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In New Zealand, the rail industry also carries freight by sea between the North and South Islands. This means additional careers including ferry drivers, forklift drivers and other roles involved in freight handling.and customer service.

Occupation description

A mechanical signaller operates signal equipment to control the running of trains, records the details of trains that pass and notifies the control centre in cases of delay or accident. A signaller may use hand signals but advances in signalling technology have enabled the centralisation of this function in some organisations, with both signalling and train control being managed by network controllers. Importantly, signallers will make decisions that affect the safety of passengers and staff and train services. The signaller will also make decisions, in consultation with train controllers, to prioritise and allocate access for track maintenance. They also provide information through passenger information systems and keep signal boxes safe and clean.

Knowledge, skills and attributes

Signallers need high-level communication, interpersonal and problem-solving skills to work with station staff, contractors, engineers, train crews, clerical staff, yard/depot staff and train controllers. They also need computer skills, analytical skills and close attention to detail for dealing with train movements and emergency situations where quick and safe responses are needed to avoid or minimise train delays. They must be extremely safety conscious.

Working conditions

Signallers generally work in signal boxes in the rail corridor or in offices working on computers. They may be required to work shifts, including weekends and public holidays.

Entrance requirements and ongoing training and development

You can become a signaller without formal qualifications but employers would usually require completion of relevant secondary school qualifications.  Some may come from other roles in rail such as a station assistant. You will receive intensive formal training, on and off the job that may include operating signal equipment, overhead wiring, communications systems and train controlling.  Some organisations may offer traineeships in Mechanical Signalling (AU) or Rail Signalling (AU).

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The value of a career in the rail industry

For even more details on what you might earn, the diversity of companies you could work for and the career opportunities available, visit the following careers and training websites. Careers in Rail by the Australasian Railway Association, About the Rail Industry by Rail Skills Australasia and Rail Training by the Transport and Logistics Industry Skills Council (TLISC).

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Career paths

Typically, a signaller will start as a trainee and with experience and further training, move through a series of signalling grades. You may then become an area controller, shift manager or supervisor, signal box manager, or pursue a career as a standards and compliance officer.

In Australia, you may go on to study an electrical apprenticeship in rail signalling (AU).

This information is generic. Job titles and the experience and qualifications needed to move into other jobs may vary depending on the structure and needs of your organisation and government rules and regulations.

Related Jobs

The jobs below may require additional qualifications as well as experience.

Career Path Flowchart

Typical career path for a mechanical signaller

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