Network Rail’s eye in the sky set to provide a better railway for passengers in the south: Helicopter at Fairoaks- 07-08-18

Thursday 9 Aug 2018

Network Rail’s eye in the sky set to provide a better railway for passengers in the south

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Network Rail are now using helicopters across the south western rail network as part of the drive to provide better journeys for passengers.

Inspecting the railway by air allows Network Rail to deliver improvements to performance, reliability and safety, with no disruption to train services.

Operating high-tech thermal and visual imaging equipment, Network Rail’s aerial operations team are able to identify the smallest of faults and inspect a wide area of infrastructure in a short space of time. The helicopter is capable of covering the route from London's Waterloo station to Weymouth station in Dorset in around three hours, including hovering over equipment to capture the critical thermal and high definition images.

The flights also reduce the need to send members of the workforce onto the track when trains are operating, improving safety for our teams.


 Jason Bridges, chief operating officer for Network Rail, said:

“We are using all of the tools at our disposal to improve performance across the south western rail network to provide a better railway for passengers – these new aerial surveys are a great example of this.

“Using this technique, as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan, we can identify and fix potential issues before they affect train services, complete thorough inspections of our infrastructure in a short space of time and improve safety for our people.”

The helicopter is equipped with a full high-definition camera system that provides a gyro-stabilised image with embedded location data in the digital video.

A ‘fault spotter’ on the flight reviews the live footage and can feed information back to maintenance teams on the ground, who can respond within minutes to inspect and repair the infrastructure.

Jacqui Dey, operations and safety director for South Western Railway, said:

“We welcome this new initiative by Network Rail. Anything that can prevent disruption to our network can only be of benefit to our customers.”

Following a surveying flight this Monday, two faulty hook switches, which are used to isolate power to the conductor rail, were inspected as part of an overnight railway possession last night (Wednesday), avoiding any impact on the operational railway.

The surveying will be carried out approximately every four weeks and will provide comprehensive reviews of the state of infrastructure across the route.


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We own, operate and develop Britain's railway infrastructure; that's 20,000 miles of track, 30,000 bridges, tunnels and viaducts and the thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. We run 20 of the UK's largest stations while all the others, over 2,500, are run by the country's train operating companies.

Every day, there are more than 4.8 million journeys made in the UK and over 600 freight trains run on the network. People depend on Britain's railway for their daily commute, to visit friends and loved ones and to get them home safe every day. Our role is to deliver a safe and reliable railway, so we carefully manage and deliver thousands of projects every year that form part of the multi-billion pound Railway Upgrade Plan, to grow and expand the nation's railway network to respond to the tremendous growth and demand the railway has experienced - a doubling of passenger journeys over the past 20 years.

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