Railway Station Assistant

The Job and What's Involved

Railway station assistants work in train stations and on station platforms. Their main role is to deal with customers and make sure that passengers are safe and happy with their journeys.

Their work includes:

  • Answering questions from passengers.
  • Helping passengers with large luggage, push chairs and prams.
  • Assisting people with particular needs, such as wheelchair users.
  • Making sure people are in the right place to catch their train.
  • Checking tickets.
  • Keeping a careful lookout for any problems.
  • Doing their best to see that people have a safe, pleasant and trouble-free journey.

Other work on the platform can include:

Giving dispatch instructions to train drivers.

Keeping message boards for passenger information up to date.

Making customer announcements about arrivals, delays and platform changes over the loudspeaker system.

Keeping the station clean and tidy.

They may also work in the station office:

- Giving information about train arrivals and departures
- Helping passengers to plan their journey
- Selling tickets

Station assistants usually work standard full-time hours, although there are sometimes also opportunities for paid overtime. Most stations remain open for as long as trains are operating in the area, which means that station assistants have to work shifts that cover early mornings, days, evenings, nights, weekends and bank holidays.

Some of their time is spent on a station platform. Depending on the size of the station, the platforms may be out in the open, which can sometimes mean getting cold and wet. Platforms at large stations are more often covered and but not necessarily heated.

At other times, station assistants may work in a station office. In small stations this will double up as the ticket office and may be a small space. Larger stations may have lots of waiting rooms, as well as ticket offices and information desks.

The work may involve lifting and carrying, long periods of standing and some walking. If the work is in the station office or at the information desk, then there can be long periods of sitting down and using computers.

Assistants wear a uniform so that travellers can recognise them easily.

A railway station assistant may start at around £13,500 a year. Pay may go up to around £18,000 with experience.

Pay for a team leader starts at around £21,000.

These figures can be increased by extra pay for overtime.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

There are over 2,500 stations throughout the UK. These are owned by Network Rail, but most of them are leased to, and managed by, one of the 27 train operating companies. Only 18 of the stations are managed directly by Network Rail. Both Network Rail and the train operating companies employ railway station staff. Some underground, light rail and metro operators also have railway station assistants.

Details of vacancies and how to apply are available from the websites of the train operating companies. A list of these companies, with links to their websites, is available at www.nationalrail.co.uk. There is also information on job opportunities on Network Rail's website: www.networkrail.co.uk. Some companies may also advertise vacancies through Jobcentre Plus and in the local media.

Education and Training

Most train operating companies ask for some GCSE's (A*-C), especially in English and maths for station assistant jobs. In some cases, they do not require specific qualifications, but look for people who have good communication and number skills.

The minimum age for this work is 18 years, and many companies look for people who have previous experience in other jobs, particularly customer services roles. Applicants may need to pass a medical, including drug and alcohol tests.

Apprenticeships may be available with train operating companies.

Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.

Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.

There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

For further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

Short in-company induction courses normally include health and safety, customer care, railway operating systems (including timetables and fares) and how to deal with emergencies.

This is normally followed by on-the-job training in a station, working under the instruction and supervision of an experienced station assistant. Sometimes this may include periods in different areas, such as ticket offices, information centres and platforms, to learn all the different aspects of the job.

Train operating companies are now providing the opportunity for employees to work towards NVQ Level 2 in rail transport operations, either as part of an Apprenticeship or as a separate course.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A railway station assistant should:

  • Have good communication skills.
  • Have the confidence to deal with all sorts of enquiries and people.
  • Be polite and friendly.
  • Be able to give information in a way that is easily understood.
  • Have a clear speaking voice and good vocabulary.
  • Be able to read and use timetables and schedules.
  • Have a good memory, in order to recall train times and the cost of tickets.
  • Be calm in an emergency and able to take responsibility for customer safety.
  • Work well in a team or on his or her own.
  • Be mature and responsible.
  • Have a flexible lifestyle for shift and weekend working.
  • Be fit and energetic.
  • Have a clean, smart appearance.
  • Have good hearing and eyesight.
  • Be able to cope with boredom at slack times and the bustle of peak times.

Your Long Term Prospects

Railway station assistants can be promoted to roles such as ticket inspector, revenue protection officer or assistant station manager and eventually to customer services manager or station manager.

They can also move into work on board trains. With a train operating company, there may also be opportunities to train as a driver or conductor.

Get Further Information

Association of Train Operating Companies,
Third Floor, 40 Bernard Street,
London WC1N 1BY
Tel: 020 7841 8000
Website: www.atoc.org

National Rail
Website: www.nationalrail.co.uk

Network Rail, Kings Place,
90 York Way, London N1 9AG
Tel: 020 3356 9595
Website: www.networkrail.co.uk

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