Rail transport operatives


Average Annual Pay

Annual Survey of Hours and Earning 2018


Average Weekly Hours

Annual Survey of Hours and Earning 2018


Unemployment Rate

Labour Force Survey 2018

Future employment projections (Working Futures UK)


Rail transport operatives assist drivers in the operation of passenger and goods trains, drive locomotive engines in coal mines, guide wagons and coaches in marshalling yards and sidings to make up trains, operate signals and points to control the movement of rail traffic, and monitor the operation of surface and underground railways.


There are no formal academic entry requirements. Candidates may be required to have good hearing, eyesight, and normal colour vision and pass a medical examination for entry to some posts. Training is initially undertaken in training centres, followed by practical experience on-the-job. NVQs/ SVQs in Rail Transport Operations are available at Level 2.

Typical tasks

  • provides crews for breakdown trains, allocates relief and replacement crews as necessary, keeps crews informed of any line repairs or restrictions, and checks train running times for punctuality;
  • examines schedules and decides priority of movement of trains, monitors movement of trains and issues instructions to drivers, signal operatives and level crossing keepers;
  • operates signals and opens and closes barriers at level crossings as required;
  • examines shunting instructions, uncouples wagons and coaches, guides movement of carriages using manual points and wagon breaks, links-up carriages, ensures security of couplings and reconnects brake and heating systems;
  • assists drivers in the operation of diesel, diesel-electric, electric and steam locomotives;
  • checks loading of tubs and carriages, and informs driver of load distribution and any special features of route.

Common job titles

Controller, section (railways)
Inspector (transport: railways)
Supervisor, transport (railways)
Attendant, switch (coal mine)
Secondman (railways)
Inspector, goods (railways)
Fireman, engine
Worker, shed (railways)
Controller, train
Guard, ballast
Latcher, wagon (steelworks)
Foreman, parcel (railways)
Assistant, movements (railways)
Man, locomotive (coal mine)
Driver (coal mine: below ground:
Inspector, yard
Controller, chief, deputy (railways)
Driver, engine, diesel (coal mine)
Keeper, crossing, level
Controller (railways)
Inspector, parcels (railways)
Gatekeeper (coal mine)
Worker, railway
Signalman (railways)
Inspector, signalman's
Foreman, capstan
Controller, relief, trainsman's
Worker, goods, railways
Foreman, parcels (railways)
Signalman, relief
Inspector, district (transport: railways)
Foreman (railways)
Inspector, office, head (railways)
Gateman (coal mine)
Keeper, gate (railways)
Foreman, yard (railways)
Guard, goods
Foreman, shed (transport: railways)
Sub-inspector (railways)
Fireman, locomotive
Brakesman (transport: railways)
Attendant, shunter
Inspector, operating (railways)
Guard, loco
Latcher, locomotive
Inspector, cartage (railways)
Inspector, railway
Inspector, mineral (railways)
Operator, points (railways)
Foreman, train
Keeper, gate, crossing (railways)
Driver (coal mine: above ground)
Driver, surface (coal mine)
Attendant, crossing
Inspector, shunting
Shedman (railways)
Assistant, movement (railways)
Attendant, train (coal mine)
Man, motor (railways)
Attendant, point
Operator, signal (railways)
Sheeter (railways)
Fireman, shed
Master, protection
Keeper, crossing
Ferryman (railways)
Employee, railway
Supervisor, railway, area
Attendant, traffic (coal mine)
Keeper, switch
Inspector, train
Lampman (railways)
Supervisor, area
Keeper and pointsman, gate
Supervisor, signalling (railways)
Foreman, running (railways)
Foreman, locomotive
Dropper, fire (railways)
Man, surface (railways)
Mate, examiner's, cable (railways)
Foreman, goods (railways)
Assistant, depot
Inspector, guards (railways)
Controller, locomotive
Stoker, engine (railways)
Gateman (railways)
Man, look-out (railways)
Signalman, railway
Foreman, transport (railways)
Gatekeeper and pointsman
Trainman (railways)
Supervisor, movements (railways)
Yardsman (blast furnace)
Stower (railways)
Allocator, traffic
Driver, diesel (coal mine)
Inspector, traffic (railways)
Sheeter, wagon
Latcher (railways)
Fireman, loco