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Assessing railway assets and structures

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Running the railway is a 24/7 job, with teams up and down the country undertaking day-to-day operations and maintenance as well as delivering a significant investment programme. Many of the people and companies delivering this work aren’t seen by the public, but their combined objective is to ensure every passenger receives the best possible service and the smoothest journey.

Network Rail doesn’t carry out all the maintenance and enhancement of the railway itself.  Rather, it uses a number of contractors who bring their own special expertise and knowledge to carry out a variety of roles.

One of these contractors is Amey. Although its operational teams play a vital role upgrading signals, replacing track, and electrifying lines, they are supported behind the scenes by over 900 rail designers and engineers across a broad range of disciplines, as well as over 400 examiners and surveyors who work on the Civil Examination Framework Agreement (CEFA), assessing railway assets and structures. 

Ali Kayran, Amey.

Ali Kayran is currently a senior surveyor on the CEFA contract, responsible for examining Network Rail’s assets in the Eastern region. 

“I’ve been at Amey for the past 10 years, delivering operational property inspections on stations and buildings as part of the CEFA contract,” he said. “Like many of my colleagues, most of the work I undertake isn’t seen by the public, as it’s my job to make sure defects are identified on-site, and the relevant repairs can be carried out, before the public notices any impact on their journey. 

“Over the years, I’ve carried out detailed inspections at over 100 stations and undertaken visual inspections at over 200 stations, which include buildings, carparks and depots, as well as signal boxes, footbridges, subways and undercrofts. I have assessed the integrity of platforms, walkways and shelters for passengers, amongst many other things. Network Rail’s priority of putting passengers first is something I think about when I’m undertaking the examination – assessing an assets’ safety as well as its appearance and ease of use for a passenger. 

“I’m part of a small team of nine experienced surveyors, with 65 years of experience between us. And while we don’t often get to see each other, we’re regularly in contact, learning from each other to make sure we achieve a consistently high standard of surveying at all times.

“The role is more physical than people expect, we can be on-site and on our feet all day. We also have to be flexible – working some weekends and nights when the stations are quieter to minimise disruption to passengers.”

Preparation is key

With flexibility being a core component to how the railway works, people working on the railway have to be adaptable. This means everyone knows the importance of preparing fully, asking questions and doing their research before starting work. 

“My average day starts by checking my emails and prioritising any urgent matters – anything that might cause a delay or inconvenience to a passenger’s journey is crucial to be dealt with quickly,” Ali continued. “Before we go on-site, there are plenty of safety checks to undertake and information to pre-read so we’re up to date on the latest reports and asset condition and know what to expect when we arrive.

“Once I’m kitted out and ready to go, and armed with my pre-reading knowledge, I’ll check the condition of any existing defects and carry out a condition survey to identify any new defects. Once my site surveys are completed, I collate all of my findings into a report for Network Rail.

“Defects sound concerning but we identify defects early so we can keep track of them and advise Network Rail of any changes, enabling Network Rail to determine if, and when, any repairs are needed.”

Safety must be simple

The railway network is incredibly complex. Because of this complexity, being aware and mindful of others at all times is key to staying safe – recognising and mitigating risk before it occurs. Everyone has to take a proactive and dynamic approach to health, safety and wellbeing, which is rooted in Network Rail’s safety vision of ‘Everyone home safe every day’.

“Safety for passengers, but also all railway workers, is paramount. Anyone who works alone on the railway must switch on their lone working app, which is installed on every mobile. It’s drilled into us that this is always the first thing you must do before starting work on-site.

“I’m proud to know my role directly keeps people safe. Within Amey, our Zero Code approach is something I live and breathe every day – looking out for myself and those around me at all times. We’re empowered to ‘shout out’ if something isn’t right to protect others – my job epitomises that approach every day.

“Working on my own most of the time, it’s been much easier to implement and adhere to the Covid-19 safety principles we’ve put in place locally, across Amey and Network Rail. I’m astutely aware of my surroundings at all times, to make sure I operate safe lone-working procedures to protect myself, plus the people I sometimes come into contact with at all times, plus the people I sometimes come into contact with!

“While most people don’t see what we do, I’d like anyone reading this to take away how important the work our surveyors do is. Reporting any defects quickly and keeping the physical assets safe helps Network Rail to make informed investment and repair decisions, and most importantly, protects the travelling public and makes every journey as smooth as possible. 

“It’s a role that can see me travelling all over the Eastern region, so I especially appreciate spending my spare time with my family. I enjoy the variety of my role every day, especially getting to go out on-site to undertake examinations – I’m very proud of my relatively unknown, behind-the-scenes role. I want to make sure I pass on the importance of enjoying your job and being proud every day onto my children.”

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