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Network Rail Track Delivery Update from Steve Featherstone 12th September

12 September 2014

IP Track have had a good week in terms of safety and delivery; there have been no serious accidents or incidents. Some volume has been curtailed but contingency plans worked well to protect handback. There were no overruns.

We are working hard with the new contractors and with NSC 24/7 to improve communications during our work. Feedback from the routes is that they are far more confident of a right time handback when they can see progress against the bar chart. Where we have any problems, the sooner the route are aware, the sooner they can discuss contingency plans for the train service and management of passengers.

There is also a lot that the route can do to help in real time, for e.g. getting trains cleared of the possession, but they can only do this if we tell them what is going on.

There were two firsts over last weekend as IP Track continues on its journey to become experts at what we do, offering solutions that only specialist teams can provide.

Ballast cleaning

At Stillington on LNE/EM the High Output Team undertook ballast cleaning on steel sleepers. The shape of the steel sleeper makes it a challenge to get the ballast compaction right. Steel sleepers are often installed on the existing ballast and if the track quality deteriorates then a ballast cleaning option would be good. The trial went so well that the team could have opened at 80mph as the track quality was that good. We however opened at 20mph as part of the trial to check that the track behaved as we expected it to before we raised the speed to 80mph after 48 hours.

Higher speed opening

At Waterbridge on LNE/EM the Plain Line team opened a plain line job at 80mph with temporary mechanical joints for the first time. Having an option to open at higher speeds is part of our efficient delivery techniques programme; to reduce the impact that the temporary speed restrictions have on train timings and potential schedule 8 cost impacts.

Higher speed handback is not for free; it involves a lot of extra work on ballast compaction and on the rail joints so we are working with the routes to cost up different options so they can pick and choose the jobs where higher speed handback is preferred.The plain line costing tool that we have developed for the new contracts will facilitate this.

In the old track contracts we had a bundled unit rate; costs of all of the work were divided by all of the delivery volume to give an average bundled unit rate. This mixed the efficient work with the inefficient work, known as dog jobs. Under the new plain line contracts we have gone back to a detailed schedule of rates supported by a costing tool so that we can very quickly identify the forecast costs and unit rates of any volume that we are asked to deliver in any given access window.

As part of the business plan for 2015/16 we have costed every job and produced a list of the top ten dog jobs for each route. Some of the proposed jobs are around ten times the target unit rate for CP5. As we had hoped when we introduced the granularity of costs in the new contracts, our route customers have looked at some of these jobs and are changing the plans. 

Whilst I am normally annoyed by changes to the plan, this is good change and is one of the things that the new contracts were designed to achieve. As somebody said to me “I can now see that by cancelling this job, I can do ten times as much work elsewhere for the same overall cost. This is a low speed piece of railway and, now that we understand the actual costs, we will maintain rather than renew.”


Unfortunately yesterday we had to curtail a job for this weekend at Stanborough on the East Coast mainline. The detailed design associated with overhead line compliance is not ready and to proceed with the job would run the risk of a potential dewirement after handing back.

Kirow 250 cranes

We nearly lost a job recently as two Kirow 250 cranes were discovered as having wheel flats and were not fit to transit to the worksite.  Some great work by NSC 24/7, Ameysersa and the supply chain managed to identify alternative Kirows and get them to site.

New lift plans were produced and approved and the job was saved.

In discussions about how we had two Kirows with wheel flats we discovered they had been moved in a consist with lots of other wagons, to be in position for the weekend (having been used earlier in the week on another job).

By their nature Kirows are heavy duty pieces of kit with heavy duty braking systems which take longer to release than standard wagons. If the haulage driver does not allow the extra time for the Kirow brakes to release then they can pull away with the Kirow brakes not fully released and flat spot the wheels.

IP Track distribution list

In IP Track we have a distribution list for the full team which we use as part of our approach to help each other by Sharing with Pride and Copying with Pride. Recently people have started to use the distribution list to ask each other for assistance which is a great development. Questions have ranged from assistance on adjacent line open working to assistance with materials which have not been delivered in time for a job.

Miscellaneous news

Mentioning Sharing and Copying, the latest alerts and shares are attached:

Rail Staff awards

And finally, congratulations to all of you who have been nominated as part of the Rail Staff awards, it is great to see so many nominations across the different categories. What is particularly pleasing is the quality of the nominations as it really shows what and how the whole railway industry has delivered over the past year.

What is needed now is for you to vote. I have listed below the IP Track nominees. Please do find some time to click the links below as this will increase our nominees chances of winning. There is some competition within IP Track in some of the categories and your votes will make the difference; it takes less than 10 seconds to vote.

Apprentice of the Year 

Stefano Angello – Star Track

David Maidment – Charity of the Year

Sue Millington & Rail Live Team – Engineering & Innovation

Bill Cooke- Safety & Assurance

Rail Team of the Year

Track CP5 Tender Team – Commercial

Engineering & Innovation Team

IP Track Rail Live 2014 Team

Lifetime Achievement

Ian Scotchford – Commercial

Rail Engineer of the Year

Nick Matthews – Engineering & Innovation

Manager of the Year

Stuart Murphy – S & C

Rail Person of the Year

Maurizio Valuto – Plain Line

Signalling & Telecommunications Person of the Year

Ben Griffiths – S & C

Trainer of the Year

Dean Johns – Safety & Assurance

Rail Safety Person of the Year

Ian Scotchford – Commercial

Helen Barnes – Plain Line

Brian Paynter – S & C

Dean Johns – Safety & Assurance


Steve Featherstone

Programme Director Track

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