Track maintenance operative

Rail track maintenance worker

Career outlook for track maintenance operative

UK Salary Ranges





Currently employed in Scotland


Salary information is provided by the "National Careers Service". "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures. Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would look after railways, tunnels and bridges to help keep trains running safely.

You would:

  • Set up and look after tracks, tunnels, embankments, cuttings, level crossings and bridges
  • Measure tracks to check sections are at the correct distance apart and at the right height
  • Use special equipment to check tracks for defects
  • Report possible obstacles
  • Carry out site surveys to check if repairs are needed
  • Report accidents and issues
  • Perform lookout and hand signalling duties during trackside operations
  • Use hand tools, pneumatic drills, welding equipment and heavy machinery

You would normally work in a small team and take instructions from a team leader. Your team would be managed by an engineer or rail engineering technician.

You would have to follow safe working practices carefully in order to protect yourself and the passengers. 

Working conditions


You would normally work in shifts covering days, nights and weekends in all weather conditions.


You would work outdoors on train tracks. Your company would provide you with protective clothing, like reflective overalls, a hard hat and safety boots. There is also a strict policy on drug and alcohol use. You could be tested for drugs or alcohol at any time.


You may need a driving licence and use of a vehicle to start shifts outside of normal public transport hours.

UK employment status





Self employed


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  • Cooperating
  • Verbal communication
  • Problem solving
  • Working with numbers
  • Observation
  • Attention to detail
  • Filtering
  • Taking responsibility
  • Understanding

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Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you'll need.


Network Rail is the main employer for this role.

You do not usually need formal qualifications to get in. A good general education is useful, including English and maths.

You may enter the role through a Modern Apprenticeship leading to a relevant Scottish Vocational Qualifications in Railway Engineering (SVQ level 3).

To enter a Modern Apprenticeship you may need qualifications at SCQF level 5.

Useful subjects

  • Maths (required by many courses and employers)
  • Science subjects (required by many courses and employers)
  • English
  • Technologies subjects such as engineering science

You will also need

You have to pass a medical examination which includes drug and alcohol tests.

You usually need to have:

  • good physical fitness
  • good eyesight
  • normal colour vision
  • good hearing

You may have to pass a communications test

Helpful to have

Qualifications and experience that demonstrate understanding of the industry and technical skills such as Skills for Work Engineering Skills (SCFQ level 4).