Short, Intense and Highly Focused – How to Make Every Rail Possession Count

Any period of time for which a contractor is able to take possession of a section of rail track is a precious resource. Even night-time closures that minimise disruption tie up considerable specialist resources for planning and approval. Longer term closures over weekends and bank holidays have an additional ‘cost’ in terms of travel disruption.
When it comes to success factors for any works it shouldn’t just be: ‘Did we complete all of the scheduled work within the time allowed?’ In a value-driven business model, the question is whether every possession delivers as much benefit as it could have.

When operators and contractors are under pressure to deliver maximum value from every investment the question should be: ‘Did we take the opportunity, when we had expertise and equipment on site, to achieve as much as we could; to improve the condition of the asset and avoid future disruption?’

Short and highly intense work plans are the way to deliver maximum value from every possession – whatever the duration. To make this a reality you need the following:

  • A detailed picture of the asset condition.
  • A risk-prioritised list of defects and required works.
  • Close collaboration within the asset community: designer, contractor and customer.
  • A client-contractor relationship that shares the benefits of greater efficiency.

The planning process for a recent programme of work on the rail line around Poole Harbour used a risk prioritised list of defects. There was also a detailed planning process to deliver exceptional levels of output from two closures. Using a ‘One Team Wessex’ approach, designers WSP, Osborne and Network Rail graded the risk level of each defect on a scale of one to five, with five being the highest risk.

The work plans for the two closures (the four day Easter period plus the following weekend) could then be designed to deliver the best possible value. Organising the work into two ten hour shifts with a two hour overlap also minimised the need for overnight work, which was an important factor in minimising safety risks in a potentially hazardous environment.

Flexible possessions were also planned so that road-rail vehicles could move materials overnight across the entire stretch of track. Shortening the extent of the possession during daytime then minimised the impact on services.

The intensive periods of work made full use of the closure periods and cleared all priority four and five defects as well as many lower priority tasks. This wouldn’t have been possible without detailed planning and a high level of collaboration between all partners.

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