ORR Instructs Network Rail to Clear Backlog on Examining Structures

The Office of Rail and Road (ORR) has written to Network Rail to express concerns about its backlog in examining the condition of railway structures such as bridges, tunnels and culverts.

These examinations are required at set intervals to ensure faults are detected before issues arise.

Failure to conduct examinations on time can lead to safety issues and speed restrictions on the rail network, while also impacting Network Rail’s ability to efficiently plan its maintenance and renewal activities.

If Network Rail does not complete the overall examination process at the required intervals, faults could be undetected
If Network Rail does not complete the overall examination process at the required intervals, faults could be undetected

ORR has been monitoring Network Rail’s progress on clearing the backlog of structure examinations since 2021, when ORR first raised the issue.

It has observed that limited progress has since been made, and some regions have even seen the backlog increase.

In response to ORR’s dissatisfaction, Network Rail has now agreed to provide robust plans with clear milestones to achieve compliance by 30 June 2023.

ORR will assess these plans and the two companies will agree on a final strategy by the end of August 2023.

ORR will then closely monitor Network Rail’s delivery of its plans and will investigate its overall progress at the end of April 2024, when the current Control Period 6 concludes.

John Larkinson, ORR Chief Executive said:

“There are over 70,000 structures on the rail network, so we understand the scale of the job of inspecting these assets. Equally, we know this requires clear, robust and systematic examination plans but previous attempts to get on top of the backlog of work have failed. Network Rail has accepted the need to do better and it must now deliver against the agreed workplan to clear the backlog.”

ORR’s letter to Network Rail can be viewed here.

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