Helicopters now used to inspect south western rail network

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Photo: Network Rail.
Photo: Network Rail.

An aerial survey of the south western rail network will be carried out every four weeks in a move to reduce the number of workers sent onto the track when trains are running.

Operating high-tech thermal and visual imaging equipment, Network Rail’s aerial operations team are able to inspect a wide area of infrastructure and identify the smallest of faults in a short space of time.

The helicopter is capable of covering the route from London’s Waterloo station to Weymouth station in Dorset in around three hours. This includes hovering over equipment to capture thermal and high definition images with embedded location data.


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A ‘fault spotter’ on the flight reviews the live footage and feeds any critical information back to maintenance teams on the ground, who can respond within minutes to further inspect or repair the infrastructure.

Chief operating officer Jason Bridges said: “We are using all of the tools at our disposal to improve performance across the south western rail network to provide a better railway for passengers – these new aerial surveys are a great example of this.

“Using this technique, as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan, we can identify and fix potential issues before they affect train services, complete thorough inspections of our infrastructure in a short space of time and improve safety for our people.”


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