Network Rail’s heat-seeking helicopter took to the skies of Surrey this week to help protect South Western Railway passengers from train delays: Helicopter at Fairoaks- 07-08-18

Wednesday 26 Sep 2018

Network Rail’s heat-seeking helicopter took to the skies of Surrey this week to help protect South Western Railway passengers from train delays


Network Rail’s high-tech thermal imaging helicopter flew over Surrey this week to spot and stop potential railway infrastructure faults as part of an ongoing drive to improve train performance.

The aircraft allows engineers to monitor large areas of railway in a single flight, identifying ‘hotspots’ which usually mean a piece of equipment is about to fail.

The helicopter can survey the route from London’s Waterloo station, to Weymouth station in Dorset, in just three hours, including time taken to hover over areas of concern and capture high-definition images.


18 missions have been completed across the south western network in the last three months, during which the helicopter has helped spot 48 faults which may otherwise have gone unnoticed and caused serious delays for passengers.   

Becky Lumlock, route managing director for Network Rail, said:

“Using the helicopter allows us to predict and prevent infrastructure faults before they turn into delays and disruption for passengers.

“This is one of the many tools we are using to help improve train performance for our passengers as part of our Railway Upgrade Plan.

“We will be investing more than £2 billion over the next five years to run the south western rail route, helping us to provide better, more reliable journeys for people.”

The helicopter has covered 1,681 nautical miles over these missions, travelling at a top speed of 60 knots at a height of 1,000 feet. It is scheduled to survey the network roughly every four weeks.


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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.

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