As Network Rail strives to achieve a 24/7 railway, the process necessarily places both restrictions and obligations on its suppliers. Work has to be meticulously planned so that it takes place as efficiently as possible, achieving the maximum result in a short space of time. At the same time, record keeping has to be equally precise, so that the next contractor or maintainer to work on the same stretch of railway knows exactly what was done.

To find out what contractors are doing to meet these requirements, Rail Engineer met with Costain’s Peter Roberts, professional head of track, to hear about the company’s special approach.

“We have an ever-increasing need to work smarter,” he commented. “Costain’s aim is to understand the challenges and needs of its clients and, in particular, those of the actual user.”

Structured approach

‘Users’ is a broad term. It includes all stakeholders, passenger and freight train operators as well as the rest of the railway industry and the public-at-large.

The approach taken includes many well- known acronyms – a whole systems engineering ‘end-to-end’ (E2E) approach that has Safe by Design embedded as well as process assurance that includes Common Safety Method (CSM), Construction Design and Management (CDM) regulations, Technical Specifications for Interoperability (TSIs) and Asset Management Plans (AMPs).

For example, it is essential that contractors deliver assurance that the finished works meet the standards of quality specified, together with ‘as-built’ and other deliverables information that confirms what has been delivered to the client. They must do so in a format that complies with the client’s specification, standards for asset data/information and operability and sustainability. It must integrate with the client’s AMPs, including smarter maintenance systems, technology and digital information while including future systems where possible.

Costain sets out to give progressive assurance, including intelligent maintenance, to clients and end users without creating and handing-on masses of unnecessary and unhelpful data. It is understood that data, per se, is not valuable until it is turned into information.

What good looks like

How is this done? It is essential to engage the ‘hearts and minds’ of all personnel, from project directors to front line supervisors and operatives. Design plays a major part, and early engagement and a ‘safe by design’ ethos can improve the whole system, including maintenance regimes and the end state. Project outputs include the physical works, naturally, but there needs to be much more. Contractors have to constantly ask themselves, can we do it safer? better? smarter? leaner? When to use technology, and what form should that take?

All team members – clients, contractors and sub-contractors – need to know what good looks like from a quality perspective (at their level of responsibility). They must understand the value they can add to the team and the consequences of non-conformances on safety, performance and cost.

If successfully implemented, this will drive a ‘one team’ ethic and approach to quality. The natural results are better safety and improved health and environmental factors – a natural progression of this one-team approach as, individually, all will have differing issues and varying levels of risk and impact.

When Costain carries out a survey, it intends to do so once and to do it right. The initial survey forms the foundation of an E2E assurance process that is taken right through to the finished product. Verification and validation (V&V) is key, and must take place before a survey is used for design and implementation.

Sometimes, V&V is under-used or its importance is overlooked. Costain finds it best to engage early in the Network Rail GRIP process, say from GRIP 2/3 to 8, rather than from GRIP 5 to 8 ‘Design & Build’ that it is currently the norm. This early involvement ensures that greater ownership and understanding are embedded throughout, including risk.

Keeping technology in check

“I cannot emphasise enough the importance of ‘Right for the Job’, be it people, kit or plant,” Peter explained. “Experience, competence and understanding play a major part of the process. It is equally important to V&V that the right people, equipment and plant are going to be available with the right software to interpret and apply correctly the survey and design information for the job.

“This is particularly important for tamping and for dozing operations.”

He went on to explain further how important ‘getting it right’ was to those processes. Files pertaining to 3D dozing require V&V prior to the works to ensure the correct models (spacial, levels etc.) have been created and that they communicate correctly with the machine. Tamper files should go through a checking process to ensure they have been created correctly. Deficiencies with these can slow site processes and even lead to non-conformances and re-work. That can prove costly, particularly with the access and possessions implications.

Peter stressed that the selection of appropriate technologies is vital, but it isn’t good to get too bound-up in technology for the sake of it. Of course, it has its place, but LiDAR and point clouds are not always necessary – sometimes simpler things will suffice. “Even a tape measure can be appropriate if it is adequate and the results are verifiable and auditable,” he commented. “That is why we need to understand the end goals and what good looks like for the end user and all stakeholders.

“The objectives have to be to aid ‘entry into service’ and to ensure that clients are supplied with comprehensive data or, more importantly, information for the finished works in a format that is acceptable to them for simple entry to their asset management system. Take-off certification and health and safety files have to be provided at the right time, in the right format to the right recipients in a way that makes their lives easy. Data is fine but this has to be translated into user-friendly and intelligent information.”

Successful implementation

New developments by Costain include automated systems for monitoring track adjacent to civils works. These are designed to minimise the need for personnel to be on or near the line and to generate automatic alerts appropriately when a problem arises. Additionally, new survey managers have recently been appointed to the company to provide additional skilled resource.

The aim is to simplify wherever possible – to make it easy. To fill in forms using Electronic Data Management Systems (EDMS) and electronic signatures, aiding and supporting end product and particular users. To look outside of the box, not just stick to the normal “because that is what we have always done…”

A good example of this approach was the recent collapse of the Dover-Folkestone ‘sea wall’ and its subsequent reconstruction. Costain installed a concrete slab and flood defence prior to reinstatement of the track structure.

The Costain project team challenged the construction and design programme dates, and the actual logic in certain areas of the programme, improving timescales for delivery and reducing cost and risk. Bottom ballast was installed using 3D-controlled dozing, with the key being V&V prior to the works. Track installation was very closely monitored, in particular ‘bottom ballast’ levels, stiffness and uniformity using a lightweight deflectometer for added compliance and future quality and smoothness that would aid track ‘shelf life’.

Track alignment and geometry were controlled using the new Amberg IMS 3000 ‘one trolley’ system. This outputs geometry and alignments (including ‘as-builts’ and RED line drawings) directly into the tamper. The information also formed part of the H&S files and handover data, including data for the National Gauging Database (NGD), which were verified and ‘backed up’ using traditional techniques to ensure quality installation.

The track was pre-built and prepared in 108-metre long panels to aid installation speed and efficiency and also to support follow-on stressing and welding. The panels were installed using a Geismar PEM/LEM system, which was judged to be “right for this job”.

All deliverables, from an ‘Entry into Service’ and health and safety file perspective, were completed, automated, and delivered to the client as soon as reasonably practicable, closing out the AMPs and allowing the site to be taken into maintenance responsibility quickly.

As a result if these initiatives, Costain delivered the sea wall works three months ahead of schedule, giving Network Rail, train operators and the travelling public a railway line in which they can take pride.

Written by Chris Parker

This article was first published in November 2016.