cancel
search
Search by IRC, Industry, sector, training package, IRC skills forecast or occupation.

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 $22.79 billion, adding $8.77 billion to the Australian economy in 2019-20. More than 50,000 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.

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

Employment trends

Employment snapshot

Employment levels in the Rail Freight Transport industry decreased overall between 2001 and 2021, with employment projected to increase until 2025. Employment levels in the Rail Passenger Transport industry declined overall between 2001 and 2021 but employment is projected to increase slightly until 2025. Employment levels in Rail Transport (not further defined) declined overall between 2008 and 2019, however levels rose between 2019 and 2020 and a further increase is projected until 2025. 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%. Employment levels in these occupations are projected to remain fairly similar until 2025 with the exception of Other Stationary Plant Operators which are expected to increase slightly by 2%.

Training trends

Training snapshot

Program enrolments and completions have been variable between 2016 and 2020, peaking in 2017 with around 29,840 enrolments and 9,020 completions. Program enrolments in Rail-related qualifications decreased between 2019 and 2020 from 24,680 to 11,470., There was a spike in completions in 2017 (approximately  9,200 ) interspersed with lower numbers in 2016 and 2018 (around 1,430 and 3,510 respectively). Completions increased slightly over the last two years from 2,780 in 2019 to 3,070 in 2020.

The majority of enrolments in 2020 were at the certificate II level (63%) and the main qualification areas were Infrastructure and Tram/Light Rail/Train Driving. The most common intended occupation was Railway Track Worker.

Rail-related training in 2020 was mainly delivered by private training providers (69%), with a further 30% delivered by enterprise providers. Approximately 88% of subjects for Rail-related qualifications were funded via domestic fee for service with the remainder Commonwealth and state funded.

In 2020, roughly 37% of students were from New South Wales, 25% from Queensland and 22% from Victoria. Approximately 36% of training was delivered in New South Wales, followed by Queensland (25%) and Victoria (21%).

There were roughly 280 apprenticeship and traineeship commencements and approximately 310 completions in Rail-related qualifications during 2020. Commencements have remained fairly stable between 2016 and 2020 following a sharp decline between 2011 and 2013 and a slight peak in 2015. Completion numbers remained stable between 2011 and 2013 after which they experienced a period of decline before rising in 2018 to decline sharply in 2019 before increasing again to around 310 during 2020. The main intended occupation for apprentices and trainees was Train Driver. Approximately 51% of apprenticeship and traineeship training was reported by Victoria, with 22% reported by New South Wales and 11% by South Australia.

For more data specific to your occupation, industry group or training package, visit NCVER’s Data Builder.

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 Train Driver and Labourers nec. The top employers for Rail workers were the Aurizon Holdings, Pacific National 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 2019 Skills Forecast identified that 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 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.

Four industry workforce, skills developments or trends that have emerged since the release of the Rail IRC’s 2019 Skills Forecast are identified in the Rail IRC’s 2020 Skills Forecast (abridged annual update). They relate to new technologies and automation within signalling and communications systems; train and rail vehicle operations; track and asset management; and customer service.

Building on the industry workforce, skills developments or trends identified in the previous two years, the Rail IRC’s 2021 Industry Outlook (abridged annual update) highlights several opportunities and challenges for the Maritime industry sector under the categories of automation, asset maintenance, safety, cybersecurity, customer service and rail projects:

  • The use of automated driverless trains, Advanced Train Management System (ATMS), and Automation of roll by inspections have been identified by the industry as requiring the workforce to have a mix of basic, intermediate, and advanced digital literacy skills and knowledge, and the need to strengthen risk intelligence, problem solving and decision making within competency standards.
  • New technologies including sensors and electronics under train carriages or on rail tracks, acoustic monitoring and smart plastic components will require the asset maintenance workforce to have new competencies associated with predicting faults, moving to predictive maintenance of track and associated infrastructure including basic digital literacy, data manipulation and data analysis skills, understanding of the impact and how to interface with wearable technologies. Rollingstock trades will also require changes in their rail training packages and new units of competence, and the technologies may potentially broaden career paths across engineering and rollingstock.
  • The Australian Government has invested in making the national rail network safer by replacing on-track signalling with Global Positioning System (GPS) and wireless technologies. A review and merging of the Certificate IV in Rail Safety Management and Certificate IV in Rail Investigation has been proposed to update skills related to preventive management of rail safety, behaviour changes, and in the case of an incident, investigation capability. The IRC is also proposing to develop one new Skill Set and a Unit of Competency to provide workers the required skills for piloting rail traffic.
  • Workforce skills need to be progressively developed to minimise the risk of cyber-attacks and be capable of reinstating digital systems as quickly as possible should a cybersecurity incident occur, including compliance with regulatory requirements. Commonwealth legislation regarding critical assets and the impact on knowledge requirements for the workforce will need to be monitored.
  • The workforce requires customer service skills in interfacing between digital systems and customers, including the ability to determine and meet customer expectations, and find and interpret information effectively. Passenger safety, security, ticketing technology and communications skills will be addressed in the current review of the Certificate II and III in Rail Customer Service.
  • Attracting and retaining young workers remains a challenge for the industry. There is a need to establish clear career pathways and training provision to contribute to the transferability of skills as a lack of harmonisation and skills gaps is challenging the ability to be able to transfer skills within Australia or from other industries.

Technological changes also feature in the Rail Transport Industry Profiles and Snapshots by the Logistics & Defence Skills Council in Western Australia. Simulators utilising augmented and virtual reality provide the opportunity to improve safety and training in the sub-sector. Rail maintenance is becoming more electronic, requiring information technology skills as well as traditional mechanical skills. The role of train driver continues to evolve and with the role of rail signal controllers automated and done remotely by centralised Train Controllers the role no longer exists in Western Australia. The changes due to continued digital integration could potentially result in the need for upskilling to address significant workforce and knowledge gaps.

As stated in the National Rail Action Plan, which complements the 10-year National Rail Program, there has been a large increase in government investment in rail projects, presenting challenges and opportunities for the industry sub-sector, with current analysis has showing a number of occupations will have skills shortages. The Australasian Railway Association reports work on major rail projects in the next five years will more than double the construction activity seen at the peak of the mining boom. Major projects include Sydney Metro, Cross River Rail, Melbourne Metro and WA’s METRONET for passenger networks and the Inland Rail project for freight. The Infrastructure Market Capacity report estimates demand for rail track workers will increase by round 375% in the next three years, and demand for rail track will triple, growing faster than any other material. The report states infrastructure labour and occupations are not all the same, and sub-sectors tend to have a unique sub-set of occupations. Infrastructure Workforce Skills Supply cites reports from industry stakeholders of worsening shortage of roles integral to rail infrastructure, particularly rail signallers, systems engineers, and rail track workers, and with some positions requiring high levels of technical knowledge, shortages of a few individuals can present significant challenges to rail project completions. The Skills Priority List includes Train Controller and Train Driver under occupations in national shortage with moderate future demand, and Railway Signal Operator, Railway Station Manager and Railway Track Worker under occupations not in national shortage with moderate future demand.

A survey undertaken on how young people in the 18-30 age group perceived careers in rolling stock for the Reimagining the workforce: building smart, sustainable, safe public transport project indicated their knowledge of the options for careers in public transport was largely limited to driver positions, and there was little consciousness of the significant number of jobs in manufacturing and maintenance of trains, buses and trams. The challenges identified through discussions and surveys of industry participants in a further project report, Reimagining the workforce: training for a future rolling stock workforce, include a lack of cohesion and defined pathways between rolling stock industry, the educational sector and the community; no cohesive understanding as to how new technologies and social changes in society will manifest throughout the industry in the next 10 years; a lack of workforce profiles that can be used to support strategic planning of future training needs; and responses to training issues in rolling stock have been predominantly reactive with little impact long term workforce issues. The opportunities discussed include the upskilling and reskilling of people who are right for the job but have skills gaps; effective attraction and retention of employees could be supported by training; embedding specific modules in current training and higher educational programs to expose students to the rolling stock sector; rethinking apprenticeships and designing programs that reflect what employees will be doing in 5-10 years.

Links and resources

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

 

IRC and skills forecasts

Rail IRC

 

Relevant research

Building the rail network of the future – Australasian Railway Association

Infrastructure Market Capacity – Infrastructure Australia

Infrastructure Workforce and Skills Supply: a Report from Infrastructure Australia's Market Capacity Program – Infrastructure Australia

National Rail Action Plan – National Transport Commission (NTC)

National Rail Program – Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications

Rail Transport: Freight Industry Profile – Logistics & Defence Skills Council (Western Australia)

Rail Transport: Freight Industry Snapshot – Logistics & Defence Skills Council (Western Australia)

Rail Transport: Passenger Industry Profile – Logistics & Defence Skills Council (Western Australia)

Rail Transport: Passenger Industry Snapshot – Logistics & Defence Skills Council (Western Australia)

Reimagining the workforce: training for a future rolling stock workforce – Celeste Young, Roger Jones, Sidney Lung, Daniel Ooi, Neil Parry and Kumi Heenetigala

Reimagining the workforce: community perceptions of careers working with rolling stock – Daniel Ooi and Craig Cormick

Skills Priority List – National Skills Commission

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

 

Industry associations

Association of Tourist and Heritage Rail Australia

Australasian Railway Association

Rail Industry Safety and Standards Board

 

Employee associations

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 2021, Employment Projections, available from the Labour Market Information Portal

  • by ANZSIC 3 digit industry, employment projections to May 2025
    • 470 Rail Transport nfd
    • 471 Rail Freight Transport
    • 472 Rail Passenger Transport.
  • by ANZSCO, selected occupations, employment projections to May 2025
    • 6394 Ticket Salespersons
    • 7129 Other Stationary Plant Operators
    • 7313 Train and Tram Drivers
    • 8216 Railway Track Workers.

Australian Bureau of Statistics 2021, 6291.0.55.001 - EQ06 - Employed persons by Industry group of main job (ANZSIC), Sex, State and Territory, November 1984 onwards, viewed 1 August 2021 https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/labour/employment-and-unemployment/labour-force-australia-detailed/may-2021

  • Employed total by ANZSIC 3 digit ‘470 Rail Transport nfd’, ‘471 Rail Freight Transport’ and ‘472 Rail Passenger Transport’, 2001 to 2021, May quarter.

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
    • TLI27120 - 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
    • TLI37120 - Certificate III in Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI42311 - Certificate IV in Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI42315 - Certificate IV in Rail Infrastructure
    • TLI47120 - Certificate IV in Rail Infrastructure.
  • Network Control/Rail Safety
    • TLI30220 - Certificate III in Mechanical Rail Signalling
    • TLI31913 - Certificate III in Mechanical Rail Signalling
    • TLI31915 - Certificate III in Mechanical Rail Signalling
    • TLI31918 - Certificate III in Mechanical Rail Signalling
    • TLI31920 - Certificate III in Mechanical Rail Signalling
    • TLI40115 - Certificate IV in Rail Safety Investigation
    • TLI40120 - Certificate IV in Rail Network Control
    • TLI40220 - 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
    • TLI10410 - Certificate I in Transport and Logistics (Rail Operations)
    • 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
    • TLI23220 - Certificate II in Shunting
    • TLI27220 - Certificate II in Rail Track Vehicle Driving
    • TLI30120 - Certificate III in Passenger Train Guard
    • 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
    • TLI32820 - 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
    • 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
    • TLI21920 - 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
    • TLI33215 - 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:

  • 2016 to 2020 program enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 subject enrolments
  • 2016 to 2020 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:

  • 2011 to 2020 commencements
  • 2011 to 2020 completions
  • apprentices and trainees in-training October to December 2020 collection, by qualification and state and territory of data submitter.

Job vacancy data have been extracted from Burning Glass Technologies 2021, Labor Insight Real-time Labor Market Information Tool, Burning Glass Technologies, Boston, viewed July 2021, https://www.burning-glass.com.

Data shown represent most requested generic skills, occupations and employers according to internet job postings in Australia between July 2018 and June 2021 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
    • 899999 Labourers nec
    • 341111 Electrician (General)
    • 731311 Train Driver
    • 312911 Maintenance Planner
    • 47 Rail Transport.
Updated: 19 Jan 2022
To Top