Keeping rail stations and facilities open during Covid-19
There may be fewer trains running and far less people travelling, but there are still jobs on the railway that just won’t wait.
A significant water mains leak beneath Marks Tey station’s car park urgently needed repair, a broken fence and window at Ilford depot had to be secured, after trespassers broke into a plant room, and routine safety inspections, for structures such as walls that support platforms across the network, must continue.
This essential work, taking place behind the scenes, as well as on the front line, is vital to keeping the railway open and safe for essential workers, and is the responsibility of Greater Anglia’s Asset Management team.
Simone Bailey, Director of Asset Management explains, "The team is responsible for the safe and efficient management of all Greater Anglia’s property within the stations and depots - from day to day facility management to managing and delivering our major inspection, maintenance and renewals programmes. We are also responsible for the design and delivery of our key upgrade schemes, such as station redevelopment, car park expansion schemes and improving customer and staff facilities.
"Although this work is being done differently now due to social distancing measures, with people working from home where possible, my team is busy pushing forward projects so that when things return to normal, passengers will still receive the high standards of stations and facilities they expect."
Here’s a look at some of the Asset Management team’s ongoing work.
The Asset Management team is responsible for the upkeep of Greater Anglia’s 133 rail stations and is still keeping a close eye on them all should maintenance and repairs be required.
The company’s Asset Inspectors, who undertake regular surveys to identify where improvements need to be made, are currently focused on essential work to identify and resolve issues which may impact on the safe and punctual running of trains.
Simone says, "Despite us having fewer staff available than usual, because of self-isolation, work being more difficult to carry out because of social distancing measures and contractors no longer being available or having difficulties in sourcing material and supplies, there is still a lot of essential work that must be done to protect our properties and ensure that the railway can run safely, which we cannot delay.
"I’m grateful for my team’s commitment to getting this work done in a timely, efficient manner."
For example, they repaired a significant water mains leak at Marks Tey station which involved excavating a section of the car park. During normal times this would be more complex due to the car park being in demand but, because the car park is currently virtually empty, this work could be done more efficiently.
Emergency repairs also had to be carried out to a fence and broken window at Ilford depot after trespassers broke into a plant room.
The team continues to liaise with and support its external partners, such as Network Rail, local authorities and utility providers who may wish to carry out works at the stations. For example, completion works for the new multi-storey car park at Bishop’s Stortford station, and the associated roadworks outside the station (in conjunction with the local council), are still being undertaken.
Working with Carlisle, the company’s cleaning contractor, stations are being regularly cleaned and disinfected, including steam cleaning when needed, with special attention being paid to high touch point areas to keep staff and customers safe.
Carlisle has also helped to ensure that Greater Anglia has sufficient supplies of cleaning equipment and chemicals.
Another area which is as busy as ever, is the review and development of the design work that our both our Projects Department and external partners are undertaking for various renewal and improvement projects - for example, the redevelopment of Witham station and the design work for new stations at Beaulieu in Essex and Soham in Cambridgeshire.
The Team is also continuing to work with partner organisations to secure third party funding for other schemes so that they can progress as the business returns to more normal conditions.
In addition, they are attempting to use this quieter operational period on the railway to carry out works which require possessions (restricting access to the network) and/or isolations (turning off the overhead power supply), as doing them now, when so few people are travelling, will minimise the inconvenience to customers.
For example, because there are currently fewer trains running than normal, this has afforded the Asset Management team an opportunity to carry out platform riser wall (the walls that support the platforms) inspections on the main lines during the day, when usually these would need to be done at night when fewer trains are running.
The Asset Management’s Depot Facilities team are continuing to carry out planned routine maintenance and reactive repairs at all depot facilities and are supporting and supervising the activities of contractors still working on those sites.
They continue to staff train stabling locations such as Colchester, Cambridge, Southend Victoria and new facilities like the Norwich Victoria Sidings, as well as the main engineering depots at Ilford, Norwich Crown Point and Clacton where a 24/7 on call provision is still being facilitated, in support of the reduced, but still vitally important train service.
The depot remodelling works at Norwich Crown Point are still continuing apace, with ground investigation works being undertaken prior to constructing a bogie drop facility (a lifting platform connected to two hydraulic jacks which allows a train’s wheel set to be disassembled from the rest of the train and replaced) in the middle of the maintenance shed, whilst new office accommodation and a central storage facility are nearing completion.
The team is also fitting electric heating to Stadler’s storage area, along with a standalone fire alarm system, to improve both the working environment and the safety of staff who access the building.
Simone adds, "I’m really proud of my depot-based teams who set about installing extra hand washing and sanitising stations at many locations around the depots in response to the coronavirus outbreak, to help keep them and their colleagues safe at work."
Improving stations for customers and communities
The Greater Anglia Asset Management team of 73 colleagues fulfils one of those unseen, but crucial, roles in making the railway work well.
Just like their frontline colleagues, they are passionate about their contribution in ensuring customers and communities experience high standards of facilities when they travel by rail. They are also justifiably proud of the part they are playing in providing a service for key workers and enabling other essential journeys during the current situation.
Simone comments, "It’s so strange to see our stations almost completely empty, but we are grateful to everyone who is heeding government advice not to travel, as this helps to protect all railway staff and other essential workers as they travel to and from work, as well as prevent the further spread of the coronavirus.
"My team and I will continue working to support the safe operation of the railway through the upkeep of our stations and facilities. We look forward to welcoming more passengers back in the future, when it is safe to do so, and delivering more improvements and upgrades across the network."