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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 $26.56 billion, adding $10.43 billion to the Australian economy in 2018. Almost 60,000 people are employed in the sector across 961 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
  • Track Protection
  • Heritage Locomotive Assistant or Steam Locomotive Fireman
  • 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’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

All data sources are available at the end of the page.

IRC and Skills Forecast

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Employment levels in the Rail Freight Transport industry increased overall between 2000 and 2019, however, employment is projected to decline to 2024. Employment levels in the Rail Passenger Transport industry declined overall between 2000 and 2019 but employment is projected to increase slightly to 2024. Employment levels in Rail Transport (not further defined) declined between 2008 and 2019, however, an increase is projected until 2024. It also seems that there was a revision to the Australian and New Zealand Standard Industrial Classification (ANZSIC) during 2007–2008 which has led to some substitution of the workforce between Rail Transport (not further defined) and Rail Passenger Transport.

Train and Tram Drivers made up 21% of the Rail Transport industry workforce with Railway Track Workers, Ticket Salespersons and Other Stationary Plant Operators each making up approximately a further 5%. These occupations, with the exception of Ticket Salespersons, are projected to increase in employment over the next five years, with the greatest increase projected for Other Stationary Plant Operators at approximately 10%.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Rail-related qualifications decreased between 2017 and 2018 from approximately 29,840 down to 13,320. Program completions have been variable, with large spikes in completions in 2015 and 2017 (12,020 and 9,020 respectively) interspersed with relatively low numbers of completions in 2016 and 2018 (1,430 and 3,510 respectively).

The majority of enrolments in 2018 were at the certificate II level (63%) and the main qualification areas were Infrastructure, Track Protection, and Tram/Light Rail/Train Driving. The most common intended occupation was Railway Track Worker.

In 2018, the majority of training was delivered by private training providers (59%) although 80% of Track Protection qualifications and 65% of Tram/Light Rail/Train Driving qualifications were delivered by enterprise providers. For most providers a high proportion of subjects were funded via domestic fee for service except for TAFE institutes where 77% of subjects were government funded.

In 2018, 34% of students were from Queensland, 29% from New South Wales and 19% from Victoria. More than a third of training was delivered in Queensland (36%), followed by New South Wales (29%) and Victoria (17%).

During 2018, there were 250 apprenticeship and traineeship commencements and more than 440 completions in Rail-related qualifications. Commencements declined sharply between 2010 and 2013 before increasing again in 2014 and 2015 and then falling again after that. The completion numbers remained fairly stable between 2010 and 2013 after which they experienced a period of decline before rising again in 2018. As at December 2018, 69% of apprenticeship and traineeship training was reported by Victoria with the remainder largely split between New South Wales (10%), Western Australia (9%) and Queensland (8%). The main intended occupations for apprentices and trainees were Train Driver and Travel Attendants not elsewhere specified.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry or training package, visit NCVER’s VET students by industry. If you are prompted to log in, select cancel and you will continue to be directed to the program.

For more data specific to your region visit NCVER’s Atlas of Total VET.  

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

Industry insights

Industry insights on skills needs

The Rail IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast identifies the top priority skills in the Rail sector as:

  • Digital skills
  • Safety skills.

Additionally, the top priority industry and occupation skills are:

  • Track vehicle operations
  • Maintenance /servicing
  • Signalling.

The top five generic skills in order of importance are listed as:

  • Design mindset / Thinking critically / System thinking / Solving problems
  • Learning agility / Information literacy / Intellectual autonomy and self-management (adaptability)
  • Managerial / Leadership
  • Technology
  • Communication / Virtual collaboration / Social intelligence.

According to the job vacancy data, the top requested skills by employers were communication and planning skills. The most advertised Rail occupations were Building and Engineering Technicians followed by Electrician and Train Driver. The top employers for Rail workers were the New South Wales Government, Aurizon Holdings and Metro Trains Melbourne.

Furthermore, the Rail IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast states nearly 94% of employers in the sector reported experiencing a skills shortage during the last 12 months. The job roles related to the skills shortages were:

  • Engineers
  • Educators, trainers and assessors
  • Signalling technicians
  • Train drivers
  • Track workers.

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

  • Ageing workforce / current staff retiring
  • Competition from other organisations
  • Cost / time to achieve the required qualification
  • Wages / salaries considered too low
  • Unattractive job / poor industry image.

The Australasian Railway Association Skills Capability Study: Skills Crisis: a Call to Action identifies the following challenges for the Rail sector. Differences in standards across jurisdictions lead to workers needing to either learn more than strictly needed to work in their jurisdiction or not learn enough to be able to move readily between jurisdictions to where skills shortages exist, and similarly affects the mobility and utilisation of trainers. Also identified is a loss of skilled workers to overseas opportunities or to other industries.

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. The Rail IRC’s 2018 Skills Forecast states the onset of autonomous systems and vehicles is expected to have significant effects on the workforce and as these systems gain traction they will require new skills in technology, remote operations, diagnostics, maintenance and communications.

The Rail IRC’s 2018 Skills Forecast discusses other technological changes for the Rail sector including:

  • Using simulation, either by augmented or virtual reality (AR and VR respectively), to develop and design new infrastructure and provide simulation-based rail control operations training to deliver high-quality and safe practice for new workers.
  • The use of Big Data is enabling transport systems to accurately analyse information from the network and as the volume of this data increases there will be demand for operators to interpret and analyse the data meaningfully.

The report 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.

Links and resources

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment, 2018, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal  

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, employment projections to May 2023:
    • 470 Rail Transport nfd
    • 471 Rail Freight Transport
    • 472 Rail Passenger Transport.
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2023:
    • 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 November 2018 http://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.003May%202018?OpenDocument

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, 2000 to 2018, 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
  • 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
    • TLI31811 - Certificate III in Rail Track Surfacing
    • TLI31815 - Certificate III in Rail Track Surfacing
    • TLI32110 - Certificate III in Rail Structures
    • TLI32111 - Certificate III in Rail Structures
    • TLI32115 - Certificate III in Rail Structures
    • TLI32511 - Certificate III in Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI32515 - Certificate III in Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI32915 - Certificate III in Tram or Light Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI32918 - Certificate III in Tram or Light Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI42311 - Certificate IV in Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI42315 - Certificate IV in Rail Infrastructure
  • Network Control/Rail Safety
    • TLI31913 - Certificate III in Mechanical Rail Signalling
    • TLI31915 - Certificate III in Mechanical Rail Signalling
    • TLI31918 - Certificate III in Mechanical Rail Signalling
    • TLI40115 - Certificate IV in Rail Safety Investigation
    • TLI42211 - Certificate IV in Rail Network Control
    • TLI42215 - Certificate IV in Rail Network Control
    • TLI42413 - Certificate IV in Rail Safety Management
    • TLI42415 - Certificate IV in Rail Safety Management
  • Rail Operations
    • TLI20410 - Certificate II in Transport and Logistics (Rail Operations)
    • 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
    • TLI22313 - Certificate II in Rail Customer Service
    • TLI22315 - Certificate II in Rail Customer Service
    • TLI22318 - Certificate II in Rail Customer Service
    • TLI30407 - Certificate III in Transport and Logistics (Rail Operations)
    • TLI30410 - Certificate III in Transport and Logistics (Rail Operations)
    • TLI32315 - Certificate III in Electric Passenger Train Guard
    • TLI32318 - Certificate III in Electric Passenger Train Guard
    • TLI32813 - Certificate III in Rail Yard Coordination
    • TLI32815 - Certificate III in Rail Yard Coordination
    • TLI33015 - Certificate III in Heritage Locomotive Assistant or Steam Locomotive Fireman
    • TLI33018 - Certificate III in Heritage Locomotive Assistant or Steam Locomotive Fireman
    • TLI33113 - Certificate III in Rail Customer Service
    • TLI33115 - Certificate III in Rail Customer Service
    • TLI33118 - Certificate III in Rail Customer Service
    • 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)
    • TLI50613 - Diploma of Rail Operations Management
    • TLI50615 - Diploma of Rail Operations Management
    • TLI50618 - Diploma of Rail Operations Management
  • Track Protection
    • TLI21911 - Certificate II in Track Protection
    • TLI21915 - Certificate II in Track Protection
    • TLI21918 - Certificate II in Track Protection
    • TLI32711 - Certificate III in Track Protection
    • TLI32715 - Certificate III in Track Protection
  • Tram/Light Rail/Train Driving
    • TLI31415 - Certificate III in Rail Driving
    • TLI31418 - Certificate III in Rail Driving
    • TLI42613 - Certificate IV in Train Driving
    • TLI42615 - Certificate IV in Train Driving.

This includes superseded qualifications and training packages.

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

  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 program enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 subject enrolments
  • 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018 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 2018 commencements
  • 2010 to 2018 completions
  • 2018 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2018 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

Priority skills data have been extracted from the Rail IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2019, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2019, https://www.burning-glass.com.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2016 and June 2019 filtered by ANZSIC and ANZSCO classification levels listed below.

  • Generic skills / Occupations
    • ANZSCO major groups excluding Community and Personal Service Workers, Managers, Professionals, Sales Workers, Clerical and Administrative Workers
    • 47 Rail Transport.
  • Employers
    • 312999 Building and Engineering Technicians nec
    • 341111 Electrician (General)
    • 731311 Train Driver
    • 811211 Commercial Cleaner
    • 312911 Maintenance Planner
    • 47 Rail Transport.
Updated: 23 Sep 2020
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