Home Company News Network Rail launches two task forces improve earthworks management

Network Rail launches two task forces improve earthworks management

To help it better manage its massive earthworks (cuttings and embankments) portfolio and its understanding and response to severe weather events. Network Rail has launched two independent task forces, led by world renowned experts.

This move follows the tragic events near Stonehaven on 12 August, where a train derailment led to driver Brett McCullough, conductor Donald Dinnie and passenger Christopher Stuchbury sadly losing their lives.

Dame Julia Slingo FRS, former chief scientist at the Met Office and a world-renowned expert in climatology, will lead a weather action task force with the objective of better equipping Network Rail to understand the risk of rainfall to its infrastructure, drawing on the latest scientific developments in monitoring, real-time observations and weather forecasting.

Meanwhile, Lord Robert Mair CBE FREng FRS will spearhead an earthworks management task force to see how Network Rail can improve the management of its massive earthworks portfolio, looking at past incidents, latest technologies and innovations and best practice from across the globe.

This work will cover:

  • The effectiveness of Network Rail’s existing approach to managing drainage and earthworks assets, and whether or not a more integrated, co-ordinated approach is required;
  • An independent view of the suitability of our controls framework – whether it is effective in controlling risks and whether it is too onerous for frontline engineers;
  • Whether Network Rail has sufficient resources and skills to manage earthworks and drainage, and whether certain teams or regions could be strengthened;
  • What Network Rail might learn from other organisations with responsibility for managing earthwork risks;
  • Whether Network Rail is fully aware of the latest technologies and whether or not they are deployed effectively.

Network Rail’s current safety management system provides a framework for the management of cuttings, embankments, structures and drainage. These have helped the company to limit the effects of rainfall on its infrastructure, but the events at Stonehaven on 12 August have shown that more understanding is needed to help mitigate the risks further.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “The Stonehaven tragedy resulted in three people losing their lives – this is a stark reminder that we must never take running a safe railway for granted.

“With more and more extreme weather and tens of thousands of earthwork assets across Great Britain, our challenge is massive. And while we are making record investment in these areas, we have asked world renowned experts, Dame Julia Slingo and Lord Mair, to help us address these issues as effectively as possible, and at pace.”

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