March 2010 in Network Rail and Suppliers
London Underground (LUL) drivers on the Bakerloo line who need to speak over the Connect Two radio system to the Network Rail (NR) signal box at Wembley are finding that their calls sometimes go unanswered. The infrastructure, which is shared between Queens Park and Harrow and Wealdstone, is controlled by NR. The reporter says this issue has been causing some concern amongst drivers for the past six months.
Drivers may need to speak with the signaller to convey safety critical information - such as the presence of an obstruction on the line, a fire, or anything else that may require immediate action. There are electrified overhead lines carrying 25,000 volts, as well as conductor rails in this area. Though signal post telephones (SPTs) can also be used to communicate, these are not always ideally placed if there is an incident.
The reporter understands that these unanswered calls are logged somewhere by LUL, but are they being logged anywhere by NR? It is acknowledged by the reporter that the workload in the signal box may be intense at times, and that there may be other emergencies to attend to at the time of a call. It is suggested that LUL work with NR to resolve this issue. Perhaps some performance indicators could be put in place to help ensure calls are always answered promptly.
The issue of Bakerloo line train operators calls, made on the Connect system, not being answered by the Network Rail signal box at Wembley has been, and continues to be raised with the Network Rail signal box manager by the LUL service control manager. LUL service control also maintains a log of calls missed by the Wembley signal box.
At a recent JDG meeting (held 20/11/09) between Network Rail (NR), London Underground Limited (LUL) and London Overground Rail Operations Limited (LOROL), the item was raised and discussed. Actions were agreed to ensure a full understanding of the issue. Once the root cause of the calls not being answered by the Wembley signal box is identified (i.e. technical or human factors) a plan of action to resolve will be agreed by all parties and tracked to completion.
Network Rail would like to thank the reporter for bring their concerns to our attention. Connect Radio was installed by London Underground (LUL) 12 months ago, prior to this signal post telephones (SPTs) were used as the main form of communication between LUL driver's and the signalling staff within Wembley SCC. These are still in situ and can be used as an alternative to the Connect radio system which is maintained by LUL and not Network Rail.
From discussions between Network Rail and LUL we have identified that the situation of unanswered calls may have happened during major service disruption which caused a large volume of telephone calls.
We believe this to be no different to any other panel/workstation in a signal box which could have potentially a large amount of phone calls coming through during disruption.
With reference to the safety concerns about making emergency calls, the Connect system has a 'mayday' facility. If the driver operated the "mayday‟ facility this will then cut all other Connect radio communications off and the signaller will answer the "mayday‟ call immediately as per instructions and training.
We will continue to work with LUL to monitor the use of the Connect radio system to avoid as far as possible situations where calls received from driver's go unanswered. The signalling staff in Wembley SCC have all been re-briefed on the requirements to try and respond to calls as promptly as possible.