NR recovery plan improves Breckland Line performance

A proactive approach by Network Rail has transformed performance on the Breckland Line between Trowse Junction and Ely North Junction, after months of consistent failures.

NR is currently working on risk assessments that will see part of the scanning system switched off on Manned Controlled Barriers-Obstacle Detectors (MCB-OD). This follows a period in the summer when the system was turned off and performance improved. However, Office of Rail Regulation warned NR that risk assessments were needed if this was to be done.

Period 5 (July 21 2013-August 17 2013) saw 1,090 delay minutes caused by the system, but in Period 8 (October 14-November 10 2013) this had dropped to only 20 minutes. NR’s recovery plan was implemented in Period 6 (August 18-September 14).

Since the Laser imaging detection and ranging (LIDAR) system was first introduced, there have been more than 270 individual failures, RAIL understands. These have caused more than 11,000 delay minutes, with costs approaching £200,000 having to be spent in compensation.

Now, risk assessments regarding the removal of LIDAR fitted at level crossings are being prepared. This equipment is set with a range of ground level to 150mm scanning, with a higher reading taken at 700mm. It is the lower scanning that is causing performance problems.

Marcus Jones, NR operations manager for West Anglia, told RAIL that the infrastructure company had grown frustrated with the performance of the MCB-OD Crossings introduced as part of the modular signalling over two phases in 2012 (RAIL 701), and had decided to look at the problems.

He explained that NR would think that the system, installed by Signalling Solutions, was improving, only for the following month to produce poor performance. It was midway through 2013 that NR (Anglia route) decided to take matters into its own hands.

NR has now dedicated two permanent way staff and other additional staff to the line, something that Jones says is helping performance.

In addition, all equipment on each level crossing has been re-calibrated, and software upgrades have been made to crossings to prevent LIDARs timing out. Shutters installed at all locations have also improved performance (mainly due to removing the problem of dirty lenses).

East Midlands Trains has been concerned about the performance of the line. Delays caused to its Norwich-Liverpool trains can have serious consequences as it feeds into other busy routes such as the East Coast Main Line, Midland Main Line and through Manchester Piccadilly. Greater Anglia has also, privately, voiced concerns over the performance of the route.

Over the past year local councillor Ian Horner has challenged NR several times about the line’s performance, focusing mainly on Brandon level crossing.

  • This news feature was originally published in RAIL 739 on 8 January 2014

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