At the heart of the rail network is a team of dedicated specialists, the National Operations Centre (NOC).
The NOC controllers are vital to keeping trains running, but little-known outside railway circles. Whatever happens on the railway, the NOC is always among the first to find out and plays a critical role in contingency planning and resolving incidents, working 24/7 including weekends.
Research and development teams across the rail industry are doing just that, thinking about the needs of passengers and businesses in 30 years’ time and even further ahead, and considering how the railway can adapt through innovation to meet these requirements.
The LNE&EM route Structures asset management team is trialling the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to inspect large structures in a safer and more cost efficient way.
The vehicles, commonly known as drones, are being used to get a closer look at five arch viaducts on the route, including the Grade 1 listed, 28-span Royal Border Bridge in Berwick-upon-Tweed, Northumberland.
Why don’t rails get hot in Europe? The truth is they do.However, in countries typically hotter than ours, rails are stressed to withstand higher temperatures.
Hot weather can cause a great deal of disruption to the railway so Britain’s rails are pre-stressed to help them resist high temperatures. Our rails have a stress-free temperature of 27 degrees - the UK mean summer rail temperature. Other countries choose different temperatures depending on their climate.
“We’re doing one of the last steam-age jobs on the network.”
At Shrewsbury railway station, signaller Jamie Green is steeping young Network Rail graduates in history.
He works at Severn Bridge Junction - the largest working mechanical signal box in the world. The grade II-listed building houses 180 levers, all dating from 1903. The box doesn’t just embody a rare tradition, it continues to perform a vital function on a modern railway.
Our fleet of vehicles and machinery works hard all year round.
It plays a crucial role in keeping the railway safe for passengers and freight operators, such as each autumn, when 61 specialist trains and vehicles minimise the impact of leaf fall and help reduce the chances of delays.
The broader fleet’s coverage includes infrastructure monitoring, maintaining and renewing tracks, and inspecting and clearing drainage.
The journey from London’s Borough Market to York typically takes about two and a half hours.
For what was once Britain’s busiest signal box, it will have taken more than 40 years to reach its final destination.
For over 80 years, the small Victorian structure sat upon a brick tower above the tracks and guided trains through Borough Market Junction, where the lines from London Bridge, Cannon Street and Charing Cross converge.