk’. Qualifications are an essential requirement in a lot of track roles, sometimes with courses specific to rail work. For candidates starting out in the industry, it’s expected that you would have a minimum of three small tool competencies, for example; Cobra TT (Kango), Impact Wrench and Rail Saw.

These types of courses are key to securing rail work and can help you to increase your knowledge in health & safety and equipment handling, as well as growing your skillset which could help you in a variety of roles. Becoming accredited in the required skills and courses will be crucial to differentiating between you and another candidate.

A common way for new entrants breaking into the rail industry is with an 18 month apprenticeship. Intertrain is one of Primat’s recommended training providers for railway training courses. A number of rail workers also choose to gain their NVQ Level 2 in Rail Engineering Track.  Further information on apprenticeships in the UK rail industry can be found on Network Rail’s Training Site.


You’ve done your research, got your accreditations, made some contacts and have just seen a vacancy on our website that you want to apply to for.

It would be worth getting in touch with the recruiter assigned to the job to ask a little bit more about the role and try to find out more about the requirements. This will help you in your application and should give you a bit more of an insight into what may be expected of you.

If you haven’t already got one, we’d recommend making a CV. No matter the job, it’s a great place to start and can also acts as your own personal log of the experience you’ve gained throughout your career. If you’re not sure where to start, check out our blog on how to write a CV specific to the rail industry. Remember to include your Sentinel Card number to your CV / application. This way, our resourcing team can check your competencies online when matching you to vacancies.

And that’s it! Your journey into a career in rail has begun. Click on the big ‘Apply’ button and get yourself registered for work.


Tagged In: Primat, Rail
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