February 19 2016

London Underground and Network Rail collaboration lays the track for success

Earlier this year, Network Rail employees worked side by side with London Underground workers with a successful outcome, completing a major project in a short space of time and thereby sparing disruption for commuters on the line.

The collaboration was a first for the later firm and, thanks to the strategic planning and skilled work of those in these metro jobs , could well lead to a more cooperative approach across the industry.

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At a time when the sector needs to work together to overcome contentious issues across the board, the project to renew two platforms at Paddington Tube Station presented an opportunity for experts working at both the London Underground (LU) and Network Rail to apply their different approaches improving the line for rail customers.

After a green light in 2010 and a year of planning, the project was carried out from the early hours of Christmas Day and completed in early January. Originally LU had hoped to complete the platform work at Paddington over a weekend maintenance session nearly six years ago, but conditions at the time, with no service road making the line accessible for track renewals, meant the work could not be carried out in such a short space of time.

In 2015, Network Rail was due to undertake its own maintenance work at Paddington, and so the pair were able to pool resources to support each other’s projects.

An all-incorporating solution

Following a year’s worth of careful planning between each firm’s delivery teams, the platform work and ballast track renewal (BTR) work were able to go ahead. LU, itself in partnership with Balfour Beatty, serviced the BTR of Paddington’s platform 15 with permission to use National Supply Chain engineering trains belonging to Network Rail. In return, Network Rail could carry out its own planned maintenance of platform 14 with help from the engineering team at LU.

LU and Network Rail shared equipment and transferred skills in order to successfully run their individual projects alongside one another and all in the minimal time before the line reopened to passengers.

The collaboration’s outcome

Visiting the site, among others undergoing work at the same time, the then director of Balfour Beatty, Colin Weallen was impressed with the level of cooperation throughout. He said: I don’t think I ever heard the words ‘them’ or ‘us’ during the works. Signallers, PICOPS and ES teams all worked brilliantly together and the integrated work plan was a great success.”

The recent complex work at Paddington proved to be a triumph, with an estimated 24,000 hours of upgrade work having taken place free from any lost time accidents. On inspection, the Office of Rail and Road approved the maintenance and praised it for representing strong collaborative working practises.

Collaboration in any industry is important, but for the metro sector, where improvement work often has to take place under huge technical and time constraints, it can be a challenge to accommodate other approaches. As this project demonstrates, when expert organisations are able to support one another, the results can be impressive and break down barriers, leading to a more progressive strategy for maintenance work in the future.

Image Credit: Panhard (

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