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Working safely through COVID-19: Network Rail

Network Rail Network Rail

Implementing measures that allowed continued safe working during the Coronavirus outbreak has enabled Network Rail to progress with repairs to the storm-damaged Cumbrian Coast line, as well as continuing with essential maintenance of the rail network across Cumbria.

Repairs will soon be complete on a section of the line left badly damaged by three consecutive storms earlier this year.

High tides, strong winds and heavy rain brought by Storms Ciara, Dennis and Jorge caused structural damage to a bridge carrying the railway at Parton, near Whitehaven.

Both lines have been closed since March so the bridge could be completely replaced to make the railway safe and reliable again.

Phil James, route director for Network Rail’s North West route, said: “Repairs at Parton are progressing well, and I look forward to the whole of the Cumbrian Coast line – a key passenger and freight route being open to services once more.

“I’m especially impressed that our teams have been able to undertake all of this work while following social distancing guidelines introduced by government. It demonstrates just how well we can work together, even in such testing times.”

Measures introduced by Network Rail included:

  • Delivering essential activities that included scheduled and reactive safety-related inspections, as well as planned and reactive repairs plus preventative maintenance. This approach helped keep passenger services, transporting key workers, and freight trains on the move.
  • To keep its workforce separate and safe, personnel were allowed to travel to site in their own vehicles. Screens were also installed in work welfare vans to help safely segregate staff.
  • The NR workforce followed Public Health England guidelines on social distancing and where that wasn’t possible, for example when carrying out critical renewal and repair work on track, additional PPE was issued to frontline colleagues. It also ensured delivery units and signalling centres were well-stocked with hand sanitiser and sprays.
  • For certain schemes - for example critical work taking place in tunnels - staff used ventilation systems connected to masks to maintain separate air supplies.

To coincide with the full railway closure following damage to the railway at Parton, work on sea defences scheduled for later this year has been brought forward. More than 36,000 tonnes of rock armour is being placed to protect the railway from being pounded by powerful waves

The large boulders, sourced from a Cumbrian quarry, will better protect the exposed section of coastal railway and mean more reliable journeys for passengers and freight in the future.

Dr Steve Curl, transport and infrastructure lead at Cumbria Local Enterprise Partnership, said: “We’re very pleased to see the progress being made on the Cumbrian Coast line and look forward to the full resumption of services.

“It’s encouraging to note the way that continued safe working has been carried out in recent weeks as the line is a key part of Cumbria’s strategic infrastructure and will have a significant role to play in the county’s recovery post-Covid 19.”

Network Rail’s repair work at Parton is due to complete by the end of May, when train services will resume between Whitehaven and Workington.

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