Meet the apprentices helping to upgrade one of Britain’s major rail routes: East Mids National Apprenticeship Week (1)

Tuesday 6 Feb 2024

Meet the apprentices helping to upgrade one of Britain’s major rail routes

Region & Route:
| Eastern: East Midlands

As part of National Apprenticeship Week, Network Rail is showcasing the five apprentices helping to shape the future and upgrade one of Britain’s major rail routes, the Midland Main Line.

The Midland Main Line Upgrade will eventually see the line from Sheffield to St Pancras electrified as new bi-mode trains are introduced, leading to faster, more reliable, and greener journeys for passengers. Work is currently being carried out between Kettering and Wigston, south of Leicester.

Network Rail has an established apprenticeship programme which recruits people into various roles across the organisation, from joining on-track teams, to working behind the scenes.

Network Rail engineers carry out wiring work on the Midland Main Line, Network Rail

In September 2023, Network Rail recruited five new apprentices to work on the Midland Main Line Upgrade – Sam Parker, Edwin Russell, Sam Basudev, Orlando Marr, and Sam Wadsley. The group are all based at Network Rail’s Trent House in Derby.

27 year old Sam Parker joined Network Rail as an apprentice in the Electrical and Plant team. His main role is to analyse electrical designs submitted by Network Rail contractors to see if they meet the organisation’s standards.

Following on from completing his PhD in physics, Sam wanted a change and was interested in the apprenticeship after scouting out engineering roles available to him.

Sam said: “I really enjoy my role because it’s so interesting to see how the electrification plans go from design stage to being implanted in the real world. There’s a lot to learn and so many things that relate to the railway that I’d not considered, but I’m enjoying the challenge.

“My apprenticeship has been great so far and everyone has made me feel so welcome.”

The cohort of apprentices are on courses lasting between three and five years, with all apprentices studying towards qualifications during their time with the organisation.

Edwin Russell is a 21 year old signalling and telecoms apprentice, working on signal structures between Kettering and Wigston. His role includes creating solutions to any problems that might arise with the installation of lineside signals.

Edwin’s designs and solutions could form part of the railway in years to come and play a key part in how effectively trains run on the line.

Edwin said: “I love being able to come up with suggested solutions to real-world problems that occur on the railway.

“Signalling is such a key part of running trains and it’s so important that signals work in partnership with overhead lines and other equipment on the line to allow trains to run safely and efficiently for passengers.

22 year old Sam Basudev works as an apprentice Project Manager and is currently supporting other project managers on work being carried out between Kettering and Wigston. He is also helping to design parts of new bridges which will go over the line.

Sam explained: “The railway is such a different world to anything I’ve experienced before but I’m really enjoying my time working for Network Rail on this project. I went to university and got my degree but wanted a career change. When I saw this apprenticeship, I applied straight away.

“It’s a great opportunity to work on such a huge project that is going to positively impact so many passengers in the future. I have a real passion for decarbonisation, too, and this project will bring so many environmental benefits once completed.

Throughout their time with Network Rail, the apprentices are all individually supported by a mentor who works in the same area as them. Mentors are there to guide, support and nurture their development, as well as helping to equip them with new skills.

Orlando Marr, aged 18, is the youngest of the MML apprentices and works as part of the project’s commercial team. Alongside his colleagues, he handles business contracts, including for the designing of overhead line and signalling equipment which will be installed on the railway.

Orlando said: “I wasn’t sure that university was the right path for me, so when I found out about apprenticeships at Network Rail, I was so pleased.

“Working in the commercial team is so interesting, and I have direct responsibility for work that will help keep the project on time which is really exciting. I know that this is the right path for me.”

Sam Wadsley, aged 18, has also joined Network Rail’s commercial team as an apprentice working on the project. He is mainly involved in sorting payments out on the project and making sure finances are being correctly spent.

Sam wanted to do something different to the traditional university path and says that working as a Network Rail apprentice is enjoyable.

Sam explained: “I knew that going to university full time just wasn’t for me and I wanted to follow a different path.

“When I first applied, I wasn’t sure that this role was what I wanted to do, but after a few months working for Network Rail, I feel like I’ve settled and I’m really enjoying what I do.

“Every day I feel like my knowledge is strengthening. I also like the fact that I play a role in a project that will improve the railway for our passengers, as well as creating a more sustainable network.”

For more information about the apprenticeships currently available at Network Rail, please visit:

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Joshua Chapman
Media Relations Manager
Network Rail

About Network Rail

We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Usually, there are almost five million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

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