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

Information sourced from the Rail IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast and Rail IRC’s 2020 Skills Forecast.

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

IRC and skills forecast

IRCs now submit comprehensive Skills Forecasts to the AISC every 3 years, with abridged annual updates submitted in the intervening 2 years.

Rail IRC

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Employment levels in the Rail Freight Transport industry increased overall between 2000 and 2020, however, employment is projected to decline to 2024. Employment levels in the Rail Passenger Transport industry declined overall between 2000 and 2020 but employment is projected to increase slightly to 2024. Employment levels in Rail Transport (not further defined) declined overall between 2008 and 2019, however levels increased between 2019 and 2020 and 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 four years, with the greatest increase projected for Other Stationary Plant Operators at approximately 10%.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments in Rail-related qualifications increased between 2018 and 2019 from approximately 13,320 up to 24,680. Program completions have been variable, with large spikes in completions in 2015 and 2017 (12,030 and 9,020 respectively) interspersed with relatively low numbers of completions in 2016 and 2018 (1,430 and 3,510 respectively), decreasing further in 2019 to 2,720 completions.

The majority of enrolments in 2019 were at the certificate II level (74%) 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 2019, most of the training was delivered by private training providers (74%) although 84% of Rail Operations qualifications and 76% 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 80% of subjects were Commonwealth and state funded.

In 2019, 32% of students were from Queensland, 27% from New South Wales and 22% from Victoria.

Nearly a third of training was delivered in Queensland (32%), followed by Victoria (29%) and New South Wales (27%).

During 2019, there were roughly 300 apprenticeship and traineeship commencements and approximately 70 completions in Rail-related qualifications. Commencements have remained fairly stable between 2016 and 2019 following a sharp decline between 2010 and 2013 and a slight peak in 2015. The completion numbers remained fairly stable between 2010 and 2013 after which they experienced a period of decline before rising in 2018 to decline sharply in 2019. As at December 2019, 83% of apprenticeship and traineeship training was reported by Victoria with the remainder largely split between New South Wales (6%), Western Australia (6%) and Queensland (3%). The main intended occupations for apprentices and trainees were Tram/Light Rail/Train Driving and 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 Train Driver and Electrician. 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 Rail IRC’s 2020 Skills Forecast identifies four new industry workforce, skills developments or trends that have emerged since the release of the Rail IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast. Relating to new technologies and automation, they are:

  • New signalling and communication systems – the industry intention to adopt automated communication systems is increasing demand for signalling technicians with specialised skills due to signalling systems varying across states and territories and needing to maintain interoperability at the same time as integration of traditional and newer systems.
  • Innovations in train and rail vehicle operations – a digital integration project to introduce European Track Control System (ETCS) and implement Automatic Train Operation (ATO) and Traffic Management System (TMS) has been undertaken by some rail networks. The introduction of autonomous systems will require remote operators to have higher order skills in data analytics, problem-solving and an understanding of autonomous systems.
  • Track and asset management – the installation of sensors and electronics under train carriages or rail tracks can streamline maintenance operations, with the collected data allowing operators to prioritise and optimise operations, transitioning from preventative to predictive maintenance. Other innovations include ‘smart plastic’ components that can be used to provide real-time information and fault prediction, and acoustic monitoring, where the sounds of train axles on tracks are measured to detect defects. The workforce will need to be upskilled or trained to operate and maintain these systems.
  • Improved customer service – to understand and meet customer expectations for real-time travel information, omni-channel ticketing options and transparency from operators, a workforce skilled in people management and ability to interact with digital and real-world customers in an increasing online environment and population has been identified as a key focus area in the Rail industry.

These workforce skills developments and trends build on the opportunities and challenges for the Rail industry sector reported in the Rail IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast. New skills will be required due to the development of new technologies and innovations to improve network operations, reduce power consumption, smarter monitoring and asset management processes, and advanced safety, threat detection and intervention. The innovations discussed in the Rail IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast include the European Train Control System (ETCS), Advanced Train and Management System (ATMS), wireless signalling and sensors, automation and driverless systems, Satellite Based Augmentation Systems (SBAS), Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology and Augmented (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) systems, to develop and design new infrastructure and provide simulation-based rail control operations training.

The Rail IRC’s 2020 Skills Forecast (abridged annual update) is supported by the conclusions drawn in the Smart Rail Route Map which states technical skills are rapidly changing, and there is a need to increase the workforce’s skills and competencies in new technologies and attract new entrants to the industry.

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 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 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

Below is a list of industry-relevant research, organisations and associations. Hyperlinks have been included where available.

 

Relevant research

Australasian Railway Association Skills Capability Study: Skills Crisis: a Call to Action – BIS Oxford Economics

A National Rail Industry Plan for the Benefit of Australia – Australasian Railway Association

Rail – Platforms for the Future 2017-35 – Australasian Railway Association

Smart Rail Route Map – Australasian Railway Association; Rail Manufacturing CRC; Institute for Intelligent Systems Research and Innovation, Deakin University

Value of Rail – Deloitte Access Economics

Industry associations and advisory bodies

Australasian Railway Association

Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board

 

Employee associations

Association of Tourist and Heritage Rail Australia

Australian Manufacturing Workers Union

Australian Services Union

Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union

Rail & Maritime Transport Union Inc

Rail Track Association Australia

Rail Tram and Bus Union

 

Licensing / Regulatory

Office of the National Rail Safety Regulator

 

Government

Federal, State/Territory Departments

Australian Transport Safety Bureau

Australian Rail Track Corporation

Australian Transport Safety Bureau

Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure - SA

Public Transport Authority - Government of WA

Rail Accreditation and Registration - Transport Safety Victoria

 

Industry Advisory

State and Territory Industry Training Advisory Boards (ITABS)

Data sources and notes

Department of Employment 2020, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, employment projections to May 2024
    • 470 Rail Transport nfd
    • 471 Rail Freight Transport
    • 472 Rail Passenger Transport
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2024
    • 6394 Ticket Salespersons
    • 7129 Other Stationary Plant Operators
    • 7313 Train and Tram Drivers
    • 8216 Railway Track Workers.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2019, Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, 6291.0.55.003 – EQ06, viewed 1 August 2020 https://www.abs.gov.au/AUSSTATS/abs@.nsf/DetailsPage/6291.0.55.003May%202020?OpenDocument

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, 2000 to 2020, 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
    • TLI20707 - Certificate II in Transport and Logistics (Rail Infrastructure)
    • TLI20410 - Certificate II in Transport and Logistics (Rail Operations)
    • TLI20707 - Certificate II in Transport and Logistics (Rail Infrastructure)
    • 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
    • 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
    • TLI32611 - Certificate III in Rail Signalling
    • 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)
    • TLI40707 - Certificate IV in Transport and Logistics (Rail Infrastructure)
    • 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
    • TLI31410 - Certificate III in Rail Driving
    • TLI31415 - Certificate III in Rail Driving
    • TLI31418 - Certificate III in Rail Driving
    • TLI33213 - Certificate III in Terminal Train 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 to 2019 program enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 subject enrolments
  • 2015 to 2019 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 2019 commencements
  • 2010 to 2019 completions
  • 2019 apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2019 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 2020, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2020, 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 2020 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: 25 Sep 2020
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