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Network Rail data quality still being questioned

Having attended many of the UK’s largest rail events over the last few years RTM has been constantly bombarded about the importance of one word: data. 

The industry as a whole, as well as Network Rail, is so reliant on data that you would imagine we would be world-leading in this field. Unfortunately, the latest Office of Rail and Road (ORR) Network Rail Monitor paints a grim picture. 

In amongst the disappointing CP5 delivery figures, ORR said: “Our evidence shows that the quality of data that Network Rail relies upon to plan and manage works on Britain’s railways is not acceptable in some areas. 

“ORR has written to Network Rail requiring a proposal from the company to address this.” 

The regulator noted that the quality of Network Rail’s data is “critical” to understanding and addressing underlying problems on the network. 

However, after expressing concerns as far back as 2013 in its Periodic Review where it requested greater data access, ORR added that it has   seen “evidence of unsatisfactory data quality in some areas including asset condition, volumes data and financial reporting”. 

Network Rail’s Audit Committee is reviewing data quality across all these areas, but this issue needs to be addressed urgently. 

One ray of hope for the infrastructure owner is that its challenge to improve asset data quality, which is to be achieved by April 2017, remains on target. 

It was noted that to date all the milestones of the ambitious Offering Rail Better Information Services (ORBIS)programme, which involves adopting consistent data specifications, providing simpler mobile data capture tools, replacing outdated asset information systems (such as GEOGIS and CARRS), and providing improved decision support tools, have been achieved on schedule. 

This included the signalling core data, which was completed in January. The next milestone is completion of the national rollout of the signalling decision support tool, due in September. This is expected to bring together disparate signalling data sources and enable Network Rail to target work more efficiently. 

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