One of Network Rail’s life-saving rules is to create ‘exclusion zones’ which separate people from plant.  While it’s straightforward enough to embed these in policies and protocols there is always the risk that human error could lead to incidents and accidents.  One CIRAS member, Stobart Rail & Civils, has been looking at how innovative technology can help reduce this risk.

As part of its Huntington to Werrington 4th track reinstatement tender, Stobart Rail & Civils conceptualised and developed the ‘Stobart I ALO (adjacent line open) System’.  The System uses 3D cameras and illumination units to measure and continuously plot the plant’s position in relation to the track.  Visual and audible warnings are then triggered whenever an object – person, plant, equipment, or anything else on the worksite approaches the predefined limits of the exclusion zone.  It’s also linked to the machines operating systems so that as the limit is reached the machine will stop moving, making it impossible for any part of the plant to leave the safe zone. 

The units can be fitted to any size of plant and adjusted to exclusion zones of different shapes and sizes to accommodate all variations of civils plant. Uniquely it does not rely on any “tags” or other battery operated devices, only the H-Viz clothing that is mandatory on all sites. The plant operator can see the exclusion area on screen, and all data recorded by the system is sent to a dedicated cloud-based system.  There it is analysed to identify any trends in working behaviours and learning.  This intelligence can then be used to help predict and change behaviour and operate more safely.

Stobart Rail & Civils aim to use this system to improve safety for staff working in high risk areas and provide reassurance to their clients that they are reducing risk.  They are currently also looking at how the system can be applied in the aviation industry, when working in and around aircraft, by adapting the same principles as working trackside. 

We asked Stobart Rail & Civils Plant Maintenance & Innovation Manager,Daniel Firman for some thoughts on implementing the system:

What challenges did you face in implementing the system? How did you overcome them? 

Building a simple, easy to understand user friendly interface. It is often all too easy when implementing a technical solution to over-complicate the user’s experience. We believe it is paramount to design a system that causes minimal disruption to the user.  Also, one of the biggest technical challenges was to build a ‘one-size-fits-all’ system for all civils plant. Civils plant is often hired from multiple suppliers and comes in many shapes, sizes and brands. As well as all of this, the system also has to endure the harshest environments the rail infrastructure can throw at it.

What lessons would you share with another company thinking of doing the same

Keep an open mind when developing new technology for new purposes and involve many minds from many backgrounds. Innovation comes in many forms and isn’t just for saving money, it also saves lives!

Find out more about the Stobart-I system by contacting Lauren Douglas, Business Development Officer at