Paddington Station 24/7 takes to the skies with Network Rail's aerial survey team: Heli 1

Monday 14 May 2018

Paddington Station 24/7 takes to the skies with Network Rail's aerial survey team


The second series of the behind the scenes documentary Paddington Station 24/7 continues on Monday 14 May, as the programme takes to the skies to join members of Network Rail’s aerial survey team whilst they check railway assets on board a helicopter kitted out with the latest thermal imaging technology.

The eight-part first series achieved a consistently high audience share for the Monday 9pm slot, averaging 13 million viewers per episode. Series two is already proving to be a big hit, with 1.96 million people watching the second episode either on TV or via the My5 catch-up app. The series follows railway workers on the Great Western Mainline as they deal with the biggest modernisation of the line for generations, major incidents which are causing disruption on the railway, huge sporting events, as well as the day-to-day challenge of running one of Britain’s busiest stations.

This week, the Network Rail aerial survey team are flying high over the line between Maidenhead and London Paddington, checking railway assets and infrastructure to make sure all the equipment is in good order and working as it should. The team uses an advanced thermal imaging camera to scan the assets, looking for any bright spots on the picture which indicate a heat source, and therefore a fault. 

Following a recent bout of bad weather, aerial survey specialist Emma Taylor checks the assets between Maidenhead and Paddington. Luckily no faults are found on Emma’s flight; however a pool of standing water on the roof of an electricity substation is noted so that the site can be assessed to ensure that the roof is watertight and protected from any leaks. Emma’s colleague Chris Ashworth, aerial survey specialist for Network Rail, explains why being able to view the railway from the air is an important part of checking railway assets and infrastructure.

“With the help of our helicopter, we are able to survey the railway from above with no disruption to our customers, utilising various different cameras to proactively target faults to minimise disruption.

“Often we can spot issues before they become a bigger problem, like Emma found on this week’s episode; if the standing water was to leak into the building it could damage electrical equipment inside and bring all trains in that area to a standstill”. 

Scanning for problems in this way allows for a large area to be surveyed, often covering distances that would take days to walk and inspect on foot.

Steve Hawkins, infrastructure maintenance delivery manager for Network Rail, explains why the work of the aerial survey team is vital to ensure that railway assets are frequently assessed to help with ongoing maintenance:

“Whilst the Network Rail helicopter can’t take the place of our physical track inspection, it is used for checking assets such as cable routes, the condition of fencing, and road markings on level crossings. The heat seeking equipment can detect hot spots, which may indicate a fault with the equipment.

“There are a number of advantages to aerial inspections in place of a person physically inspecting an asset on site, including the removal of risk from passing trains, the speed of inspection, and the distance that can be covered. Instead of getting one person’s subjective view, results and data can be gathered, sent and analysed quickly by numerous people”.

The eighth episode of Paddington Station 24/7 will be aired on Monday 14 May on Channel 5 at 9pm, with each subsequent episode shown on Monday evenings at the same time.

To find out more about Network Rail’s air operations, visit the webpage here: -

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