The Severn Valley Railway and the Auctus Apprentice Training Agency have entered into a new partnership aimed at boosting the number of apprentices in the rail industry.

The partnership, which is a response to the nationwide shortage of qualified rail engineers and workers, will result in 48 Auctus apprentices learning vital trackside maintenance and construction techniques, in a safe environment, by working on the Severn Valley Railway’s trackside infrastructure.

In addition to the Auctus apprentices, two Severn Valley Railway apprentices will also join the scheme and specific training courses are to be made available to track laying and maintenance volunteers of the heritage railway who wish to update and refresh their skills.

Specifically, the apprentices will work on the Bewdley to Stourport section of the line, which has been disused since 1968, performing a variety of tasks, including sleeper changing and track relaying. In addition, the apprentices will support other Severn Valley Railway maintenance projects along the 16 mile Kidderminster to Bridgnorth route and take part in the regular maintenance shutdown, which takes place in January and February each year.

Auctus Apprentice Training Agency, which is part of Auctus Management Group, is a major provider of contingent labour to the rail and construction sectors and was established to address a shortage of people with the necessary skills to work within both the rail and built environments. The company provides either a Level 2 or Level 3 National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) in railway engineering or track maintenance, which includes at least 30 hours per week on site.

Richard Toy, CEO at Auctus Apprentice Training Agency commented: “In the UK, we have a real shortage of skilled rail personnel with the necessary qualifications to work trackside. This partnership with the Severn Valley Railway enables us to get our apprentices out of the classroom and into a safe trackside working environment, learning the skills and techniques which are vital for the future of the UK’s rail industry.

Our aim is to have the apprentices replicating track renewal work they will be asked to perform on mainline rail infrastructure and provide a regular stream of skilled rail engineers and workers for the rail industry. We hope that this partnership will expand in the future and there are already a number of major rail infrastructure companies who are showing an interest in sending their own apprentices to take part in the scheme.”