March 2010 in Network Rail and Suppliers
A reporter is concerned about the pressure being placed on staff due to the short time periods allowed for possessions. Staff, especially PICOPs and ESs in the south east region (excluding East Anglia), are experiencing pressure from signalling staff to hand back possessions early or on time, despite final safety checks not being made. This could lead to a serious incident on or around the track.
The reporter feels that this pressure is increased as sufficient time is not allocated for the work that needs to be carried out during the possessions. The reporter gives the example of five hours worth of work being done in a three hour possession, not leaving any leeway for problems that may arise and cause the possession to overrun. The reporter is also concerned that the number of machine movements being carried out in these short possessions is dangerous and a major cause of delays.
Could Network Rail review the planning of possessions and explain the process behind deciding how much time is allocated to each possession?
Network Rail would like to thank the reporter for raising their concerns regarding possession pressures and the potential consequences. Safety is highly important to Network Rail.
Network Rail planners plan possessions with the assistance of other relevant departments and the specialist contractors for the work concerned. They use a work planning guide to help them decide how long it will take to complete the work.
The number of on-track machines allowed in a possession of the line is decided at the planning stage and this includes consideration of the safety of the people and the work involved. It is the role of the machine controller who accompanies the on-track machines to make sure that any movement or task the machine is to carry out is done safely. This includes telling the people working what is to happen and to make sure they are not near the machine when it does its movement or task. A risk assessment and method statement is also mandated for the safety of those involved.
It is the responsibility of the person in change of possession (PICOP) to decide when a possession of the line should be given up.
The PICOP will base this on the confirmation from the engineering supervisor (ES) that the work has been completed and that it is safe to give the railway back for the running of trains.