5. What exactly does a Systems and Signals Operator do?

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As a Systems and Signals Operator, youโ€™re on the front line for making sure train operators get their trains in and out of stations safely and on time. Itโ€™s a high-responsibility job โ€“ peoples' jobs and livelihoods rely on the railway, and you have a lot of lives in your hands!

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On a day-to-day basis, signallers control the movements of trains in accordance with the timetable. Think of conductors in an orchestra.

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They:

  • Make sure all site works have been completed and technical staff are clear of the tracks before the trains begin moving
  • Manage train launch-out times
  • Look out for any abnormalities
  • Liaise with others to determine how train movements should respond in extreme weather conditions
  • Facilitate rail access when accidents occur or maintenance needs to be performed
  • Manage rolling stock

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Sounds cool, where will I be working?

Signal Operators are based in the network control centre, working on an interface that looks something like this:

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Network control centres vary in size and operating capacity, depending on the region they're overseeing. At the far end of the spectrum is a big city control centre like the one in Sydney:

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Can you imagine yourself at a desk with five screens sprawled in front of you, working in a high-tech, high-paced environment? ๐Ÿ˜ฒ๐Ÿ˜

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Of course, signalling systems and control centres werenโ€™t always so technologically advanced. In the early days of rail, for example, signalling consisted of what is know as Time Interval Signalling, which involved officers with stopwatches lining the railway in blocks, and managing the movement of trains through simple green, yellow, or red flags. โœ…๐ŸŸกโŒ

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So, how has signalling evolved over time?ย 

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The video below gives a comprehensive overview of the history of signalling:

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As you can see from this, digital technology is being used to improve the flow of trains along the network and reduce the ripple effects of disruptions.

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Head on to the next page to explore an example of a modern train signalling system that's being used by Inland Rail...
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