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					                        Railway Engineers Forum

               Restoring the 7 Day Railway – Seminar
                           June 28th 2007

Much has been written and said in recent weeks about the need for a 7 day
railway. Getting back to a reliable operation every day is seen as important by
the rail engineering community. The present hit and miss train service at
weekends and bank holidays is highly unsatisfactory and the reasons for this
need to be understood. The REF ran a seminar at the IET on June 28 th 2007
to look at the problem and to see whether improved engineering methods
might offer some solutions to the present constrictions. Core to any solution is
gaining an understanding of the root causes and these were examined in turn:
 Cost reduction programmes by taking longer possessions
 The incentive and penalty regime for possession management
 Over zealous safety
 Need to maximise use of expensive track machinery
 Use of untried technology with resulting complications in operation
 Ageing equipment that needs exceptional efforts to restore reliability
 Unwillingness to learn from other countries in mainland Europe

Many of these impact directly on engineering methods, system design and
deployment, and the seminar produced many ideas on how things can be
done better. Although Network Rail chose not to participate at this seminar, it
seems that they too are committed to measures that will make more routes
available for traffic on a 7 day basis. The REF is a group made up of the
railway interests of the ICE, IET, IMechE, IRO, IRSE, PWI and RCEA. The
objective is to promote cross institutional interest in railway engineering
matters and concerns of the day.

Setting the Scene

A keynote address from Chris Green, Chairman of The Railway Forum, gave
an inspired message on customer’s needs and demand patterns. Modern day
living exists on a 7 day basis and travel has increased by 40% since 1995,
with a further 70% increase expected by 2012. Saturday now sees an urban
peak and Sunday afternoon is an inter city peak. However, only 5% of all rail
traffic moves on weekday nights. The railway has not responded to these
conditions: Inter City is losing 15% of the market because poor Sunday
services has a knock on impact for travel plans on Friday evenings; GNER
has seen 43 disrupted weekends in the 12 months to date. 5 day blockades
are now commonplace. Bank holiday weekends are becoming notorious for
main line closures. Travellers ticket purchase methods have also changed.
More than 50% are now bought on line and it is difficult to sell seats this way if
service plans are uncertain. The problem seems to be made worse by:
 Loss of single line working skills and opportunities
 Non use of bi-directional signalled lines
 Closed diversionary routes

   Non electrified link routes for easy diverse routings, e.g. Nuneaton –
    Birmingham, Manchester – Preston, York – Leeds, Peterborough - Ely
Some of these can be put right fairly easily but need to be coupled with:
 Use of 8 hour work periods each weekday night
 Take up and release of possessions far more quickly and efficiently – 15
    minutes max is the target
 4 track railways to have same speed on all lines permitting use of two
    tracks with no detriment at quiet traffic periods. This will be dependent on
    any civil engineering constraints
 2 track railways timetabled for 8 hour single track working at quiet periods
    – noted that Edinburgh – Glasgow is to be the pilot for this
 Investment to give existing diverse routes more capacity, e.g. Hertford
    Loop, Settle – Carlisle, Glasgow – Kilmarnock – Carlisle, by equipping
    them with full signalling, faster speeds and bi-directional working
 8 hour test periods for new equipment with more testing being done in the
    factory and testing being part of the installation process
 Use of modular equipment for track, footbridges, under bridges, etc.
 New signalling modules, ready tested, for secondary routes
Overall, the vision is to instigate a fixed timetable for a year, with Sunday
becoming a virtual weekday and having a full Inter City timetable on Sunday
afternoons. Blockades would still be allowed but on a ‘once in a lifetime’ basis.
Freight must not be forgotten in all of this as prolonged line closures can have
a devastating effect on business prospects.

The ATOC View

To complement Chris Green, Jim Morgan from First Group and Chairman of
the Industry Possessions Steering Group, analysed where it had all gone
wrong. The main reasons were seen to be:
 The aftermath of Hatfield and the temporary speed restrictions imposed
 Loss of project management skills
 Loss of experience generally post privatisation
 The adopted culture for enormous possessions on the WCML
 Unit cost pressures
 Over run concern and nervousness
However, some improvements have come about since privatisation,
particularly track renewals and ballasting being done to a higher standard.

The costs of weekend closures and blockades are considerable. 3 times as
many staff are working on temporary timetables as on the annual timetable.
Planning errors occur frequently and cause delay. The use of diversionary
routes whilst commendable, use more fuel, cause more maintenance and
create driver training problems. A fleet of diesels to haul trains over non
electrified routes is not available.

Revenue loss of not having a 7 day railway is also considerable. No accurate
figures exist but it is estimated to be £300M per annum. The WCML figure is
calculated at £65M per year. Passenger awareness of the situation is a
problem. Network Rail has identified lots of opportunities and indeed has
plans to change its whole method of working. However, the whole industry

REF 7 Day Railway report v3 11-7-07

must take part in meaningful dialogue to identify the true financial equation,
not just the reduction in NR costs. All the factors outlined by Chris Green are
valid and added to them must be the effects of taking electrical isolations.
Pilot trials are scheduled for the South Western main line and the Stansted
Express route to test out some new initiatives. A question from the audience
highlighted the problem of possessions trapping rolling stock inside depots,
thus worsening the problem. The TOCs are aware of this and alternative
stabling points are on the agenda.

Rail Regulation and the Control of Costs

The Office of Rail Regulation has done much work to establish the true costs
of possessions. Colin Brading told of the economic factors that went into the 5
year plan up to 2009. Demand for engineering access is on the increase,
especially for switch & crossing work. About 6000 possessions per period are
recorded but the typical pattern is interesting: 33% < 8hours, 33% 8-12 hours,
13% 12-29 hours, 16% 29-50 hours, 5% > 50 hours, of which 75% are
associated with maintenance, 12% with renewals and 13% other. There are
around 150 late running possessions a week that cause disruption. The
possessions required for patrolling and station works are considerable and
there may be a need to find ways of reducing these, e.g. mechanisation.

Two commercial elements within the Track Access contracts are pertinent:
 Schedule 8 dealing with poor performance and train running
 Schedule 4 dealing with restrictions of use
The objective is to give incentives when performance is bettered and to fully
compensate TOCs for disruption. Complex software is used for calculating the
various options, with tariffs being dependent on the type of route. NR will
currently only compensate fully for the longer blockades. Possessions are no
longer ’free’; they have a value and must be used well, with as much work as
possible being done amongst the different disciplines. Compensation will be
adjusted for early and better planning, especially where this enables
passengers to know the situation well in advance.

The economics of possessions has a murky history. The now defunct
Strategic Rail Authority drive for longer, cheaper possessions is seen as
flawed. The Efficient Engineering Access (EEA) initiative was all about
reducing NR costs, not whole railway costs. An earlier case study on the GW
line looked at two methods: (i) engineering friendly with full weekend access
and (ii) passenger friendly with 18 hour access and a full Sunday pm service.
Option (i) saved twice as much as the lost revenue and (ii) also showed
savings greater than lost revenue although not as much. These results on
analysis showed the GW line not to be a fair trial as diversionary routes were
available and the disruptive impact of multiple shorter possessions could not
be assessed. Lessons have been learned. NR must improve its productivity
and different methods of doing work must be devised. However, it is accepted
that unit costs might have to rise. Network Rail will publish its strategic
business plan in Oct 07, which the ORR will consider for its periodic review of
2008. This will be fundamental and is expected to contain:
 a refining of Schedule 4

REF 7 Day Railway report v3 11-7-07

 a possessions KPI (Key Performance Indicator) regime
 an ORR target for regulating network availability
 significant opportunities for the introduction of meaningful incentives
What will all this mean? Network Rail will be under pressure to
 describe how it will engineer the railway of the future
 initiate incentives for improving delivery and productivity
 describe a strategy for engineering access
 produce a business case for the best economic solution for the UK
 quantify future costs for investment in plant, equipment, systems, etc
Above all, a culture change is needed and the ORR is in ‘listening mode’.

Track Renewal and Maintenance Issues

Much of the work to keep the railway in good fettle revolves around the track.
David Ratledge from Balfour Beatty Rail gave a good account of the past and
present scenarios. Track renewal prior to 2000 was generally planned for 16
hour possessions. By 2000-7 this changed to 52 hours with 8 hours becoming
the norm for high output systems as they were introduced. By 2010 it is
expected to reduce the time for conventional track renewals significantly and
in 2011, the plan is to undertake all types of track renewal in 8 hours. A
number of initiatives will help the industry move towards the 7 day railway.
These are:
 High output machinery that enables the industry to relay or reballast track
    during short possessions with traffic running on the adjacent lines.
 Reducing the end to end duration time for the track renewal process -
    currently between 375 and 450 days dependent on track configuration.
 Introduce NR’s ‘Modular Switch’ project aimed at producing ‘World Class’
    S&C renewals by 2011. ‘Modular Switch’ will enable S&C layouts to be
    relayed in 8-10 hour possessions. This will involve the transporting of pre
    tested sections of switch and crossing direct to the work site on tilting
    wagons, thus eliminating the current practice of rebuilding switch and
    crossing layouts at the trackside
 An ‘Early Deployment’ phase of Modular Switch is to improve the existing
    performance of contractors just by doing work in a smarter manner without
    the use of new equipment. This is showing productivity and efficiency
    gains in plain line renewals and a reduction in track access requirements
    for work such as formation renewal. Network Rail is intent on sharing best
    practice around the industry
 Use of innovative plant and processes to improve production activities
    including rail vacuum machines to re-ballast track and improved clipping
    and unclipping machines. Trials to date have demonstrated significant
    production and efficiency gains
 Enhanced training for track renewal contractors’ staff to deliver track
    renewal operations in much shorter track access periods whilst delivering
    high standards of track quality.
 Investigate the balance of complete track renewal compared to component
    renewal once the backlog of renewals is completed. New innovative
    renewal techniques are being developed to allow component change to be
    more easily achieved, thus providing important efficiency gains

REF 7 Day Railway report v3 11-7-07

  Use of single line working during track renewal operations. An industry re-
   training exercise and the introduction of innovative ideas for staff
   protection will be needed. One such idea is the use of moveable cages
   that allow staff to work in safety with trains passing on the adjacent line,
   thus obviating the need for temporary fences that take time to erect
 In some difficult locations, the installation of new products such as glued
   ballast (Xi track) and BBEST embedded slab track will replace the need for
   conventional track renewals and maintenance, whilst recognising that it
   will require longer track access to install and commission.
 New innovations will need to get through the safety approval process at a
   pace that does not impede progress. This has not always been the case in
   the past
Track renewal contractors, in conjunction with Network Rail, are developing
programmes to enable the above initiatives to be achieved in a structured
manner. This will be essential to achieve the changes required to deliver a 7
day railway.

Electrification Infrastructure and the Associated Challenges

The renewal and maintenance of overhead line equipment (OLE) will continue
to be a major issue in the next few years. Much of the UK OLE equipment is
old and in need of major refurbishment. Keith Warburton, the head of
electrification design at Balfour Beatty Rail, illustrated that OLE failures had
worsened by 14% recently, with about 3% of all events being due to
electrification failures

Where a future major project to remedy this situation is planned, this will
require design of the OLE to fit a 7 day railway and will incorporate:
  simple but robust structures
  portal rather than headspan construction for the 4 track railway as this
    allows each track to be installed and maintained separately
  use of non ferrous or ferrous protected materials
  structural spacings and wire tensions to prevent pantograph blow off in
    high winds
  correct tensioning and wire annealing to resist temperature effects
  mechanical and electrical independence
  independent wiring for each track across junctions
  allowance for the track to move
  wearing parts to have long life – 25 years for the contact wire
  use of standard components and minimisation of bespoke items
  sufficient clearances for easy access and minimise effect of bird strikes

Once designed and installed, maintenance issues need be commensurate
with this. The plan is to have intervals of 12 years between attention for some
components on some routes. However to get from the current situation to the
future design is a challenge. Issues to be addressed are:
 incremental or ‘big bang’ approach to renewal
 possible use of diesels whilst work is progressing to keep the line open
 maximising the use of isolations and more use of weekday nights
 long term supply chain relationships

REF 7 Day Railway report v3 11-7-07

 determination of whole life costings and use of RAMs process
 new approach to risk – present risk aversion is stifling development
A comment from the audience made a plea that renewals are not done on a
like for like basis but that the design is made commensurate with the
operational railway. Also that signalling designs should permit work on the
OLE without disruption to the train service, e.g. bi-directional working

The Contribution from Signalling

Signalling problems have contributed to the more significant line closures and
service disruptions of recent times, e.g. Crewe – Cheadle Hulme and
Portsmouth area. What has led to this and what can the signalling profession
do about it? A thoughtful contribution from Ian McCullough, Ansaldo UK’s
engineering director put the problem into perspective. Proven European
signalling systems appear to face challenging issues when initially applied in
the UK. The reasons are complex:
 new products are application focussed
 reliance is put on others to fund development
 operating rules cannot easily be matched to the product
 any R&D work is safety driven
 challenges to standards are project based – the wrong place to do it

Signalling should be able to offer much more than a control tool if applied and
used in the right way. Signalling assets change by about 2% per annum, tiny
compared to commercial norms. If modern signalling systems were to be
more widely introduced, what could they do to help other disciplines? Sadly,
most signalling renewals are like for like in modern form and not part of the
efficiency improvement process. Signalling has the potential to aid the
restoration of the 7 day railway by:
 reducing its own 7 day footprint
 easing the rules for bi-directional working
 extended operating hours by adjusting the short term timetable
 optimising asset use by configuring the best use of infrastructure
 making possession take up and hand back integral with signalling
 CCTV monitoring of remote points
 Increased use of sensors and condition monitoring

ERTMS may be the step to achieving these aims as signalling will become
integrated between track and train. Whether it will lead to optimised
configuration management remains to be seen. A new approach to what
signalling is and what it is used for is necessary if the setbacks of recent times
are not to be repeated.

European Comparisons

Why does the UK have such a particular problem with running a 7 day
railway, when the railways of continental Europe seemingly do not? Huw
Davies from Lloyds Register Rail has carried out comparisons in The
Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland

REF 7 Day Railway report v3 11-7-07

                      The Netherlands          Germany               Switzerland
Type of Railway       Compact, intensive       Large mixed traffic   Vertically
                      mixed traffic            network               integrated and
                      network                                        fairly intense
Number of Train       Mainly NS, but a         90% DB but 300        Mainly SBB but
Operators             few small others         other small train     some others, e.g.
                                               operators             BLS
How Work is Done      Infrastructure work      Maintenance in        Maintenance in
                      by contractors, both     house, some           house, renewals
                      maintenance and          renewals by           by contract
                      renewal                  contract
Weekday               4-5 hours mid week       Mid week nights       4-5 hours mid
Possessions           for routine                                    week nights
Longer Possessions    9 hour possessions Up to 50 hour               7 hours for S&C
                      at night / weekends possessions for            renewals. Up to
                      for larger works. 300 large works              50 hours
                      52 hr possessions a                            possible, but
                      year require buses                             rarely granted
Length of             4-5km is norm, up to                           Length is planned
Possession            20km possible                                  around max
                                                                     amount of work
                                                                     that can be
Possession            5-6 month lead time      Possessions           50 hour
Planning                                       granted at the time   possessions
                                               they are booked       need up to 5
                                                                     years to plan
Operating Factors     Single line working if   Single line working   Single line
                      possible. Bi-            normal with many      working is normal
                      directional working      facing crossovers.
                      is routine               Trains are stabled
                                               near the job
Diversionary Routes   Generally available      Some availability     Some availability
Penalties /           Financial penalties      Limited financial     Late handback
Incentives            have been                penalty regime        means the
                      abandoned                                      contractor is fined

  In summary, railways have to decide what they want; there is no single
  answer that is applicable everywhere. Developing the right attitude is
  important as is equipping the railway with the right infrastructure and plant,
  mainly track machines and OLE facilities. Possession management allows
  much shorter take up and hand back times on the continent. Above all, the
  published timetable is maintained.

  A Ground Level View of Safety and Possessions

  For many, the possessions and safety regimes seem over zealous. What do
  those who have experience at ground level think? Fraser Greenwood, now
  the Head of Asset Integrity at Atkins, started his career as an S&T technician

  REF 7 Day Railway report v3 11-7-07

in BR and progressed to being the Railtrack Zone Signal Engineer (NW) in the
early privatisation days. Recently, he has been involved with the Manchester
South scheme and observed several instances of possession management
that could be improved. A principal contractor employed an array of
companies for the various elements of work. There was no consistent method
of devising a Safe System of Work, with many conflicting demands and over
zealous safety information. The ‘safety cess’ initiative has provided improved
access where it already existed but has done little in places where access is
required but is difficult. The money would have been far better spent in such
locations. An ongoing project worth £13M to improve access points may lead
to improvements. Erection of temporary fencing for projects is expensive and
time consuming; why can such fencing not be made more permanent and left
in place to enhance safety? The provision of temporary warning systems all
takes time, when such facilities should be part of the normal infrastructure.
Possessions should be capable of being taken around multiple trains and
should be given up with engineering trains still on site.

S&T work in general does not need to stop trains, yet it often does. A recent
study of a 6 miles section of track showed 6 S&T maintenance teams would
be required to maintain this section of railway to current standards, with the
current access regime. This cannot be right and must be challenged. Similarly
on LUL, S&T technician officers (the senior technician grade) are required to
pass the railway as fit for traffic after track re-laying work, a waste of a
valuable resource, which Metronet is challenging.

New developments are in the pipeline:
 A better and more cohesive planning regime. Present requirements have
  created an army of planners, some of whom may not have the necessary
  railway domain knowledge
 Automatic train warning systems for single line working
 40mph instead of 20, on the adjacent line during single line working
 Daytime possessions by capturing low traffic periods and putting them in
  the timetable as maintenance slots
 Patrolling work to be done during daytime possession periods
 Opportunities for SLW are there to be taken but currently they are not
  used. The continuing removal of crossovers will not help this and must be

Staff competency arrangements need to be reviewed. NR now does most
maintenance with in house staff and contractors, both of whom have proven
competence. Gone are the days when contractors’ employees were largely
ignorant of the railway. The need for everyone to have a Personal Track
Safety certificate is unnecessary. In future, staff going trackside > 12 times
per year will need a PTS with people making < 12 visits only needing a
Visitors Permit.

A comparison with the road industry is interesting. Similar planning processes
done by the Highways Agency are required for trunk road possessions. No
two complimentary trunk roads in the same area can be shut at the same
time. A 24 hour national control centre continually monitors progress and

REF 7 Day Railway report v3 11-7-07

revises operational plans according to emerging events. Communication with
the work groups on site gives accurate information on what is happening.

The 7 Day Challenge for London Underground

It is not only the main line network that is having 7 day railway problems. The
PPP within London Underground requires a massive backlog of maintenance
and renewals to be achieved. Iain Flynn, Metronet’s Vice President Network
Management, informed on the current thinking. The line upgrade programme
across London Underground will give a 30% increase in capacity and needs
both a ‘big bang’ and an incremental approach. The system is under strain
with skill shortages, bad press coverage, near record numbers of passengers
and TfL ambitions for a 24 hour railway. The equations do not add up, so how
will it be achieved? Blockades are not acceptable: this was tried on the
Waterloo & City line in 2006 but is not favoured. All work must therefore be
done at the weekend or at night.

The Victoria Line is undergoing a major upgrade, made more difficult because
of the early form of automatic train operation (ATO) that is embraced in the
existing signalling and on the trains. The new modern system must co-exist
with this for several years in ‘overlay’ mode. The line already carries around
double the number of passengers it was designed for. It is built to 1950s
standards with wooden sleepers on a concrete base in a deep tube tunnel
and extensive use was made of asbestos, which must be removed when
encountered. Access is normally during Engineering Hours but additional
access can be bought as ‘lost customer hours’, valued at £3.42 each.
Collaboration with LUL seeks to devise the ‘least worst’ solution. Line closures
must not happen during major events – football matches, art exhibitions,
adjacent Network Rail or LUL closures, Christmas Sales, etc. Long
possessions are more cost effective than short ones but the risk of over-runs
that cause mayhem in London’s rush hour must be minimised. Rail access for
plant is a particular difficulty as the Victoria Line is entirely underground

Solutions being discussed or in place are:
 Extended engineering hours; close at 23.00 instead of 01.00
 Integrated access planning meetings – now compulsory
 Improvement to engineering train reliability
 New or reopened access shafts to avoid using stations for material
 Incorporation of maintenance into renewal plan
 Removal of all redundant track and other material
 Better removal of dust – 2.7 tonnes removed to date

For the Underground in general, the 7 day railway means new technology and
 Possible use of ladder slab track with embedded rails, i.e. modular slabs
   that can be craned in and which will need much less routine maintenance
 Remote condition monitoring
 Use of service trains for day to day monitoring
 Bi-directional signalling

REF 7 Day Railway report v3 11-7-07

   LED lit signals and other improvements to reduce access needs
   Funding stability
   A more holistic approach to safety and assurance


All were agreed that the present situation cannot continue. The 7 day railway
is essential to meet emerging travel patterns and to compete with airlines and
motorways. Engineering initiatives to achieve a 7 day railway are already
developed and are there to be used. Safety, possessions and finances must
be adjusted in line with the true risk but must not be allowed to stifle new
methods of working. The skills for single line working must be re-learnt.

It is unclear how all of this is going to happen. Network Rail has already
declared its intention to restore a 7 day railway, which is commendable, but
does it have the trust and confidence of all the players to ensure success.
Progress needs to be faster than current projections predict and the engineering
community is ready and willing to assist with whatever is required.

Clive Kessell
Chairman, Railway Engineers Forum

REF 7 Day Railway report v3 11-7-07