Rail track maintenance workers inspect, maintain and repair railway lines and associated services.
Their work includes inspecting tracks, bridges, cuttings, embankments, fences and level crossings. They also look out for obstacles, worn areas or anything which could interfere with the smooth running of a train service. In bad weather they clear snow or fallen objects which are blocking the line. If they find a problem they must report it so that it can be put right as quickly as possible.
They may be involved in:
- Maintaining track, checking it regularly and keeping it in good condition.
- Renewing worn or damaged lengths of track.
- Carrying out repairs.
- Performing lookout and hand signalling duties.
Many of a maintenance worker’s tasks involve using their hands. They also use tools such as picks, spades and pneumatic drills, together with specialist tools for securing rails. They may work with levelling, lining and tamping machines for settling ballast and they may have to mix and lay concrete. Some rail track maintenance workers go out, usually in a gang, to work on the track on a regular basis. They may patrol the route carrying out visual checks to make sure everything is in order.
More senior maintenance workers have extra responsibilities; track chargepeople are responsible for a team of gang workers, making sure that all scheduled work is completed safely within the deadlines and budget. Leading trackpeople are second in command to the track chargeperson, and play an important hands-on role within the team.
Working on railway tracks requires a high level of concentration and the observance of strict safety measures. Rail track maintenance workers work 35 hours a week on a shift system. This means starting work early in the morning or finishing late at night. Quite a lot of work on tracks is done at weekends or at night to minimise inconvenience to travellers. This means working irregular hours. Rail track workers may work away from home at times and they may have to be on call, ready to go out and deal with emergencies. The work is done outside in all weathers, usually with a small group of other workers. Protective clothing, including hard hats, overalls and high-visibility jackets, is provided by employers.
To be a rail track maintenance worker, as well as being good at their job, they have to be acutely aware of safety. The employer also has a role in protecting their workers. Sprint can supply a lone-worker device, Venture, which, as well as providing safety and security, will also provide full back-end integration, allowing full reporting facilities.
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