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  • Maintenance and engineering work

    Maintenance and engineering work can be noisy – but we try hard to keep noise and disruption to a minimum.

  • Maintenance is the general day-to-day upkeep of the railway which keeps the trains running, such as looking after tracks, signals and power supply. Engineering is the larger scale infrastructure work, such as track replacement.

    When Network Rail began to run the railway in October 2002, we faced a huge backlog of engineering work. Over the last three years, we have replaced and upgraded much of the infrastructure and significantly improved the safety and reliability of the railway.

    We try to minimise noise and disruption from work

    We use a range of measures to minimise noise and disruption including:

    • Requiring our employees and contractors to behave considerately towards people who live and work near the railway
    • Positioning lighting and generators away from homes
    • Using silenced equipment where possible.

    For large engineering projects, we also:

    • Aim to send out notices to local people 10 days before work begins
    • Notify local authorities, as appropriate
    • Distribute information about the project to local people, where appropriate.

    We give advance notice of engineering works – where possible

    When we are planning engineering works near residential areas, we aim to send letters to local people 10 days before the work begins. The letters explain what we plan to do and when we expect to start and finish the work. When a large engineering project is planned, we also tell local authorities and other community representatives such as members of parliament, local councillors.

    For maintenance work (such as emergency repairs or general up-keep), it is not possible for us to tell the people who live nearby. This is because maintenance work takes place every day and night of the year which makes it impractical to give advance notice to all the people affected by every job.

    Most work has to be done at nights or weekends

    We have to do most of our maintenance and engineering work on the tracks at nights and week-ends so that we can keep the trains running. In fact, we are required by law to undertake engineering work when the railway line is closed to rail traffic.

    Planning and scheduling work is very complicated

    The railway is a 24-hour a day, 365 days a year operation and involves a very large network with over 20,000 miles of track, 40,000 bridges and tunnels and 9,000 level crossings. We have to work on the infrastructure throughout the year so that we can run a safe and reliable rail network for passengers.
    Also, we have to plan and agree engineering projects with the train and freight operating companies many months ahead. And these works are usually part of a bigger and more complex programme of work. If we change one part of the project, then it would affect all the other parts.

    Finally, there are enormous demands on our maintenance and engineering staff. The same gangs work on different projects and their work needs to be planned properly. For example, it is not easy for a gang to suddenly change from doing night shifts to day shifts.

    More information

    You can find out about trains affected by engineering work and service alterations on the National Rail Enquiries website.

    You can find more information about employee and contractor behaviour, noise and major projects on this website.

    What to do if you have a problem caused by the railway or have more questions

    If you have a problem caused by maintenance and engineering work or any other part of the railway or if you simply want more information, please get in touch with us.


  • North London Line

    Maintenance worker on track

    When we upgraded the North London Line, we worked hard to minimise the impact on the people who live and work near the line.

    The £3.5 million project made essential track improvements so that speed restrictions could be removed and train services improved.

    Engineers worked around the clock for 16 days to remove and replace more than 4000 metres of track, 7000 sleepers and 17,000 tonnes of ballast (the stone that forms the track bed).

    Together with Balfour Beatty (our contractors), we used a range of measures to minimise the inconvenience to local people, including:

    • Timing the project to coincide with school holidays when many people would be on holiday
    • Working 24 hours per day for 16 days to achieve the same amount of work as in three months of week-end closures
    • Using specially-designed, low-level lights when working at night
    • Using silenced equipment where possible and asking all workers to be considerate which kept noise to the lowest possible level
    • Working closely with the local authority to agree the best working methods for local residents
    • Distributing more than 10,000 information leaflets to local residents and businesses
    • Providing a 24-hour helpline to answer queries or concerns.

    The new track is smoother, quieter and more reliable which is better for local people as well as train passengers.