Rail Industry Focus

01.11.15

Understanding electrification risk and complexity

Source: RTM Oct/Nov 2015

RTM attended The Institution of Engineering and Technology’s Railway Electrification seminar to understand the complexity and the requirements for the design of a safe electrified railway. David Stevenson reports.

The Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) hosted a seminar on Railway Electrification on 22 October, specifically related to the complex Great Western project.

One of the opening speakers at the event, held in the bowels of the London Transport Museum, was Richard Stainton, professional head of electrical power at Network Rail. He reflected on past projects and their lack of safety requirements compared to the layers of complexity faced by the industry today, from European legislation to TSIs through to UK law and Network Rail’s own standards.

As part of the Great Western Electrification Project (GWEP), Network Rail is attempting to design enhanced workforce safety principles into a structured process.

Safety principles

The organisation’s ‘Electrification Safety Principles in New Electrification’ are due next year. Stainton said it will not be a new standard, “but it will input into both the electrical safety delivery programme Network Rail is running at the moment, and single line station and earthing processes”. That consistency of approach will fill gaps that have been missing historically.

The plans build on electrification work done in the past, and Network Rail plans to pilot the new principles on GWEP in 2016.

Roger White, chair of the of the IET’s Railway Electrification and Infrastructure School, who hosted the event, said: “You look at what we are doing in terms of safety and how we are putting in place everything to make things safe, and you ask the question: what would happen if you didn’t do it?”

White made reference to an unnamed project abroad where more than 100 people died electrifying a stretch of railway less than 20km long. “That is what would happen if you didn’t do it,” White said.

Project engineering today

Chris Wilson, project engineering manager on Great Western, then gave a presentation on project engineering a major electrification programme.

He discussed what project engineering means in the railway today, how it gets involved in system design, scope development, design management through to build and the authorisation process (read more here).

Delegates then heard about the need to understand risk management in electrification programmes. Daniella Daniels-James, senior risk consultant at WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, a lead design organisation on Great Western, discussed the importance of anticipating and minimising risk.

As part of the project, monthly meetings are held with Network Rail’s engineering team to make sure the partners remain on top of risks, allowing them to be highlighted early in the process.

“We use a quantitative assessment with three-point estimates,” said Daniels-James. “Using this estimate allows us to give a broader view, and allows us to be able to assess the risk from the best case to worst case scenarios. It also gives the flexibility in terms of the bigger picture: taking into account both the impact to the cost and the schedule.”

For risk management to succeed, understanding the project objectives and scope is “critical”. She posed this rhetorical question to the audience of more than 60: “How do you know what the risks are if you don’t know what the scope is? Risk needs to be built into the project management activities. It needs to be live and have buy-in from everyone.”

Common safety methods

Damon High, service leader for systems assurance at WSP Parsons Brinckerhoff, talked about the challenges of implementing common safety methods (CSM) regulation.

“The key is that you should start this as early as possible,” he said. “There is no point thinking we might need to run a few hazard identification sessions once you are in the detailed design phase. By then, it isn’t too late, but you are a little bit hamstrung with what you have to work with.

“It also doesn’t help with the whole ‘safe by design’ mantra. Start these things early – GRIP 2, GRIP 3 – do your preliminary hazard analysis at system level.”

Delegates were told about the importance of engaging with stakeholders and assessment bodies. High added that implementing CSM on a programme like Great Western is “fairly new” and “quite challenging”, but it is about the legacy of what will be left behind on the railway system.

David Hewings, head of energy network strategy at Network Rail, also discussed the project’s innovative approach to develop a single modelling approach for the whole system design on Great Western.

Comments

Rod Smith   12/12/2015 at 14:57

"more than 100 people died electrifying a stretch of railway less than 20km long". Perhaps a more relevant comparison would be "how many died when the ECML was electrified?"

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