A career as a signaller

Discussion in 'Railway Jobs & Careers' started by gradient, 16 May 2016.

  1. gradient

    gradient Member

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    Good afternoon

    I am very interested in a career as a signaller. I am just trying to learn a little more about a couple of aspects if anyone would be kind enough to help

    I have read that, once the transition to ROCs is completed, all signalling will be done out of ROCs. Obviously this move to ROCs takes advantage of modern technology and my concern is that technology will reduce the number of signallers employed, in years to come.

    Is this a genuine concern for signallers? It looks a great job, but I want it to be a job for life, if I am fortunate enough to find and be accepted into a role.

    Also, I have read that, traditionally, signallers were recruited into a lower grade signal box and worked their way up to higher grades. Is it possible to be recruited off the street into, say, Manchester ROC?

    I live within a commutable distance of Manchester and Derby ROCs, so these seem a sensible place to start looking, given that these ROCs will consume the jobs of local boxes, if I've understood correctly?

    I'm very grateful for any advice

    Kind regards

    Gradient

    :smile:
     
  2. nom de guerre

    nom de guerre Member

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    Pun intended? :)

    From an RMT circular, dated 30 March:

    "Network Rail informed us that they are now in the process of reviewing their ‘National Operations Strategy’ which plans to close 850 Signal and Crossing Boxes and movement of all control to the 12 designated ROCs. It appears that there have been huge cost increases and difficulties with funding for signalling schemes. As a result they have identified 30 buildings that could be utilised as “SubROCs” which are now being assessed.

    This is a significant change in strategy by the company and we anticipate this would have a positive impact on our members. The company shift is to schemes that provide the greatest benefits along a Line of Route, rather than ad-hoc locations. They further stated that they intended to use existing technology more and more, as a Stop Gap. Network Rail advised that it is still their intention to control the whole of their Railway Network by ETCS technology however this may take considerably longer to deliver."

    In other words, the ROC 'master' plan will be significantly delayed, and may never be completed (at least, not in its current format).


    Possible? Yes.

    ROC jobs are offered to internal candidates first, but if none are interested, vacancies can be filled externally. (This has already happened at one of the ROCs around here).
     
  3. TomBoyd

    TomBoyd Member

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    Nom covered it all pretty well. My advice, get in. Apply to whatever box you can. If you can move for it, all the better. When you're in, you've got the internal jobs list, which is much, much larger.
     
  4. gradient

    gradient Member

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    Very interesting information! Have they gone on the specify where the SubROCs are? Probably a little early in the plan for that.

    I assume from your comment that it's decidedly unlikely to come in off the street in Manchester ROC then? I guess these vacancies are snaffled by internal candidates. Makes sense.

    I will keep my eyes peeled for signaller vacancies. Nothing in my neck of the woods at the moment.

    p.s. in truth, unintentional pun! :D
     
  5. contrad!ction

    contrad!ction Member

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    I agree with what my two colleagues have said above, the internal jobs list is far, far better than the external one - from memory over the past year or so there have been a steady supply of jobs going at both EMSCC and Manchester ROC of various grades (as well as loads of other good ones).

    Your best bet is to get in anywhere (literally) and then as soon as you're in the company look for a more permanent vacancy.

    Depending on how fixed you are at the moment relocating for 6-12 months before moving back 'home' would be the quickest way in.

    You may change your mind about being in a ROC as well, there's a lot to be said for a nice PSB/IECC/ASC, some of which have no closure dates at present.
     
  6. gradient

    gradient Member

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    To be honest, I thought an ROC was a good thing to aim for because I assumed it would have a high level of traffic (for want of a better phrase) and therefore, be a good challenge and provide genuine intellectual stimulation. I am very new to all this so need to better understand similarities and differences between the various options you mention.

    Is it easy to explain? Or possibly point me in the right direction of somewhere I can better understand this.

    I am a fairly new parent so a relocation is not an option for the time being. Would not be an issue, longer term.

    Thanks for the info :smile:

    p.s. any of these PSBs/IECCs/ASCs with no closure dates at the moment within a commutable distance from Crewe?
     
    Last edited: 16 May 2016
  7. nom de guerre

    nom de guerre Member

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    Define "intellectual stimulation" :)

    A Grade 3, AB box with a set of manual gates and four trains per hour could arguably be more stimulating, in terms of activity per train, than a Grade 7 workstation equipped with ARS, handling 30/tph.
     
  8. contrad!ction

    contrad!ction Member

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    I shall try and explain as best I can but nothing is ever simple on the railway!

    ROCs are signalling centres but also contain 'other' railway functions (Network Rail & TOC control/electrical control/training etc...)
    Here is a link to some photos of EMSCC to show you what the workstations look like etc...

    PSBs (power signal boxes) are based around panels with buttons as opposed to computer workstations, the signalling itself is the same (same rules etc...) just a different interface. (Photos of Crewe PSB)

    An IECC (integrated electrical control centre) were signalling centres based around multiple computer workstations first developed in the early 90's (I think?) and look very similar to the ROC workstations (Photos of Tyneside IECC (Newcastle))

    Crewe, Chester & Warrington PSBs all have at least 10 years left. You've also got Sandhills IECC in Liverpool which has at least 20 years left. Stoke Signalling Centre will also be around for a while yet.

    As has been said, the ROC plan is very 'fluid' though and everything is slipping back (in some cases by 5-10 years or even indefinitely). In all honesty once you're in it's very, very unlikely that they will just let you go - most people are relocated into the ROC or are offered an alternative role elsewhere (in my experience).

    This.
     
    Last edited: 16 May 2016
  9. TomBoyd

    TomBoyd Member

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    1) I don't know about Manchester, but they've taken people off the streets into Three Bridges ROC since it opened.

    2) I moved to Milton Keynes for 6 months for my first (grade 2) job, before returning to London for my current (grade 8) role. Obviously I was lucky enough to have no obligations at the time, but it's something worth considering for the career.
    Also bear in mind that the internal jobs list is open to ALL Network Rail employees. Our last 4-5 trainees have come from Station Staff background. Manchester Picadilly is NR run isnt it?

    3) To add to my excellent colleagues' assessments, the grades vary hugely in terms of how you 'feel' the volume of traffic. A grade 6 AB box (probably the highest AB grade) will feel much, much more stressful most of the time than a grade 8 or 9 panel/workstation, which can (CAN!) be a relatively sedate experience at times of normal running.

    4) It's a great job.
     
  10. gradient

    gradient Member

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    Sincere thanks to you all for the fantastic advice and information you have shared with me.

    I shall no doubt return with more questions in the near future

    Cheers

    :D
    --- old post above --- --- new post below ---
    So, in my over-eagerness to learn and crack on it's taken me all of a few hours to return with a few questions!! :lol:

    What are the shift patterns like? Do they vary massively from place to place?

    I have understood that it's a good idea to get in at any grade of box as a foot in the door. Following that, to look to apply as an internal candidate and have a greater volume of opportunities. If people show the right application and performance in their role, how possible are these opportunities? Are there plenty of people who entered in a grade 2 box, looking for progression yet stuck in their roles? The reason I ask, is that I have commitments (mortgage, family etc..) and could manage on a much lower salary than i'm used to in the short term but it would be an issue, longer term. Not trying to be disrespectful on this point, just trying to fully understand the situation.

    Do vacancies open to external applicants appear very often on the NR website? I can see Maidstone and Talacre at the moment, but I'm wondering how long I may have to wait for something a little more suitable for me. (This is just my excitement asking this question as it seems such a great job!)

    How long does the recruitment process take, typically?

    Would people be willing to share pros/cons of the job in their personal opinion?

    Thank you again

    :smile:
     
  11. contrad!ction

    contrad!ction Member

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    Shift patterns do vary a lot from box to box and there are many local agreements in place regarding relief times etc...but as a rough guide most(?) places do 8 hour shifts 6am-2pm, 2pm-10pm & 10pm-6am and some do 12 hour shifts 7am-7pm & 7pm-7am. As I said though there may well be variations on the above so I can't comment more generally.

    So long as you aren't totally awful then progression to the higher grade boxes should follow reasonably easily - I went from a grade 2 to a grade 8 (as TomBoyd did) fairly quickly. In fact, most of my colleagues that I've spoken to in the local grade 2/3/4 boxes are quite happy where they are and would rather not have the hassle/stress of working in a larger box/signalling centre. The internal list has many more vacancies on there though (15-20 last time I looked of all grades 1-10) with less applicants.

    From memory both Runcorn & Macclesfield boxes have recruited externally in the past year or so, I couldn't say when they'd next recruit externally though as I'm not aware of how short staffed they are in the North West!

    The recruitment process takes a few months usually.

    The job itself ranges from being pretty sedate when everything is running well to insanely stressful when you've got trains on fire/a fatality/tracks down/a points failure etc...one of the things I enjoy (personally) is that I'm sure what I'll be dealing with when I go into work. Also I don't take my work home and the time off is quite nice too! The shift work can take it's toll sometimes though.
     
  12. gradient

    gradient Member

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    Does it tend to be 4 days on, 3 days off? I guess if you're doing 12 hour shifts it's 3 days per leave cycle?

    How quickly did you go from grade 2 to 8?

    I have noticed 4 x grade 8 signallers advertised today for London. Sounds great, shame I don't live closer to London!!
     
  13. Llanigraham

    Llanigraham Established Member

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    12 hour shifts time vary a lot. Scotland seem to be all 1200 - 2400 - 1200, whereas Wales is 0600 - 1800 - 0600.
     
  14. TomBoyd

    TomBoyd Member

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    Something to bear in mind for progression is that for internal candidates, there are incentives for you to be moved.

    Example:

    I work in a Grade 2 box. I get a grade 2 salary. I am happy, but want more. I know my LOM wants to keep me, because replacing me is expensive. I like my LOM, but I like me more, so I apply for a Grade 8 job, off area.

    I interview with the other area's LOM, LOM2, and it goes really well. 2 weeks later, he offers me the job. My LOM is a little annoyed, because he has to replace me, either with a signaller (which takes time and money to recruit and train) or with overtime. It might be that he's not in a position to release me at all! The months go by... my LOM promises me the world, he's recruiting someone soon, they're going to signalling school, etcetc.

    The months pass, it's been 3 months since you received the job offer, and still no end in sight! Or is there? 3 months after the job offer, your LOM is now obliged (he literally has to) pay you your new wage. ouch! So, either he keeps you in a grade 2 box paying you grade 8 money (woohoo!) or realises that you're now way too expensive for him. He releases you into the tender care of LOM2, who rejoices.

    Hopefully that makes sense!

    Of course if the story had the same grade in each job, you're probably never going to leave!
     
  15. nom de guerre

    nom de guerre Member

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    Good old Higher Grade pay :)

    Note there is a degree of ambiguity over when the three month period begins. The Red Book lists it as three months "from the date of advertisement", but some HR departments interpret that as from the closing date, or from the date of the job offer. Be prepared to argue!

    It doesn't always force your release, either. A neighbouring branch line had a Grade 2 on Grade 8 money and a Grade 6 Relief on Grade 9 (plus 24% premium) for well over two years. The latter got close to six figures during a calendar year (doing a lot of RDW, admittedly). Ironically, both ended up staying after a resignalling scheme was indefinitely postponed - restored to their original grade, but allowed to keep their HGD 'bonus'. Nice work if you can get it...

    Sometimes three, sometimes four. You also do a split week - three days, RD, three nights - once every four weeks, to earn the long weekend (which is seven-and-a-bit days off, at our place).

    In this part of the world, 12-hour rosters are only used at IECC/ROCs; all single-manned boxes work an 8-hour roster (with 12-hour Sundays). This may well differ elsewhere.

    On my first route, the unwritten rule was that you weren't allowed to apply for promotion until you'd done at least six months at your first box (to demonstrate a degree of reliability and competency). There was nothing preventing you from applying on the system, but your application would just be rejected. Again, this may not be the case everywhere. I did a year at my first (Grade 3) box before moving on. Also bear in mind, the current internal application process involves submitting an 'Experience Profile' document. You may not have much material after three, six or even twelve months.

    AFAIK everywhere except Scotland changes over at 0600/0700 - 1800/1900. A 2400 changeover sounds pretty grim!
     
    Last edited: 19 May 2016
  16. TomBoyd

    TomBoyd Member

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    Grade 9 24%?? Holy shoot!

    In answer to the other Q about when we moved up, I applied for my current role while in Signalling School for my first job! I spent about 6 months in my grade 2 before moving.
     
  17. gradient

    gradient Member

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    Wow!! Were you 'off the street' into NR or internal move into signalling school? Kudos for having the confidence to apply for your signalling promotion before you'd even started your first signalling job 'proper' :D

    Makes perfect sense, thanks for taking the time to explain.

    I must say my overriding feeling is that it's a great job, very keen to find something suitable now!

    Certainly sounds like you get a perfectly reasonable amount of time off! :smile:

    Even 12 months is not an issue, it feels like the culture is conducive to people having the chance to fulfill their potential. That's all you can ask for really in my opinion.

    Cheers again
     
    Last edited: 19 May 2016
  18. woblynne

    woblynne Member

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    Hi, another possibility regarding shift patterns is whether the box closes out overnight (not sure how common this is?)

    My hours are Early's: 0450-1400, and Lates: 1400-0015

    Sunday hours are slightly different, 0830-1515 and 1515-2315

    We get 4 days off at the end of a run of 6-7 shifts with 5 days off once within the 12 week roster.

    Thanks
    Mark
     
    Last edited: 19 May 2016
  19. contrad!ction

    contrad!ction Member

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    Similar story this end. In an ideal world I'd have stayed in my first box longer (1-2 years ish) but in the days of fixed term contracts I needed the security of a permanent role. As long as you've got the right stuff going straight into a grade 7/8/9 box off the street is perfectly possible but be prepared to learn a lot in the first year or so (some may disagree...)

    A 12-24-12 roster sounds awful though!
     
  20. TomBoyd

    TomBoyd Member

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    Yup, I was off the street into Signalling School. I asked my LOM first about going to the grade 8, and he said yes! So there you go.

    Good luck!
     
  21. gradient

    gradient Member

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    Really so keen for something suitable to be listed on the NR careers site, checking it very frequently!

    I'm clearly impatient!!

    *crosses fingers... :D
     
  22. 8d3

    8d3 Member

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    The salary for the Signaller post I've applied for is approx £31,000. Any idea what grade that would be and what one could expect from a Signaller post that is that particular grade?
     
    Last edited: 2 Jun 2016
  23. t o m

    t o m Member

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    Grade 4
     
  24. nom de guerre

    nom de guerre Member

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    Realtime Trains or similar will give you an idea of the traffic levels.

    A Quail map will detail the area and infrastructure the box controls.
     
  25. contrad!ction

    contrad!ction Member

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    Which box is it you've applied for?
     
  26. 8d3

    8d3 Member

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    I've applied for Cardiff.
     
  27. contrad!ction

    contrad!ction Member

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    Probably the South Wales ROC then, some pics:

    South Wales Signalling Centre

    I don't know the workstation grades but I'd imagine Shrewsbury North would be roughly a grade 4.
     
    Last edited: 3 Jun 2016
  28. MG65

    MG65 Member

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    Mark, I have been offered a job as a signaller (still deciding whether to take it or not) with the same shift patterns. I sat down with the missus the other day to work out how many weekends I will get off in a 12 week roster. She works a normal 9-5 job during the week so its about working out how much time we will get to spend with each other. Sounds like you might well be the person to help answer this question? Thanks
     
    Last edited: 14 Jun 2016
  29. Tomnick

    Tomnick Established Member

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    Where is the job? When I was a resident, four in a box, I had one long weekend in four, two of the remaining three with just Sunday off and the other with Saturday as a rest day (but coming off nights). Our boxes closed Saturday and Sunday nights though, and only a single Sunday shift. A lot of true 24/7 jobs had 12 hours shifts over the weekends to reduce the number of weekends worked, which seems like a sensible approach.
     
  30. mac

    mac Member

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    Still deciding Did you not no you would have to work weekends before applying?
     

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