August 2009 in Network Rail and Suppliers
Concerns have been raised by more than one reporter about possession planning and protection of track workers in the Anglia region. Rules concerning junction protections are not being followed and information in weekly operating notices (WONs) use terminology that PICOPs are not familiar with.
Rule Book module T3, section 5.2 covers detonator protection and states when such protection is not needed:
"Because the signaller will keep the points concerned in the necessary position to protect the possession, you do not need to provide detonator protection where a crossover, siding or loop joins the line that is under possession".
The Anglia route does not always use detonator protection at junctions as per this rule. Detonator protection isn‟t placed at junctions in the hope that points will be kept in the correct position by the signaller. Instead of block signals being used, flank protection (FP) is in use. It is assumed that the possession that is on the branch is providing sufficient protection for the protection on the main line. FP is not in the Rule Book and is a term that PICOPs are unfamiliar with as it is not part of the PICOP training course or assessment process.
FP is thought to be dangerous because if possession on the branch line was given up early or during the period of mainline protection then it would leave the mainline unprotected. The PICOPs of both possessions would not know that they aren‟t fully protected.
Where there are two possessions at junctions, instead of using FP, one possession could be a bit shorter so that there are two protections in place at the junction. If not, then the two possessions could be combined as one larger one. For example, in the work undertaken at Highmeads loop, at the time the protection was due to be taken out on the North London line possession, protection could have extended out to take the Stratford-Cambridge line as well.
Both PICOPs will not be fully aware about who the other PICOP is that is protecting them. One suggestion is that both PICOPs have each others contact details. They would both then know if they are providing FP and that if a possession will be given up early or not.
Better planning of junction protections would eliminate the need to use flank protection and allow compliance with the Rule Book.
Why does the Anglia route not always use detonator protection at junctions as per module T3, section 5?
If FP will continue to be used, a written procedure is required that covers all the concerns that have been expressed by PICOPs. Can this be arranged?
Could the planning of junction protections be improved so that FP isn‟t used?
The use of flank protection (FP) has been in use on Anglia regularly over the past four to five years and only recently has been raised as an issue. Predominantly, the use of FP had been restricted to the North London line area due to multiple, cross route boundaries with other Network Rail routes (notably LNW, LNE, Wessex, Sussex, Midland and Continental, etc.).
The use of FP had been utilised largely because insufficient protection was afforded on complex junction possessions. However, it has been noted that better cross boundary planning would remove the need for this type of use.
To this end, and in an effort to move away from the use of FP, a conference was chaired by the Anglia access planner in May 2009 to agree set blocking points where there are interfaces with other routes. As a result of this meeting the future publications of the WON should see the use of FP removed.
The Anglia access planning assistants have been advised that these set limits are now in force and commensurately there will not be a requirement for flank protection to be utilised going forward.
In conclusion, the use of FP has been investigated and there is agreement that the method of protection is not fully in accordance with rule book module T3. Future final WON publications will not refer to FP from June 2009 onwards, with possession planning and draft WON documents already in print being amended prior to final publication.