Network Rail, an organisation of 35,000 employees, owns and operates Britain’s rail infrastructure. With an estimated 1.3 billion journeys made on Britain’s railways each year, it is essential that Network Rail maintains the level of service expected by the travelling public and the Office of Rail Regulation (ORR), its industry regulator. With an anticipated future increase in rail usage, both in terms of higher passenger numbers and more trains on the track, Network Rail must find new ways to optimise the management of its core assets to meet this increased demand.
Network Rail continually strives to deliver value for money to the ORR with a goal to reduce public subsidy and provide a railway fit for the future. The ORR’s CP5 final determination identified a £1.7 bn saving to be made in Network Rail’s spending plan for the day-to-day running of the network. The availability of new digital technologies provides the opportunity to equip the route-based engineering and asset management community throughout Network Rail with the tools, capabilities, and insight to deliver against the ORR’s plans.
Network Rail is embracing new digital technologies to improve how it runs the UK Rail Infrastructure. An industry that was born out of the industrial revolution is now deploying these digital technologies to generate innovative insight to improve service delivery. In doing so, the industry is leading the way in complex engineering projects.
To meet this challenge, Network Rail is implementing a number of industry-leading engineering technologies to enable a step change in how it manages its core rail assets. It recognises that advances in data management and analytics applications offer the opportunity to deliver greater insight to the engineering community. For example, in the past, some of the problems were hidden beneath the track underground; now, however, Network Rail has the ability to collect data from ground-penetrating radars. When combined with conclusive asset condition data, this allows analytical techniques to be used to predict when issues will develop into faults.
With the deployment of the Linear Asset Decision Support solution, Network Rail engineers now have access to enhanced insight to ensure that they are doing the right work, in the right place, at the right time. By utilising new digital technologies in the asset management function, Network Rail is now able to make better decisions on how it manages track assets, realising hundreds of improved decisions every day.
Such improved decisions are resulting in more preventative track maintenance and renewal, resulting in fewer asset faults and failures.
In addition, where issues do occur, better decisions are leading to more first-time fixes and fewer repeat faults across the asset estate. All of this is contributing to a reduced number of separate interventions and less intrusive work on the track asset. Importantly, this leads to increased asset availability, improved service for Network Rail customers, less disruption in train journeys for train operators and the travelling public, and an improved customer experience overall.
In addition to improved levels of service, the reduction in intrusive work on track and ability to pre-empt asset faults improves the safety of the railway for the travelling public and Network Rail employees. This is coupled with increases in the performance and value delivered from the rail assets due to lower costs through the asset lifecycle.
The ability to improve service, performance, and safety at lower total cost demonstrates the value that engineering organisations can deliver from embracing digital technologies. Network Rail has provided an innovative solution to a unique, complex problem and met with unprecedented success. The organisation is leading the way in digital asset solutions and realising clear, tangible, and significant business value as a result.