Train controllers manage an area of track and authorise all activities that take place on that part of the railway including the work of contractors. They need to manage schedules around station operations.
In some organisations, they may also be responsible for managing aspects of emergency situations and coordinate alternative transport when train services have been disrupted.
Knowledge, skills and attributes
Train controllers need high-level communication skills, critical thinking, strong problem-solving skills and the ability to work under extreme pressure and in emergency situations. They must have a good memory for learning safety procedures and regulations and be able to concentrate for long periods on detailed information. They have a high degree of personal and decision-making autonomy.
Train controllers usually work from a control centre using computerised network control systems to coordinate trains, ensuring they are on the correct path and running on time. The work is fast paced and has significant responsibility. They form part of a team providing a 24 hour roster.
Entrance requirements and ongoing training and development
Competition for train controller positions is strong. Entrants may start in other roles such as signallers, train drivers or station assistants and work their way up into this role. You can become a train controller without formal qualifications, but employers usually require completion of relevant secondary school qualifications.
In Australia, there are a range of vocational qualifications in rail signalling, rail network control or tram/light rail control that may be offered as traineeships.
Much of what you need to know will be learnt on the job as technology and software change. You will need to do additional in-house technical training such as voice communication systems and signal boxes. A background in logistics would be well regarded in this field. The sites below will provide you more information.
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).
For more information
There are many career options and where you take your career will depend on many factors. Typically, you would start as a trainee train controller and with further training and experience, work through a series of grades until you become a supervisor or manager. You may also move into training and assessment.
In Australia, there are related vocational qualifications in rail safety management and rail operations that may help you in your career.
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.
The jobs below may require additional qualifications as well as experience.