During A Rail Possession, Nothing Should Surprise You

In some walks of life success is defined by how well you deal with unexpected events. In the world of rail infrastructure, it’s often defined by how effectively you avoid unexpected events.

A rail possession is a precious period of time. Avoiding overruns is largely a case of being prepared and planning out every detail of the work to be completed. Effective possession planning is easier to achieve for planned maintenance – such as installing replacement switchgear – than when reacting to a failure.

Experience with the Network Rail Possession Planning System (PPS) needs to be complemented by an approach characterised by problem solving, collaboration and attention to detail. £50bn is being invested to upgrade the rail network, including electrification on more lines and the replacement of existing electrical infrastructure. Effective possession planning will have an enormous impact on the experience of rail passengers while this work is completed.

Planned Rail Possessions

With planned possessions, you have the opportunity to carry out detailed surveys and to carefully model every stage of the project. Project plans can be adjusted to minimise the disruption caused and works can be planned to coincide with other maintenance operations. This will minimise the overall number of closures on the network. Detailed asset condition knowledge is critical to make this type of ‘predict and prevent’ joint planning possible.

Negotiating shared access with other stakeholders allows plant and civils works to be integrated as one job. This has to be a conscious objective and policy underpinned by a genuine ‘one team’ approach. It may be an added complication from the planning point of view but it avoids multiple visits and closures and makes the network function better for passengers.

Reactive Maintenance Brings Added Challenges

Reactive maintenance is more challenging. Here, the key ability is often being able to mobilise multidisciplinary teams to bring the required expertise to the site as quickly as possible. The increasing use of technology allows some expert fault diagnosis and guidance to be provided remotely to further speed up the process.

It’s important to understand that collecting data and making sense of it to determine the most effective course of action is a socio-technical system. It relies as much on how individuals interact and communicate as it does on technical understanding.

The critical experience that Osborne brings to rail possessions is the ability to deliver to tight deadlines and work collaboratively with asset owners, operators and specialists. Success is the result of careful planning and effective teamwork.

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