A career as a signaller

Scotsoup

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26 Jan 2021
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8
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Scotland
Hi, hope it’s ok to post on here.
There’s a signaller position close to me I’m keen to apply for but I’ve got no rail related experience whatsoever. I’m currently low level professional role. Do I stand a chance at all? Thanks
 
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OMGImadeit

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Joined
2 Nov 2020
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5
Location
Essex
I’ll be working in Upminster. I had the interview and was offered the job way back in Oct. I was originally told I’d likely be going to York in January but then in December they confirmed it was March. I handed my notice in at my current job and finished there last week so now 4 week wait until I start.
What about you?
 

Jetsetter

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Joined
15 Oct 2020
Messages
16
Location
London
Hi, hope it’s ok to post on here.
There’s a signaller position close to me I’m keen to apply for but I’ve got no rail related experience whatsoever. I’m currently low level professional role. Do I stand a chance at all? Thanks

I had no rail experience and have recently secured a signalling job! You’ve got to be in it to win it!

Good luck
 
Joined
9 Nov 2017
Messages
258
Hi all,

I'm looking for some advice.

I'm in the very fortunate position to have a job offers for a signaller position at grade 6 AND a position as a trainee train driver.

The signaller position is nearby my current location and the driver position will involve a significant commute or relocation.

So what I am asking is what is the nitty gritty of signaller life, what are the shifts like, what is the earning potential (yes unfortunately money does come into it, that's life) and what are NR like as an employer? Will I occasionally get a nice 3 day weekend? Will the overall quality of life be better than a driver?

I understand they're two very different roles; I have, after all, been through 2 very tough selection and interview processes. Right now I feel the signaller position would be more enjoyable long term and provide more possibility for progression, but I am getting myself in a twist trying to consider all the possible scenarios and what ifs for quality of life in the future.

Thanks all for your help in advance. I know I'm facing a very nice problem to have, I hope you're able to give me an insight to what you would do or what the real life is like on the inside.

What are the lottery numbers tomorrow, out of interest?!

With regards to money and from my general knowledge of driver pay grades, I would imagine that the grade-six salary would only reach parity the basic driver salary after a decent portion of nights, sundays, rest days and overtime etc. It's feasible to earn a similar amount, but you'd certainly have to put more time into one than the other. Something to consider if you've got a family.

Personally, I think there would be much greater long-term progression within Network Rail than as a driver for a TOC. There's the signaller grades to work through (if one is so inclined) and then into controller roles with a reasonably similar grade structure to signallers. From there, there's a myriad of senior operations management positions that may open-up. I've encountered a few senior managers who started out as signalmen in the later BR days.

Maybe some TOC-employed people can advise better than I with regards to driving progression, but I don't know what progression exists beyond moving up the links and as a driver manager?

Consider that the burdon of responsibility will weigh much heavier on you as a signaller than a driver. You will be expected to take the lead in convesations to all except ECOs and the onus is on you to make sure there is a clear understanding of actions to be taken. If you give permission for a farmer to traverse a user-worked-crossing and he snags his load on something or tips over, it's not his fault that he didn't tell you he was towing a long, precariously loaded trailer; it's your fault for not asking. That can bear heavily on some people. That said, a distinct advantage of signalling is that you don't have to tackle fatalities in-person and I can't recall the last time a signalman was killed in the course of duty, so there's that.

The national nature of NR means that later moves will be a lot more frictionless than going from one TOC to another. There's a pretty good selection of benefits within NR and even the career-averaged pension is better than most (but you can still go into the RPS one after a few years if preferred). Something to bear in mind is that you don't receive any travel benefits within NR by default. Some regions have negotiated limited arrangements with TOCs, but that's entirely at their discretion. If you plan to travel by train a lot in your spare time, it's something to consider.

The franchise system is completely up in the air at the moment, but consider that in NR you'll be a public employee; whereas TOCs are commercial entities. Some people prefer to stick with the public sector; other's don't mind. In terms of union representation, ASLEF would represent you as a driver, the RMT for signallers.

Ultimately I'm biased, but I'd go with NR. Well done for being in the position to decide though, that's pretty rare. I did once meet a driver who had been a grade-nine signaller only five years prior. It sounded like he's been fast-tracked into a driver talent-pool because of it. So, the driving route may not be permanently closed-off to you if you decide you've made a mistake along the road!
 

Tom Quinne

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8 Jul 2017
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2,225
Tom,

Thank you for a very relevant and thorough reply.

You have helped me decide with what you've said. Especially with the maybe obvious but easily forgotten nuances of having a start time of a shift that is regular rather than constantly changing even if only slightly. I've seen how this can destroy my sleep in a previous life.

Importantly for me you've highlighted the progression available within NR. As a driver I really don't see anywhere else to go once I've passed out.

Thank you again, the time you've taken for me is much appreciated

In happy’ish ive helped you decide, as in I hope it’s the right choice for you and your family. With our shifts you WILL finish at your booking off time, if the job (as in the railway outside) is going to the dogs you’ll be going home regardless, until if you where a driver you’d be potentially and soda law stuck the wrong side of the block (been there it’s not fun).

If your on a 8hrs roster they (management) can invoke extra hours I don’t know the full limit on a 8, but on a 12 you can say nope as that’s the max working hours, although there is an extra hour on a 12 subject to risk assessment and you agreeing.

Signalling can be stressful when it’s gone the dogs, but that’s why you signed up - it’s the fun part! The trick is crack on do the job, book off and forget.

Driving like you say is somewhat limited in terms of progression, driver to instructor to manager is one. But as an instructor you’ll take onboard the risks to YOUR key from a potentially numpty trainee. You’ve only have to ask a instructor if they’ve any nightmares trainees and I’m sure they’ll curl your toes with Stories.

Lots of extra risk with a very small pensionable allowance, sometimes as low as a few thousand.

Very best of luck though.
 

Tom Quinne

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8 Jul 2017
Messages
2,225
Archie,

Thank you for the reply. It's really appreciated.

I tend to agree with everything you've said and in addition to my reply above to Tom, I guess the only niggle is that it would be fun to drive a train and be out and about. I'd love to drive a train for a week but it's just the many many years after that are the issue!

I am sure that novelty wears off driving very quickly however, and I think the responsibility of signalling will provide more than enough stimulation over the temporary excitement of driving.

Thank you again for the advice

Like I’ve said I was a guard for 14years, the novelty does wear off quickly. Depending on which TOC you’ve an offer with will depend on what traction and routes you work. There is still a lot of 1980s traction out there with no AC, doddgy heaters which kick out COLD air as there broken. I once had to work a Class 158 back from Portsmouth to Bristol with no cab heating when it was -2 outside not a happy experience.

If your so inclined there are very high level management (pay band 1 100,000+ basic) who started as signallers.

Beware even though TOCs are “private” in name they are very very much public operations now and will probably remain so now. Every penny has to be approved by the DfT now across the railway, hence is not getting any pay award this year more than likely.

Regards travel, no we don’t get any unless your region has a deal with the primary TOC for example Wessex has a deal with South Western Railway.

Union wise, ASLEF rep all drivers depending on the TOC depends on how strong they are - but their certainly no push over across the board.

NWR wise, RMT is the main union although there is significant percentage of signallers who are no in any union.
I would strongly recommend you join on day one, legal bills if you kill someone can be huge.

Look up “Morton on Lugg” for an example of when the system lets down the signaller with tradgic outcome, the signaller sadly passed away a few yard later.

As my colleague above has said, a driver puts his/her faith in you when you give instructions to pass a board etc. So you need to be 100% certain the instructions you give are within the rules and safe.

Unfortunately we get a news letter of balls up each week (I’ve stared in one!) some are bloody scary to be honest.

But like I said it’s a fantastic job, if you choose this path you won’t regret it.

If you hanker to drive a train buy a driver experience course at a heritage railway ;)
 
Joined
9 Nov 2017
Messages
258
Archie,

Thank you for the reply. It's really appreciated.

I tend to agree with everything you've said and in addition to my reply above to Tom, I guess the only niggle is that it would be fun to drive a train and be out and about. I'd love to drive a train for a week but it's just the many many years after that are the issue!

I am sure that novelty wears off driving very quickly however, and I think the responsibility of signalling will provide more than enough stimulation over the temporary excitement of driving.

Thank you again for the advice
Unless they've changed the policy for cab-passes, you might be able to occasionally ride in the cab as a signaller whilst learning your patch (although I think this happens much less frequently with today's reticence to have people out on the infrastructure). You could have your cake and eat it!

All the best and good luck!
 

Tom Quinne

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Unless they've changed the policy for cab-passes, you might be able to occasionally ride in the cab as a signaller whilst learning your patch (although I think this happens much less frequently with today's reticence to have people out on the infrastructure). You could have your cake and eat it!

All the best and good luck!

Defiantly happened pre COVID, it’s a part of signing your workstation at my place.
 

HamSandwich

Member
Joined
19 May 2020
Messages
50
Location
Earth
Hi, hope it’s ok to post on here.
There’s a signaller position close to me I’m keen to apply for but I’ve got no rail related experience whatsoever. I’m currently low level professional role. Do I stand a chance at all? Thanks

Definitely, it's all about your non-technical skills. In my class of six at signalling school, none of us had any rail experience. Best of luck with your application :)
 

nom de guerre

Member
Joined
24 Nov 2015
Messages
721
Hi all,

I'm looking for some advice.

I'm in the very fortunate position to have a job offers for a signaller position at grade 6 AND a position as a trainee train driver.

The signaller position is nearby my current location and the driver position will involve a significant commute or relocation.

So what I am asking is what is the nitty gritty of signaller life, what are the shifts like, what is the earning potential (yes unfortunately money does come into it, that's life) and what are NR like as an employer? Will I occasionally get a nice 3 day weekend? Will the overall quality of life be better than a driver?

I understand they're two very different roles; I have, after all, been through 2 very tough selection and interview processes. Right now I feel the signaller position would be more enjoyable long term and provide more possibility for progression, but I am getting myself in a twist trying to consider all the possible scenarios and what ifs for quality of life in the future.

Thanks all for your help in advance. I know I'm facing a very nice problem to have, I hope you're able to give me an insight to what you would do or what the real life is like on the inside.


First of all, nice one! There can't be many that have achieved that kind of dual offer (not in the privatisation era, anyway).

Shifts? Ours are better. A Grade 6 box will be open 24 hours but you'll only have two or three shift start times to contend with (depending on whether it's an 8hr or 12hr roster), whereas my driver mates report much more variation.

Occasional 3-day weekend? Most box rosters include at least one 'Long Weekend' during each four-week cycle. Again, the length of this will depend on the type of roster, but it's almost always longer than three days - typically 4-6 days on an 8hr roster and 7-9 days on '12s'.

Earning potential? Tom and Archie have already largely covered this. All I would add is: a) IMO, £80K for a G6 would need a lot of RDW. I'd say £60K-£65K is realistic if you average two rest days per period (on a 12hr roster); b) Yet again, it depends which type of roster you're working - it's easier to accumulate £££ on '12s'; c) the ORR are introducing a maximum 60hr working week for signallers - this isn't effective until 2021 or '22, but some routes (including mine) are already taking measures now. Historically, the railway industry has run on a model of understaffing and overtime, and we've been no different. But if my route's reaction is indicative, there are likely to be a lot more bodies around in future - and therefore less overtime available. Eg I work a single-manned box and, due to ORR recruitment, we now have four residents plus two dedicated RDR (reliefs who only cover that box) - that's a level of staffing that is unprecedented in my 10 years or so in the grade. Tl:dr - historic levels of overtime may not be available going forward.

Quality of life? Depends on your own definition. My personal take is that a Grade 6 signaller will earn 80%+ of an equivalent driver's salary for significantly less hassle (better shifts, no prepping units/locos in inclement weather, comparative freedom to have something to eat/drink or go to the toilet, almost zero risk to your health while on duty). We have a lot of responsibility while on duty and of course the job can be demanding and stressful at times, but not more so than driving, IMO. I'd also argue that Grade 6 is arguably the sweet spot for signalling, in the sense that it's good money but without some of the workload and grief that comes with the higher grades.

Enjoy deciding and let us know how you get on!

Consider that the burdon of responsibility will weigh much heavier on you as a signaller than a driver. You will be expected to take the lead in convesations to all except ECOs and the onus is on you to make sure there is a clear understanding of actions to be taken. If you give permission for a farmer to traverse a user-worked-crossing and he snags his load on something or tips over, it's not his fault that he didn't tell you he was towing a long, precariously loaded trailer; it's your fault for not asking. That can bear heavily on some people. That said, a distinct advantage of signalling is that you don't have to tackle fatalities in-person and I can't recall the last time a signalman was killed in the course of duty, so there's that.

Does the burden weigh more heavily on us? I'm not sure, TBH.

A Grade 6 signaller will often be handling several trains at once, and - like all grades - your comms will need to be precise (especially when dealing with incidents, degraded working and anything involving people on/near the line). But I suspect drivers are monitored even more strictly than we are, and face just as many - if not more - risks while on duty.

We have to make a mistake to kill someone; drivers don't.
 
Last edited:

Jholden

Member
Joined
11 Nov 2019
Messages
5
Location
Yorkshire
So the 2020 Christmas was my first Christmas as a Crossing Keeper with Network Rail. I was sent a document with my Christmas roster showing I would be paid 300% for working nights on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. When my payslip arrived, I was not paid 300% (I’ve opted for HROP). I emailed the Paydesk as soon as I received my payslip and they have said that they weren’t aware of the rule and to speak to my line manager. My manager is off work at present. Should I phone my union rep for clarification or can anyone here confirm what I should have been paid? Thanks.
 

headshot119

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Dubai
So the 2020 Christmas was my first Christmas as a Crossing Keeper with Network Rail. I was sent a document with my Christmas roster showing I would be paid 300% for working nights on Christmas Day and Boxing Day. When my payslip arrived, I was not paid 300% (I’ve opted for HROP). I emailed the Paydesk as soon as I received my payslip and they have said that they weren’t aware of the rule and to speak to my line manager. My manager is off work at present. Should I phone my union rep for clarification or can anyone here confirm what I should have been paid? Thanks.

Rostered shifts on Christmas Day and Boxing day should be paid at 300% on HROP (200% + a comp day for LROP). Remember if they are a rostered shift 100% of the 300% is part of your basic salary.

From memory on the payslip you should see BANK HOL with a rate of 2.00 for hours worked on those two days.
 

Jholden

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11 Nov 2019
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Location
Yorkshire
Rostered shifts on Christmas Day and Boxing day should be paid at 300% on HROP (200% + a comp day for LROP). Remember if they are a rostered shift 100% of the 300% is part of your basic salary.

From memory on the payslip you should see BANK HOL with a rate of 2.00 for hours worked on those two days.
Thank you for the prompt and informative reply.
 

Sammy2019

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22 Sep 2019
Messages
139
Location
Essex
I’ll be working in Upminster. I had the interview and was offered the job way back in Oct. I was originally told I’d likely be going to York in January but then in December they confirmed it was March. I handed my notice in at my current job and finished there last week so now 4 week wait until I start.
What about you?
Yeah I’m Upminster too.
Had the interview and offered in October and the start date came through last week :)
 

carrot

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21 Jan 2021
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Oxford
For those thinking about the external signaller opportunities in Didcot, it looks like the local management are doing something different. There is a Facebook event with Q&A "meet the signallers"

Thurs 28/01/2020 @ 1.30pm
Join our LIVE Q&A session with Derek and Andrew, two of our Grade 9 Signallers based at our Thames Valley Signalling Centre. Find out what being a Grade 9 Signaller is like, the transferable skills you'd need to be successful and an insight into Derek and Andrew's background and why they chose Signalling! Find out more here: https://fb.me/e/3h2eWIsfL

Will be interesting to see if NR are doing recruitment differently now.
 

Tom Quinne

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2,225
For those thinking about the external signaller opportunities in Didcot, it looks like the local management are doing something different. There is a Facebook event with Q&A "meet the signallers"

Thurs 28/01/2020 @ 1.30pm
Join our LIVE Q&A session with Derek and Andrew, two of our Grade 9 Signallers based at our Thames Valley Signalling Centre. Find out what being a Grade 9 Signaller is like, the transferable skills you'd need to be successful and an insight into Derek and Andrew's background and why they chose Signalling! Find out more here: https://fb.me/e/3h2eWIsfL

Will be interesting to see if NR are doing recruitment differently now.

TVSC have to compete with some very hi tech / high wage jobs in the area, especially towards London. Grade 9 pay is at the low end the area, add in the sky high house prices and now the 60 minute travel rule they’ll struggle to keep and more importantly retain staff who aren’t legacy staff from Reading, Swindon or Slough panels who already live in the area.

On my course of 7 only 3 I think have stayed, the rest of us have moved in closer to home.
 

Jholden

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11 Nov 2019
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5
Location
Yorkshire
Does that marry up with what's on your payslip or there still a discrepancy?
Sort of, the rate seem correct but they’ve only put me down for 14 hours in total for both 12 hour shifts. It was very confusing as the Paydesk said nobody was paid 300% over Christmas and they had not heard of that rule. which turns out to be untrue.
 

bouff34

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6 Nov 2018
Messages
117
...and by Boxing Day do you mean Sat 26th or the official Bank Holiday of Mon 28th?? If it was Sat 26th then 300% is correct but Mon 28th is only 250%...
 

HDN

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28 Jan 2021
Messages
3
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Scotland East Coast
Good afternoon all, apologies if this has been asked and answered previously, too many pages to go through.

Quick question regarding applying for a signaller position. I applied a good few years ago, got an interview but no offer. I also applied last year and never even got the interview. With regards to the online application questions, are they looking for the STAR technique to be used when answering? I'm wondering if that is where I went wrong last time, as I know I didn't use it then.

FWIW I feel I've a lot of background experience in the RAF and Oil/Gas, now I'm wondering about the best way to get it across in these questions.

Thanks for taking the time to read this if you did. Any pointers greatly appreciated.
 

Rsteele1987

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22 Apr 2020
Messages
28
Location
Glasgow
Good afternoon all, apologies if this has been asked and answered previously, too many pages to go through.

Quick question regarding applying for a signaller position. I applied a good few years ago, got an interview but no offer. I also applied last year and never even got the interview. With regards to the online application questions, are they looking for the STAR technique to be used when answering? I'm wondering if that is where I went wrong last time, as I know I didn't use it then.

FWIW I feel I've a lot of background experience in the RAF and Oil/Gas, now I'm wondering about the best way to get it across in these questions.

Thanks for taking the time to read this if you did. Any pointers greatly appreciated.
Hi HDN

I did not use STAR technique for the application questions, all my application questions were answered with a small paragraph, however in the interview I used star as I believe that’s what they are looking for. I have come from aviation engineering and offshore oil and gas and I managed to come up with quite a few experiences and examples to help with answering the questions. I applied to my first and only signalling role last year and I start on the 26th feb.
 

HDN

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28 Jan 2021
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Scotland East Coast
Hi HDN

I did not use STAR technique for the application questions, all my application questions were answered with a small paragraph, however in the interview I used star as I believe that’s what they are looking for. I have come from aviation engineering and offshore oil and gas and I managed to come up with quite a few experiences and examples to help with answering the questions. I applied to my first and only signalling role last year and I start on the 26th feb.
Thanks for the reply, I didn't think STAR was the way to go for the online questions. As you say with regards your own application I have plenty examples to help with answering, probably just over analysing it.

Good luck come the 26th, with any luck I'll be back on here to ask more questions in the future.
 

Rover77

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15 Oct 2019
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Lancaster
I know second guessing what a status update might mean is a bad idea and enough to make you lose your mind....but I'm going to ask anyway. My status had been under consideration for assessment 2 since Dec 7th. Yesterday it changed to Under Consideration. Not sure if its bad news or does it mean a hiring manager has had a look and not thrown me out yet?
 

Rsteele1987

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22 Apr 2020
Messages
28
Location
Glasgow
Thanks for the reply, I didn't think STAR was the way to go for the online questions. As you say with regards your own application I have plenty examples to help with answering, probably just over analysing it.

Good luck come the 26th, with any luck I'll be back on here to ask more questions in the future.
Any questions at all I am happy to answer, just send them in my direction.
 

desrudy

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29 Jan 2020
Messages
99
Location
London
.
Does anyone have informations about the Woking Grade 5 job or the panel ( Woking Signallers (103314) G1 ) .
I know there are 3 panels but i can not find their names and which one is adverted .
PS : i think it's the Woking Panel 3 but not 100%
 

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