The UK Rail Network Story

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The personnel that help to maintain the United Kingdom’s rail network are instrumental in delivering a safe, reliable and efficient network that meets the needs of both businesses and commuter’s day and night, 365 days a year.
In Britain the network is governed and managed predominantly by Network Rail (NWR). Their mission is “to provide the best possible service to everyone who relies on the railway – passengers, the train and freight operating companies and businesses nationwide.”
In 2016 there were 1.718 billion journeys on the National Rail network, according to the Department for Transport statistics, making it one of the busiest in the world. To meet the increased demand on the UK’s rail infrastructure, NWR has implemented an extensive track-renewal and upgrade program. INFRA Skills Limited has been assisting rail personnel and businesses throughout the UK, who are working on many of these large-scale NWR projects, in ensuring that have the correct skills and knowledge to conduct themselves safely on-site. This, in turn, helps both businesses and workers to meet the NWR mandate of ensuring that ‘Everyone [Returns] Home Safe Everyday’.
With major projects currently underway such as Midland Metro, Crossrail and Thameslink and new infrastructure initiatives in development which include the new high-speed network, there has never been a better time to begin your ‘Journey Into Rail’.

Industry Challenges

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INFRA Skills are committed to helping the sector resolve the following key issues:

  • Average age of the UK’s rail workforce and signalling personnel is 47 and 57. These key individuals will be looking to retire in the near future meaning that their will be a significant skills shortage in the industry hampering the ability for growth, which in turn will have a detrimental effect on the economy.
  • The sector suffers extensively from a lack of diversity. This is illustrated by the recent announcement that females make up around 4% of entire UK’s rail workforce.
  • Network Rail estimates that the industry requires an additional 13,000 skilled operatives to ensure delivery of their expansion and renewal projects.
  • HS2 have announced that on average the project has skills gap of around 10,000 worker per month, whilst at its peak it will require an additional 24,000 personnel.
  • High barriers to entry with compliance and safety.
  • Time limited competencies require continuous training and assessment.



Sentinel Sponsorship Overview

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What is Sentinel?

Sentinel provides rail workers with the right to operate on the UK rail infrastructure. The system includes a unique identity card that is issued and controlled through the Sentinel Scheme, and which can be read electronically via a ‘smart’ device to provide safety critical information on an Individual’s fitness and competence, including safety critical information.

The card will display a photograph of the Individual and a unique Sentinel Scheme reference number for identification purposes. All other information will be verified through access to the online Sentinel scheme database.

Primary Sponsor Responsibilities

  • Shall conduct an initial induction and brief the contents of this contract of sponsorship contract and the Sentinel Scheme Rules.
  • Define the contractual relationship with the sponsored person that being directly employed, self employed or subcontracted.
  • Make declaration as to the use of sub-sponsors.
  • Fulfil the role of employer for the purposes of health, safety and environmental legislative requirements.
  • Provide details of roles and responsibilities through briefing and issue of job descriptions.
  • Agree arrangements for sub sponsorship with the sponsored person where permitted and grant permission to any sub-sponsor to use their resources.
  • Maintain management systems to manage hours worked (including those worked for a sub sponsor where permitted) and fatigue.
  • Provide suitable and sufficient Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and maintain records of issue and replacement.
  • Conduct regular briefings on health, safety and environmental matters and obtain acknowledgment of understanding signatures for the briefings.
  • Provide regular updates to Rule Book Handbooks and Modules where applicable and rail standards including the sentinel scheme rules.
  • Maintain a competence, training and assessment management system to ensure competence is maintained and developed through training assessment and mentoring where required.
  • Maintain processes for procurement, management, calibration and provision of safety critical equipment as required to undertake the work activities.
  • Provide guidance and ensure compliance with medical and alcohol and drug certification.
  • Request temporary suspension pending conclusion of local investigations.
  • Conduct local investigations where required for any alleged breaches of the Sentinel Scheme Rules.
  • Collate information from sub-sponsors to conclusion of local investigations.
  • Request a formal review where a Sentinel Scheme outcome is recommended.
  • Maintain management systems to allow de-sponsorship of any sponsored persons.
  • Provide a reason for de-sponsorship of a sponsored person.
  • Maintain all records associated with management of the contract of Sponsorship and Sentinel Scheme Rules requirements.

Sponsored Person's Responsibilities

  • Carry their Sentinel Smart Card at all times while working on Network Rail Managed Infrastructure (NRMI).
  • At all times cooperate with the requirements of their Primary Sponsor to ensure personal information on the Sentinel database and Smart Card remains accurate.
  • Comply with the requirements of the Sentinel Scheme Rules and Lifesaving Rules.
  • Advise the Primary Sponsor of any changes to personal health.
  • Advise the Primary Sponsor where the Sponsored Person no longer wishes to be sponsored by them.
  • Manage sponsor responsibilities insofar as knowing the identity of their primary Sponsor.
  • When not working for the Primary Sponsor know the identity of the sub-sponsor.
  • Ensure that the name of the correct sponsor is provided when booking into worksites.
  • Make use of the ‘My Sentinel’ facility on the Sentinel Scheme Database.
sentinel card poster

Entry Level Requirements

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Personal Track Safety (PTS) Course

  • Sentinel Standard Medical and Drugs & Alcohol (D&A).
  • Able to understand both spoken and written English.
  • Sentinel Profile is required as part of course registration.
  • Photo ID (Passport, Driving License or Citizen Card).
  • Sponsorship Organisation (ATS are able to provide sponsorship for the duration of the course only.)


Industry Common Induction (ICI) Course

  • Basic IT skills.
  • Able to understand both spoken and written English.
  • Sentinel Profile is required as part of course registration.
  • Photo ID (Passport, Driving License or Citizen Card).
  • Sponsorship Organisation (ATS are able to provide sponsorship for the duration of the course only.)


Network Rail Approved Drugs & Alcohol and Medical

Both the D&A and the Medical require the candidate to have a sponsor and a sentinel profile. The Medical examination will cover the following:

  • Eyesight.
  • Hearing.
  • Co-ordination.
  • Height vs Weight (BMI)
  • Colour Vision
  • Height vs Weight (BMI)
  • Colour Vision
  • General Medical History
  • Current Medication

The Drugs and Alcohol screening will test for the following:


  • Alcohol.
  • Drugs – Illegal and Legal.