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Engineering Works Explained

There are more than 20,000 miles of track, 45,000 bridges and tunnels, and 6,500 level crossings in the network, not to mention power cables, signalling equipment and more. To keep the railway running smoothly, sometimes we need to check, maintain, repair or replace things

Bridge and tunnel maintenance

There are around 45,000 bridges and tunnels across the railway network. Each of these require inspection and maintenance on a regular basis to ensure that trains can run reliably and safely throughout the year. The work can include, but is not limited to, replacement of tunnel linings, drainage, bridge beams and structures.

Level crossing maintenance

There are over 6,500 level crossings across the railway network, where footpaths/roads and railway lines cross. It is important that level crossings operate safely to allow pedestrians and other road users to cross the railway line safely. It is necessary to carry out maintenance of the level crossings to ensure that they continue to work safely for all users of the crossing.

Lineside equipment renewal

Lineside equipment relates to items such as points heaters, axle counters and train describers that do not form part of the signalling system. However, they are vital to the safe operation of the railway and if not maintained can lead to delays. Inspection and repair of this type of equipment must be undertaken to keep the track operating safely and efficiently.

Lineside maintenance

Tunnels, bridges, embankments and cuttings are employed on the railway to provide as level a railway as possible. The embankments and cuttings require regular inspection and maintenance of these structures is necessary to make sure that they are fit for purpose and allow for the safe passage of trains.

Overhead power cable installation and/or maintenance

On many routes, power is now provided to trains through overhead electrical line equipment, which provides electricity at 25,000 volts AC. This electricity is, amongst other things, used to drive the electric motors on the train. Work to install, renew or maintain the overhead cables and supporting structures regularly needs to take place.

Electric Third rail renewal and/or maintenance

On some route power is provided to trains through an electric third rail, which provides electricity at 650/750 volts DC. This electricity is, amongst other things, used to drive the electric motors on the train. Renewal, inspection and maintenance of the electric third rail is regularly required to keep the route open and running at full capacity.

Signalling equipment renewal and/or maintenance

Signals tell the train driver when it is safe to continue ahead. Renewal and maintenance of this equipment may be required to replace old signalling equipment or to improve the positioning of the signals. This allows more efficient use of that area of the railway network, thus trains will run safely and reliably. This may also permit more trains to operate and/or allow faster journey times.

Station improvement works

Stations are generally the first impression that any passenger gets of the railway and like any business, Network Rail and the Train Operating Companies make large investments in bringing their stations up to date. There are over 2,500 stations on the railway network. Improvement works may include the provision of longer or new platforms, so the Train Operating Companies can run longer trains. This provides more seats or an increased number of services.

Station maintenance

Stations, like any building, require maintenance and this may on occasion mean that there is no or limited access to the station or reduced facilities at the station whilst the works are carried out. Maintenance can range from resurfacing the platforms, redecorating part or all of the station, or repairs to lifts and escalators.

Track renewals and/or maintenance

Tracks are the rails on which the trains run and include the points that allow the trains to switch tracks. There are over 20,000 miles of track on the railway network. Just like the roads and motorways need resurfacing, the rails and points require renewal and regular maintenance to ensure they meet the stringent safety standards on the railway. This means that trains can operate safely and reliably.

Vegetation control

There is in excess of 9,000 miles of railway routes in Britain and much of it runs through countryside. This means that there is a lot of vegetation adjacent to the railway lines. It is essential to keep this vegetation trimmed back not only to prevent it encroaching on the railway but also to reduce the impact of leaf fall on the railway during autumn. A programme of vegetation clearance and cutting back is undertaken as necessary.