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Track Delivery update 11 July 2014 - Steve Featherstone

11 July 2014

Recommendations following fatal accident

In January, John Wright, one of our colleagues working out of Doncaster delivery unit, was struck by a train while working in the Newark Northgate area. He passed away ten days later in hospital. A formal investigation followed the incident, to determine the facts, the immediate and underlying causes, and make recommendations to prevent similar accidents.

The report makes five key recommendations:

1    Work should be undertaken to change the perception of the role of the lookout in terms of importance to the safe system of work.

2    A review should be conducted to better understand the dynamics that working in regular, small teams can have regarding adherence to safety discipline and in creating a reluctance to report unsafe, or potentially unsafe, working practices and conditions.

3    The clarity and consistency within the COSS training on trains that have the potential to approach the site of work through facing points and how to treat changes to line speeds within the sighting distance should be improved, and the knowledge embedded throughout the planning and COSS community. This training should be delivered in such a way that it includes experience in setting up challenging safe systems of work.

4    The apparent imbalance between relatively low levels of fatigue and high levels of risk that can arise using the HSE Fatigue and Risk Index should be reviewed.

5    The Assessment in the Line process should be reviewed to understand how the pressures on local managers to 'level staff up' to pass the assessments can impact on the overall effectiveness of the process.

You can read more about the recommendations and watch the animated reconstruction of the incident on Safety Central at the link below:

Dedicated drivers pilot

Following our recent reviews and discussions on fatigue, last weekend we undertook the first pilot of using dedicated drivers to take teams to site and bring them home again safely. We worked with AmeyColas and McGinley with teams who live in South Wales and who were working in Ascot in South West London. Some things worked well and some didn’t, but with useful lessons learnt we will continue the pilot.

Overrun at Ascot

After an engineering train arrived back to front, we had an overrun at Ascot in Wessex on Monday morning. The delay impact to passengers was minimal. The communications with route control were very good throughout Sunday afternoon and evening. One of the consistent bits of feedback following overrun incidents is that route controls prefer early warning if things are off plan, even if the site team think that they can recover.  This allows the maximum possible time for the route controls to consider their options and to develop their plans.

New contracts

We are now approaching the cut over dates for the new contracts - the South cuts over on 29 July and the North cuts over on 19 August.

When we last transitioned to this extent about 11 years ago, there was a track buckle and derailment three weeks after cut over. I have stressed to both the IP Track team and to the contractors that we will not compromise safety during transition. If before or after transition, either Network Rail or the contractors do not have the assurance that we can safely and reliably deliver a job, then we will cancel the job. 

Lots of work is underway to mitigate the risks but ultimately if we cannot mitigate to the required level then we will postpone the work. I expect that within a few weeks of cut over, the teams will be back to full strength and normal service will be resumed.

IP Track - our progress

Whilst there may be some transitional issues ahead, IP Track have had a good first three periods. We have over delivered against budget volume targets on both S&C and plain line (conventional and high output). We have also reduced costs and so are underspent against budget. If we are still ahead on volume and underspent on costs at the end of September when we are through transition, I will be pleased and we can start to look forward to outperformance at the year end.

High Output Golden Tamper award

The national High Output Golden Tamper award winners for period three are the Doncaster / TRS2 team for safely delivering over 95% of planned volume on the difficult Bedford - St Pancras route. To have done this safely and successfully and without major performance impact is a great achievement, using continuous improvement lean techniques.

What a difference a year makes when typically we only delivered 75% of a campaign. Many thanks to everybody who has worked so hard to make this happen - now for the last 5%!

Awards and events

A number of recent events have left me feeling very uplifted, starting with the Network Rail Partnership Awards. I know it is a cliche to say that eveybody was a winner, but as I read through the nominations I felt proud to be part of the railway team which has achieved so many great things over the last year.  Well done to all of the nominees, the highly commended and of course the winners.

I also attended the IP Leadership event where our new MD, Francis Paonessa, introduced himself to the senior team and shared his initial thoughts. The event explored Mark Carne's key themes of Safety Hand in Hand with Performance, Structured Continuous Improvement and The Digital Railway. Rob McIntosh, Regional Director SNE, and I ran a session on continuous improvement setting a challenge for everybody to improve what they do by 1% - what massive improvements we might see over the course of a few months.

The annual VIP awards followed the event, recognising people and teams in IP that have stood out over the last year, and who once again make you feel proud to be a part of the railway team. The IP Track Engineering and Innovation team were winners for their work on modular slab track and Ian Henley was highly commended for his leadership of the conventional plain line team. Well done to all of those nominated, those highly commended and of course to the winners.

And finally we held the IP Track Leadership event for the top 100 in IP Track, where I opened with a session on the Piper Alpha disaster  of July 1988. Even after 26 years there are still lots of parallels and lessons for us in the railway. The video I used is below:

The important thing is that we all reflect on what we can learn and what it means for us as individuals in the behaviours that we demonstrate and the choices that we make.

At the event we also ran sessions on Copy with Pride, the 10 point plan for CP5, stage gate compliance and moving from the End to End process to Grip4Track. Andy Cooper, MD of Cross Country also shared a train operators perspective on the impact our works have on the travelling public.

We spent some time on the new track contracts and in particular the importance, for both client and contractor, of formal record keeping  to complete an audit trail of instructions and agreements. Commercial training is underway to familiarise people with the new contracts, their terms and how they should be applied. There will be more of this as we prepare for go live, including joint training with the contractors.

Finally I presented Lisa Whittaker of Clic Sargent, Network Rail's Charity of Choice for the next two years, with a cheque for £51,466.58, from the charitable donations at Rail Live 2014.Many thanks to all of the exhibitors who contributed to this and to the Network Rail Charity Committee for providing some matched funding.

I have set IP Track the target of raising £100,000 for Clic Sargent which prompted an outbreak of charity challenges  including Nick Millington shaving his head, if we could raise £2,500 and Ian Henley running the London Marathon 2015 if we £10,000. You can donate to either here:


When I got home from the Track Leadership event, my copy of The Rail Engineer had arrived with an excellent feature on Rail Live 2014: I’ve attached the pdf and link to the electronic version:

And finally over 200 track engineers from many different companies in the railway supply chain will get together at theTrack Engineering Conference to share knowledge, lessons and best practice. Many thanks to the Permanent Way Institution who have assisted with the organisation and administration of the event. Six months ago we held the event at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers and this time it is at the Institution of Civil Engineers. With portraits of Stephenson and Brunel looking down on the proceedings it reminds us of the very rich engineering heritage that we have in the railway.

Miscellaneous news

■     IP Western and Wales have issued a safety bulletin following the death of three railway workers in a road traffic accident

■     Kent route have issued aShare with Pain following a track buckle at Herne Hill South Junction

■     Babcock have issued a safety bulletin on the correct use of rail tongs

■     Osborne have issued a  HSEQ alert following the spillage of 250 litres of diesel

■     The IP Track Engineering and Innovation Team have issued a Share with Pride on Modular Slab Track, one of the winners at the recent VIP awards

■     The IP Track Safety and Assurance Team have issued a Share with Pride on an out of hours email code of practice

■     Various “Share with …….” Documents are now being published as a library on the Safety Central website at the link below:


Steve Featherstone

Programme Director Track


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