Toby Keates tells us what the new Network Rail (NR) Rail Hub is, and what it means for you if you work on or around railway tracks.

Railway workers wearing PPE

Above: Railway workers stock photo © Network Rail

The G-ZAM (Green Zone access manager) system – used in planning line blockages – and the system for creating safe system of work packs are no longer operational. To replace them, Network Rail and software provider On-Trac have together developed Network Rail (NR) Rail Hub, to improve end-to-end planning and delivery for track work.

This central hub draws information from Network Rail’s data sets: Welfare app, INM (integrated network model) – the master database, Ellipse – the work scheduling system, the national electronic
sectional appendix (NESA) – which contains the track diagrams, the hazard directory, and PPS.

NR Rail Hub users can access live information. When creating a Safe Work Pack (SWP), you will have everything you need, such as hazards information and hospital details. Agreed ways of planning and collating information for the SWP, using consistent wording, will drive behavioural and culture change, and improve ways of working.

Why have you developed NR Rail Hub?

It will aid compliance with Network Rail’s 019 standard (NR/L2/OHS/019 – Safety of People at Work On or Near the Line). It supports this standard by automating the process so that there are standardised, agreed ways of working. Users won’t be able to skip steps, so the correct process is followed from start to finish – from planning to the pack being used on site.

The 019 standard introduced the role of the Person in Charge (PIC), who is responsible for safely delivering the work on site and is also involved in planning for that work. Where the PIC involved in the planning is not available on site due to unforeseen circumstances, late notice changes are possible but won’t be the norm.

How does this affect me?

As NR Rail Hub is digital, you can access it from iPads on site. This should mean you no longer need to drive back and forth to get paper copies signed off or because parts of the pack have been forgotten or misplaced. If any late changes are needed because of circumstances on the day – these can be dealt with remotely. The responsible manager can be contacted by phone, who can then sign them off and update the digital pack remotely. No longer needing to get paper copies signed off should reduce delays and therefore reduce time pressures. The SWP can also be accessed offline.

Full training and support is being provided to staff who are not familiar with using handheld devices and who have used the old system for a long time.

When we have revisited staff who have been using the system for several months, they are liking it. It is much easier to navigate, and they can access the relevant information quickly without having to flick through pages of paper. The main advantages are:

  • an improved relationship between the planner and on-site team
  • access to the most up-to-date information for SWPs
  • consistent ways of working
  • improved safety for workers
  • all decisions are easy to
    track and manage.

How is the roll-out progressing?

A six-week initial pilot in Sandwell and Dudley was a success. NR Rail Hub is now being rolled out across Network Rail, with only a few routes left to get it. We expect this to be completed by the end of 2022.

What about the supply chain?

Only Network Rail staff can directly log into NR Rail Hub currently, but we hope to roll it out to the supply chain. In the meantime, most of the supply chain also use On-Trac’s platform to create their SWPs. It is possible to export information from NR Rail Hub to share with suppliers. This means that they will also have access to the most up-to-date information.

What’s next?

The system is continually improving. We started with updating the line blockage and SWP process. Other forms and parts of the process will be added later. For example, the signaller aspect of the line blockage process is still paper-based for now.

Remember: you can use CIRAS to raise any concerns you have about how work is planned or changes affecting risk in your workplace confidentially. We’ll share them with the company.

Toby Keates is managing the NR Rail Hub programme at Network Rail, as part of its Safety Task Force. Find out about the Safety Task Force and removing unassisted lookout and LOWS working.