December 2010 in Network Rail and Suppliers
A reporter has contacted CIRAS regarding the withdrawal of late
notice cases by Balfour Beatty at various depots including Ashford
and Hither Green. The reporter is concerned that staff are not
receiving notices, which contain safety critical information such
as notification of emergency speed restrictions. Staff are
aware that in some cases emergency notices are not being placed in the late notice case.
It is noted that a system was put in place where text messages containing route information were sent out to staff. However, there have been occasions where whole text messages - or parts of them - have not been delivered because of network failures. The reporter feels that this system is not adequate as it does not follow the procedure stated in the Rule Book. The reporter would like to know:
The operation of our fleet of on-track machines includes the commencement of Driver's working shifts at stabling points without any provision for paper based communication. These stabling points comprise remote sidings and NR yards without Balfour Beatty management present. Drivers may commence work at any of these locations or at one of our various plant depots. This has been an operational arrangement for many years. However, the obligation to inform Drivers of late notice information was not being met at the remote booking on points. In order to ensure that late information is communicated to the Drivers consistently the text messaging was introduced in 2008. The original document dated 5 February 2008, advising that text messaging was to be used, was distributed to all Operators and explained that the text service would inform Drivers/Operators of any necessary information including Temporary and Emergency Speed Restrictions (TSRs and ESRs).
There isn't a Rule Book requirement to communicate late notice information via 'late notice cases' and these were withdrawn after this texting system had been in place for over a year. A late notice cases document indicates they were withdrawn 21 March 2009; this document was placed in all notice boards at all depots. Further to this all Drivers record the start of their shift, regardless of location, by telephone call to the BB Rail Renewals control centre at Hither Green. The Controllers on duty have a responsibility to mention any late information such as new ESRs to Operators as they book on. This advice is in addition to the issue of personal text messages.
This combination of a message service for late notices (predominantly speed restriction changes) and direct conversation with Drivers is more effective than relying on the posting of written advice notes at our main depots. It is understood that other Train Operators, for example DB Schenker, use the same system and processes for late notice communication.
We consider that these arrangements are better than the posting
of notes in a 'late notice case'. However, we do undertake to
review the systems for keeping Drivers informed of route
information as part of our continuous