Work as a Rail Planner

Work as a Rail Planner

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What you should to know

1. Rail Planners actively organise both passenger and freight rail services, taking responsibility for the smooth running of trains.

2. The role is mentally-challenging, requiring the ability to plan meticulously yet also think on your feet.

3. Pay for rail planners varies according to experience. According to the National Careers Service, newly-qualified graduate planners can earn up to £25,000 per year, with those with postgraduate qualifications often able to command a slightly higher salary.

4. Experienced and senior planners, meanwhile, can earn £35,000 and upwards.

5. Other benefits of working as a rail planner include being able to enjoy a healthy mix between office-based working and site visits.

6. Employers look for graduates with transport planning, civil engineering or maths degrees.

7. Alternatively, the Transport Planning Society (TPS) helps non-graduates into the sector, often through assistant planner positions.

8. As a rule you should always check out The Job Centre for the latest local vacancies to where you live.

What Do Rail Planners Do?

As the job title suggests, Rail Planners actively organise both passenger and freight rail services, taking responsibility for the smooth running of trains. The work is mentally-challenging, requiring both the ability to think on your feet and also to organise and plan ahead. While the role is varied and exact responsibilities can differ from job to job, key duties may include:

  • Minimising delays to services that may be affected by line closures for maintenance or upgrade work, for instance by producing modified timetables aimed at giving members of the public the most efficient travel options possible.
  • Ensuring train services are properly resourced with train crew, including a driver, buffet staff and ticket inspectors.
  • Identifying potential problems such as disruptions to services and using computer models to work out solutions to them.
  • Studying accident ‘black spots’ and working to minimise accidents.
  • Working with town planners and other local authority departments to assess the potential benefits and drawbacks of new services or even new rail infrastructure such as a new station or stretch of track.

Pay and Benefits

Pay for rail planners varies according to experience. According to the National Careers Service, newly-qualified graduate planners can earn in the region of £22,000 to £25,000 per year, with those with postgraduate qualifications often able to command a slightly higher salary.

Experienced and senior planners, meanwhile, can earn £35,000 and upwards, with those in charge of major projects potentially taking home as much as £70,000.

Furthermore, experienced planners with several major projects under their belts and excellent industry contacts may be able to command even more as freelance contractors.

Other benefits of working as a rail planner include being able to enjoy a healthy mix between office-based working and site visits as well as being able to enjoy a good work-life balance thanks to the standard 40-hour working week the job usually offers.

Job Entry Requirements

There is no single fixed route to becoming a rail planner, with a number of options open to anyone keen to get into this line of work. Network Rail advises that there are several main ways of starting out as a rail planner. These include:

  • Graduating with a degree in a relevant subject such as transport planning, civil engineering, environmental sciences or even maths. Employers may also look out for business studies or social sciences graduates.
  • Starting out as a transport planning assistant. The Transport Planning Society (TPS) promotes a range of entry-level opportunities designed to give both graduates and non-graduates the chance to break into the sector.

Alongside academic qualifications and ‘hard skills’ such as an aptitude for computer modelling, employers may look for other ‘soft skills’ and personal attributes. For instance, you may be required to demonstrate the ability to work under your own initiative as well as work with other people, the ability to cope with stress and thrive in a hectic working environment.

According to Network Rail, “motivation and natural flair for dealing with people at all levels” is important, though  a knowledge of – and even passion for – the UK railway system is desirable, it is by no means essential.

Training and Developments

A number of training and development courses are open to rail planners keen to push ahead with their careers, with extra qualifications helping planners win promotions and boost their salaries.

The Transport Planning Society (TPS) website is an excellent source of information when it comes to learning more about postgraduate qualifications and short courses. Courses available to working rail planners include transport modelling, transport safety and sustainability, and many employers may be willing to support you should you chose to undertake part-time training.

Alternatively, the Universities Transport Partnership (UTP) scheme offers both short courses and full Masters degree courses at a number of institutions across the UK. More information can be found on the UTP website: (http://www.utp.org.uk/)

Finding Work as a Rail Planner

The best route into this area of work is through rail operators themselves. All operators will need well-qualified, reliable planners to help ensure their services run smoothly and any disruptions are kept to a minimum and so will routinely advertise openings on their websites.

Alternatively, look out for adverts placed in industry publications such as the Railway Gazette, Rail Pro and Rail Magazine.

Alternatively, new openings may be found online, either through specialist job listings sites or through agencies.

Recommended Rail Job Search Sites

All the above can be a good place to find new rail planning jobs, both in the UK and overseas.

Further Reading

Visit the TPS website for more information on job-specific training:  http://www.tps.org.uk/

Don’t fancy working as a Rail Planner?

Then why not have a read of other transport job guides we have, or visit the job centre closest to you, UK Jobs Guide has all the UK jobcentre plus locations on our site or if you need a job now simply search for jobs where you live with us online.


 
1 comments
Sue Whittle Sue Whittle
18/05/2016

I've been trying to find a way of getting into train planning for the last 12months. I have worked for 23yrs on the Railway covering numerous operational jobs and 6 years ago had a complete career change, went to uni and qualified as an Operating Department Practitioner for the NHS.
Please get me back on the Railway.

 
 
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