Home Company News Network Rail launches two task forces improve earthworks management

Network Rail launches two task forces improve earthworks management

To help it better manage its massive earthworks (cuttings and embankments) portfolio and its understanding and response to severe weather events. Network Rail has launched two independent task forces, led by world renowned experts.

This move follows the tragic events near Stonehaven on 12 August, where a train derailment led to driver Brett McCullough, conductor Donald Dinnie and passenger Christopher Stuchbury sadly losing their lives.

Dame Julia Slingo FRS, former chief scientist at the Met Office and a world-renowned expert in climatology, will lead a weather action task force with the objective of better equipping Network Rail to understand the risk of rainfall to its infrastructure, drawing on the latest scientific developments in monitoring, real-time observations and weather forecasting.

Meanwhile, Lord Robert Mair CBE FREng FRS will spearhead an earthworks management task force to see how Network Rail can improve the management of its massive earthworks portfolio, looking at past incidents, latest technologies and innovations and best practice from across the globe.

This work will cover:

  • The effectiveness of Network Rail’s existing approach to managing drainage and earthworks assets, and whether or not a more integrated, co-ordinated approach is required;
  • An independent view of the suitability of our controls framework – whether it is effective in controlling risks and whether it is too onerous for frontline engineers;
  • Whether Network Rail has sufficient resources and skills to manage earthworks and drainage, and whether certain teams or regions could be strengthened;
  • What Network Rail might learn from other organisations with responsibility for managing earthwork risks;
  • Whether Network Rail is fully aware of the latest technologies and whether or not they are deployed effectively.

Network Rail’s current safety management system provides a framework for the management of cuttings, embankments, structures and drainage. These have helped the company to limit the effects of rainfall on its infrastructure, but the events at Stonehaven on 12 August have shown that more understanding is needed to help mitigate the risks further.

Andrew Haines, Network Rail chief executive, said: “The Stonehaven tragedy resulted in three people losing their lives – this is a stark reminder that we must never take running a safe railway for granted.

“With more and more extreme weather and tens of thousands of earthwork assets across Great Britain, our challenge is massive. And while we are making record investment in these areas, we have asked world renowned experts, Dame Julia Slingo and Lord Mair, to help us address these issues as effectively as possible, and at pace.”

Nigel Wordsworth BSc(Hons) MCIJhttp://therailengineer.com

SPECIALIST AREAS Rolling stock, mechanical equipment, project reports, executive interviews


Nigel Wordsworth graduated with an honours degree in Mechanical Engineering from Nottingham University, after which he joined the American aerospace and industrial fastener group SPS Technologies. After a short time at the research laboratories in Pennsylvania, USA, Nigel became responsible for applications engineering to industry in the UK and Western Europe. At this time he advised on various engineering projects, from Formula 1 to machine tools, including a particularly problematic area of bogie design for the HST.

A move to the power generation and offshore oil supply sector followed as Nigel became director of Entwistle-Sandiacre, a subsidiary of the Australian-owned group Aurora plc. At the same time, Nigel spent ten years as a Technical Commissioner with the RAC Motor Sports Association, responsible for drafting and enforcing technical regulations for national and international motor racing series.

Joining Rail Engineer in 2008, Nigel’s first assignment was a report on new three-dimensional mobile mapping and surveying equipment, swiftly followed by a look at vegetation control machinery. He continues to write on a variety of topics for most issues.

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