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Network Rail Track Delivery Update from Steve Featherstone. 10 June 2014

10 June 2014

Carillon Fatalities

Sadly yesterday morning we heard that five members of a Carillion team returning home from work on the Reading project were involved in a road traffic accident on a motorway. Two of the team were pronounced dead at the scene. Our thoughts are with the families, friends and colleagues of all of those involved.

Fatigue Management

Nick Millington has brought together a cross industry group to look at fatigue management.  The Fatigue Management Working Group, (a sub-group of the Track Safety Alliance) recently undertook a fatigue management survey over a Saturday night / Sunday morning shift with 59 staff including managers, supervisors, techs, track staff, possession management staff and machine controllers. Of the 59 staff surveyed:

■     61% had no food with them to eat on their shift - we provide water, but nothing else

■     26% use energy drinks to assist in managing their fatigue - one individual admitted to having around 5 cans per shift

■     64% hadn't slept since Friday night into Saturday morning and by the end of their shift would be in excess of 24 hours without sleep

■     52% had come from a pattern of working days all week to working Saturday night

■     20% worked in excess of the 14 hours door to door policy, even if some of the time the individuals were in a hotel.

We’ll undertake more audits in the coming weeks to understand the challenges colleagues face in managing fatigue.

Piper Alpha tragedy

At the next Track leadership conference on 8 and 9 of July I will be showing a recording of Brian Appleton feeding back the findings following the Piper Alpha tragedy. Even after 25 years it is still very relevant.

It is one of the best and most thought provoking safety videos that I have seen and provides a stark reminder why safety management is so important and what can happen if we do not get it right.

Our Apprentices

Last Friday was my favourite day in the railway calendar - the day 202 first year apprentices graduated.  When I see the collected talent and enthusiasm, I am both proud and reassured that the future is in safe hands.  In the afternoon it was the annual field gun competition with apprentices from 12 different companies, including the military. Network Rail had three teams who won both the cup and the plate competitions. 

Efficient Delivery Techniques

Over the last few months, the Plain Line team have been working on Efficient Delivery Techniques to standardise plain line renewals into units of 216m / 236yards of rail sleeper and ballast renewal in an eight hour possession, using the same team, the same plant, the same train consists.

The reason that it is 216m / 236yards is that this is the length of a string of rail and so is the optimum length to reduce welding, wastage and save time. We have slowly increased our output from 100yards per night to c180yards per night and we have moved from branch lines on to main lines.

At the end of May we went for the full 236yards on a mainline railway, working closely with our delivery partner Babcock. We allowed an extra hour of contingency and the good news is that we completed the work.  The bad news is that we overran by 69minutes. Of the 69 minutes lost time, 55 minutes were a result of a RRV breakdown highlighting the importance of plant reliability as we seek to safely and consistently do more work in less time. We have been encouraging the supply chain to move to selecting plant suppliers based on reliability rather than price and this example demonstrates why.

So having completed one string of rail, sleeper and ballast renewal using a standardised methodology in 10 hours and 9 minutes, there was lots of learning about where we lost time. We will apply lean techniques to continuously improve to safely and reliably deliver 236yards in an eight hour possession.

From a Plain Line track renewals perspective this will be game changing as instead of booking long possessions at weekends we will be able to offer an alternative of night time eight hour possessions which will hopefully allow more trains to operate for the weekend leisure market. From a supply chain perspective this means we mobilise four or five times per week rather than once at the weekend so costs will increase in some areas, such as haulage.

From a people perspective, wide scale introduction of efficient delivery techniques will mean the same resources will be required for four or five shifts per week. We will be able to move away from “weekend warriors” to core workers who we can train and develop and therefore continuously improve our service delivery.

Rail Live 2014

This week Rail Live 2014 will take place when customers and suppliers can meet up to discuss their problems and find solutions  - it is a key part of our continuous improvement journey.

We think this will be the biggest outdoor rail plant exhibition in the world where the exhibitors are able to demonstrate their equipment in a live railway environment - fingers crossed for some decent weather.

Following the set up of the exhibition on the evening of Tuesday 17 June I have invited the exhibitors to join us for the inaugural Rail Plant Awards, sponsored by Amey, Babcock, Carillion, Colas and Network Rail. The awards will be decided by a panel of experts, recognising excellence within the supply chain.

There will be a host of demonstrations over both days - if you wanted to see all of this equipment in action on the railway it would probably take a year’s worth of site visits!

Please pre-register and remember Rail Live 2014 is an operational railway site so it requires full PPE and full site access control - full details at Rail Live:

As with last year we are asking exhibitors to provide a voluntary donation to charity. It was a real pleasure last year to significant donations to two worthy charities last year.

Miscellaneous news

Several people have asked for the slides used to brief the Permanent Way Institution on the new contracts and challenges for track renewals in CP5. Please click on the following links to download the slides -IP Commercial strategy for track renewals contractsTrack Delivery update from briefing 23rd May.


PSLG have issued an update note following their recent meeting

Balfour Beatty have issued a guidance note on dealing with casualties of accidents

Network Rail have issued a safety bulletin following a person falling from an HGV

Balfour Beatty have issued a safety bulletin after a person fell on site and broke their ankle

Dean Johns has sent another photo for use as a safety moment

The Track S&C team have issued a Share with Pride following renewals on LNE/EM route at Aldwarke

The Track Safety Alliance has circulated an update note on the proposed changes to how we plan and deliver safe work.


Steve Featherstone

Programme Director Track

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