I started 31st July, so I am one of the first batch of proper apprentices. Its been confirmed by my local operations manager now too. You get your full pay as soon as you pass out on a desk. It is true however you are locked to a location for a year, there are also some additional Maths and English (functional skills) test to be sat whilst at signalling school, however these are nothing to worry about, they will not affect you passing the course. The signalling school course now lasts 12 weeks too which means you have more learning and simulator time.