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Overview

This page provides information and data on the Rail sector, which is a component of the Transport industry.

The Rail sector is vital to Australian business carrying people and commodities on over 33,000km of track across the country.  The sector has an estimated annual revenue of $22.94 billion, adding $9.44 billion to the Australian economy in 2016.  The industry employs more than 55,500 people across 932 companies comprising private and public operators, passenger and freight operators, track owners and managers, manufacturers and suppliers that operate in urban, regional, and rural areas of Australia.

Vocational education and training (VET) is required in the Rail sector for job roles involving:

  • Rail Infrastructure
  • Track Protection
  • Shunting
  • Rail Track Vehicle Driving
  • Tram or Light Rail Infrastructure
  • Customer Service
  • Rail Driving
  • Rail Track Surfacing
  • Signalling
  • Electric Passenger Train Guard
  • Heritage Locomotive Assistant or Steam Locomotive
  • Train and Tram Driving
  • Safety Investigation
  • Network Control
  • Safety Management
  • Tram/Light Rail Control
  • Rail Operations Management.

Nationally recognised training for the Rail sector is delivered under the TLI Transport and Logistics Training Package.

For information on the Maritime, Aviation, Transmission Distribution and Rail, and Transport and Logistics sectors please visit the respective pages.

Information sourced from the Rail IRC Skills Forecast.

IRC and Skills Forecast

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Employment levels in the Rail Freight Transport and Rail Passenger Transport industries have increased overall between 2012 and 2017 and are projected to remain at similar levels through until 2022.  The employment level in Rail Transport (not further defined) has declined between 2012 and 2017; and a further slight decrease is projected until 2022.  It also seems there was a revision to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) during 2007–08 which has led to some substitution of the workforce between Rail Transport (nfd) and Rail Passenger Transport.

Train and Tram Drivers made up 21% of the Rail Transport industry workforce with Railway Track Workers making up a further 5%.  Both of these occupations are projected to increase in employment over the next five years.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Rail related qualifications have more than doubled between 2014 and 2016 to approximately 25,500.  The majority of enrolments during 2016 were accounted for by the Certificate II in Rail Infrastructure and Certificate II in Track Protection qualifications, for which Railway Track Workers was the main intended occupation.  There was a large spike of approximately 12,000 program completions during 2015 (the majority of which were in the Certificate II in Rail Infrastructure and Certificate II in Track Protection qualifications) before decreasing sharply to around 1,400 during 2016.

For enrolments during 2016 the majority of training was delivered by private training providers with the exceptions being Rail Operations qualifications (38% provided by TAFE) and Tram/Light Rail/Train Driving qualifications (47% delivered by enterprise training providers).  For most providers a high proportion of subjects were funded via domestic fee for service with the exception of TAFE where over 40% of subjects were government funded.

Student location was dominated by the Eastern states with nearly 40% of students who enrolled during 2016 coming from Victoria, a further 32% resided in Queensland and over 20% were from New South Wales.

During 2016, there were 299 apprenticeship commencements and 87 completions in Rail related qualifications.  Commencements declined sharply between 2010 and 2013 before increasing until 2015 and declining again during 2016.  The completion numbers remained fairly stable between years 2010 and 2013 however it has declined steadily since then.  As at December 2016 over 65% of apprenticeship training took place in Victoria with a further 29% in Western Australia.  The main intended occupations for apprentices were Train and Tram Drivers; and Travel Attendants.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET students by industry.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of total VET. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

If you are interested in extracting NCVER data to construct tables with data relevant to you, sign up for a VOCSTATS account.

Industry insights

Priority skills infographic,, Infographic title: Priority skills: 2017 skills forecast,, Infographic data,, Title: Top priority skills,, Electrical/Signalling, Work health and safety (WHS), Repair/Maintenance, Driving/Shunting, Computer skills,, Title: Top generic skills,, Technology, Managerial/Leadership, Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM), Learning agility/Information literacy/Intellectual autonomy and self management, Communication/Virtual collaboration/Social intelligence,, Infographic title: Skills and occupations in demand: job vacancies,, Title: Top generic skills in demand,, Communication skills, Planning, Problem solving, Organisational skills, Writing,, Title: Top 5 occupations in demand,, Truck Driver (General), Electrician (General), Fitter (General), Motor Mechanic (General), Train Driver,, Title: Top 5 locations,, Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria , Western Australia, South Australia,, Title: Top employers,, Top Employers,, Aurizon Holdings, Australian Rail Track Corp, Metro Trains Melbourne, Pacific National Pty Ltd, Government of Queensland,, Infographic source, Priority skills source: Rail IRC Skills Forecast 2017, Job vacancy occupations in demand source: Burning Glass Technologies’ Labor Insight Real Time Labor Market Information tool.

Industry insights on skills needs

The Rail IRC Skills Forecast 2017 identifies the top priority skills in the Rail sector as:

  • Electrical/Signalling
  • Work health and safety (WHS)
  • Repair/Maintenance
  • Driving/Shunting
  • Computer skills

According to the job vacancy data, the top requested skills by employers were communication and planning.  The most in demand occupations were Truck Drivers, Electricians and Fitters suggesting a demand for these trades within the Rail sector.  Top locations for Rail Transport industry sector job advertisements were Queensland and New South Wales.

According to the Rail IRC Skills Forecast 2017 over 80% of employers in the sector reported experiencing a skills shortage during the last 12 months.  The job roles related to the skills shortages were:

  • Train Drivers
  • Signalling Technicians
  • Train Controllers
  • Trainers/Assessors
  • Track Maintenance Technicians.

Reasons employers indicated for the shortage in order of frequency were:

  • shortage of skilled/qualified personnel
  • ageing workforce/current staff retiring
  • cost/time to achieve the required qualification
  • remuneration/employment conditions
  • shift/weekend work.

The Value of Rail report by Deloitte Access Economics highlights the transition to autonomous driving technology as a significant opportunity for the Rail sector as driverless technology offers the potential to achieve greater efficiency in operations.  However, the report also mentions that implementing driverless technology in the rail sector is challenging as it requires improvements to signalling and communications infrastructure.  This sentiment is echoed in the in Rail IRC Skills Forecast 2017 which forecasts that the Rail sector workforce will require additional training and skills as driverless vehicles and automated management systems become more widespread.

A National Rail Industry Plan for the Benefit of Australia by the Australasian Railway Association identifies several enablers linked to workforce skilling aimed at growing the capabilities of individuals and companies within the sector, including:

  • Identifying the labour skills required for a high performing rail system that is abreast of emerging technologies.
  • Ensuring training methodologies are leading edge and keep abreast of future skill needs and training requirements.
  • Don’t assume current approaches to traineeships and apprenticeships best meet rail industry purposes.
  • Training at certificate, degree and postgraduate levels is to be encouraged.
  • Promoting a bold and exciting image of rail to attract talented people.
  • Programs for local companies to improve their capabilities to international standards should be on offer.

In addition to the skilling needs identified in the above industry reports the Rail IRC Skills Forecast 2017 highlights an ageing workforce; a lack of suitably qualified and experience trainers; and track safety skills as key skilling challenges for the future Rail sector workforce.

Links and resources

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment, 2017, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal  

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, employment projections to May 2022:
    • 470 Rail Transport nfd
    • 471 Rail Freight Transport
    • 472 Rail Passenger Transport.
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2022:
    • 6394 Ticket Salespersons
    • 7129 Other Stationary Plant Operators
    • 7313 Train and Tram Drivers
    • 8216 Railway Track Workers.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), sex, state and territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 – EQ06, viewed 1 September 2017 <http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.003May%202017?OpenDocument>

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, 2000 to 2017, May Quarter:
    • 470 Rail Transport nfd
    • 471 Rail Freight Transport
    • 472 Rail Passenger Transport.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2017, 2016 Census – employment, income and unpaid work, TableBuilder. Findings based on use of ABS TableBuilder data.

  • Employment level by ANZSIC 2 digit industry:
    • 47 Rail Transport
    • ANZSCO 4 digit level occupations to identify the relevant VET-related occupations in the industry as a proportion of the total workforce.

Training data has been extracted from the National VET Provider Collection, Total VET Students and Courses from the following training package or qualifications:

  • TLI Transport and Logistics Training Package
    • TLI10410 - Certificate I in Transport and Logistics (Rail Operations)
    • TLI20407 - Certificate II in Transport and Logistics (Rail Operations)
    • TLI20410 - Certificate II in Transport and Logistics (Rail Operations)
    • TLI20707 - Certificate II in Transport and Logistics (Rail Infrastructure)
    • TLI21309 - Certificate II in Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI21310 - Certificate II in Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI21311 - Certificate II in Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI21315 - Certificate II in Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI21911 - Certificate II in Track Protection
    • TLI21915 - Certificate II in Track Protection
    • TLI22013 - Certificate II in Shunting
    • TLI22015 - Certificate II in Shunting
    • TLI22113 - Certificate II in Rail Track Vehicle Driving
    • TLI22115 - Certificate II in Rail Track Vehicle Driving
    • TLI22213 - Certificate II in Tram or Light Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI22313 - Certificate II in Rail Customer Service
    • TLI30407 - Certificate III in Transport and Logistics (Rail Operations)
    • TLI30410 - Certificate III in Transport and Logistics (Rail Operations)
    • TLI30707 - Certificate III in Transport and Logistics (Rail Infrastructure)
    • TLI31410 - Certificate III in Rail Driving
    • TLI31415 - Certificate III in Rail Driving
    • TLI31811 - Certificate III in Rail Track Surfacing
    • TLI31815 - Certificate III in Rail Track Surfacing
    • TLI31911 - Certificate III in Mechanical Rail Signalling
    • TLI31913 - Certificate III in Mechanical Rail Signalling
    • TLI31915 - Certificate III in Mechanical Rail Signalling
    • TLI32110 - Certificate III in Rail Structures
    • TLI32111 - Certificate III in Rail Structures
    • TLI32115 - Certificate III in Rail Structures
    • TLI32315 - Certificate III in Electric Passenger Train Guard
    • TLI32510 - Certificate III in Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI32511 - Certificate III in Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI32515 - Certificate III in Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI32611 - Certificate III in Rail Signalling
    • TLI32711 - Certificate III in Track Protection
    • TLI32715 - Certificate III in Track Protection
    • TLI32813 - Certificate III in Rail Yard Coordination
    • TLI32815 - Certificate III in Rail Yard Coordination
    • TLI33113 - Certificate III in Rail Customer Service
    • TLI33115 - Certificate III in Rail Customer Service
    • TLI33213 - Certificate III in Terminal Train Driving
    • TLI33215 - Certificate III in Terminal Train Driving
    • TLI40407 - Certificate IV in Transport and Logistics (Rail Operations)
    • TLI40410 - Certificate IV in Transport and Logistics (Rail Operations)
    • TLI40707 - Certificate IV in Transport and Logistics (Rail Infrastructure)
    • TLI42211 - Certificate IV in Rail Network Control
    • TLI42215 - Certificate IV in Rail Network Control
    • TLI42311 - Certificate IV in Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI42315 - Certificate IV in Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI42413 - Certificate IV in Rail Safety Management
    • TLI42415 - Certificate IV in Rail Safety Management
    • TLI42613 - Certificate IV in Train Driving
    • TLI42615 - Certificate IV in Train Driving
    • TLI50613 - Diploma of Rail Operations Management
    • TLI50615 - Diploma of Rail Operations Management
    • TDT20402 - Certificate II in Transport and Distribution (Rail Operations)
    • TDT20498 - Certificate II in Transport and Distribution (Rail Operations)
    • TDT20598 - Certificate II in Transport and Distribution (Rail Passenger Services)
    • TDT20698 - Certificate II in Transport and Distribution (Rail Freight Services)
    • TDT20702 - Certificate II in Transport and Distribution (Rail Infrastructure)
    • TDT20798 - Certificate II in Transport and Distribution (Rail Civil Infrastructure)
    • TDT30402 - Certificate III in Transport and Distribution (Rail Operations)
    • TDT30498 - Certificate III in Transport and Distribution (Rail Operations)
    • TDT30598 - Certificate III in Transport and Distribution (Rail Passenger Services)
    • TDT30698 - Certificate III in Transport and Distribution (Rail Freight Services)
    • TDT30702 - Certificate III in Transport and Distribution (Rail Infrastructure)
    • TDT30798 - Certificate III in Transport and Distribution (Rail Civil Infrastructure)
    • TDT40402 - Certificate IV in Transport and Distribution (Rail Operations)
    • TDT40498 - Certificate IV in Transport and Distribution (Rail Operations)
    • TDT40598 - Certificate IV in Transport and Distribution (Rail Passenger Services)
    • TDT40702 - Certificate IV in Transport and Distribution (Rail Infrastructure)
    • TDT40798 - Certificate IV in Transport and Distribution (Rail Civil Infrastructure)

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

Data covers a range of selected student and training characteristics in the following categories and years:

  • 2014, 2015, 2016 program enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2016 subject enrolments
  • 2014, 2015, 2016 program completions.

Total VET students and courses data is reported for the calendar year.  Program enrolments are the qualifications, courses and skill sets in which students are enrolled in a given period. For students enrolled in multiple programs, all programs are counted.  Program completion indicates that a student has completed a structured and integrated program of education or training. Location data uses student residence.  Subject enrolment is registration of a student at a training delivery location for the purpose of undertaking a module, unit of competency or subject. For more information on the terms and definitions, please refer to the Total VET students and courses: terms and definitions document. 

Low counts (less than 5) are not reported to protect client confidentiality.

Percentages are rounded to one decimal place.  This can lead to situations where the total sum of proportions in a chart may not add up to exactly 100%.

TLI Transport and Logistics Training Package apprentice and trainee data has been extracted from the National Apprentice and Trainee Collection, including:

  • 2010 to 2016 commencements
  • 2010 to 2016 completions 
  • 2016 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2016 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the Rail IRC Skills Forecast.

Burning Glass Technologies: Labor Insight – real-time labor market information tool <http://www.burning-glass.com> 2017.

  • Job advertisements from all of Australia from January 2014 to August 2017 are included in the analysis. Data shown is the top five advertised VET-related occupations (1–6 digit level Technicians and Trades Workers, Labourers, and Machinery Operators and Drivers) in the ANZSIC 2 digit (47) Rail Transport industry and the top five locations and employers according to job advertisements.

Skills data has also been extracted from the Burning Glass labour insights job vacancy data tool. Data shown is the proportion of job advertisements which request generic skills for VET-related occupations in the industry and occupations listed above.

Updated: 05 Oct 2018
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