Asset management is changing

Source: RTM Dec/Jan 16

Graham Kenn, technical director for coastal and river engineering at JBA Consulting, discusses effective asset management and how it is becoming more significant than ever, with increasing physical pressures on assets due to extreme weather and the effects of climate change.

The majority of our rail network was built in the Victorian era, with most of the coastal structures still acting as primary defences. Asset management teams are developing effective management strategies to replace or repair groups of assets to extend their lifetime and functionality at a system level. This will allow a safe railway network to be maintained in an efficient and cost-effective way over the coming years. 

The latest guidance on effective asset management 

The latest guidance suggests that existing asset management policies are reviewed at a national level and allow the management of assets through a risk-based approach taking into consideration whole life-cycle costing. 

Network Rail’s Wales Route is responsible for the largest number of varied coastal, estuarine and river defence (CERD) assets on the rail network. The Route Asset Management team realised that they would need to take a different approach for their CERDs to be able to meet the regulatory requirements and the challenges of climate change. 

New approach to coastal asset management 

As part of their desire for a Coastal Asset Management Strategy, Wales Route commissioned JBA Consulting to help them develop a tool to meet their needs. 

JBA Consulting, in partnership with the Wales Route, developed an innovative solution that considers not only the physical condition of the asset but also the wider risks posed by coastal processes impacting on the asset and the effects to the rail infrastructure.  The coastal processes included in the new methodology are: 

  • Risk of coastal erosion
  • Risk of wave overtopping
  • Risk of still water               

Coastal erosion 

A primary function of many CERDs is to protect the shoreline against wave action, which could lead to coastal erosion and damage to the infrastructure. The rate of erosion is dictated by factors such as the wave height, and period, resistance of the bedrock deposits against which the waves are acting and the distance between the CERD and the infrastructure. The new methodology considers these four component factors, each of which are assigned a score dependent on the individual assessment of risk. 

Wave overtopping risk 

This is a critical factor when considering the coastal process risk posed to a CERD and the rail infrastructure located behind the asset. Wave overtopping on the line can result in the need for speed restrictions or potentially line closure if volumes are significant. 

Still water level flood risk 

The threat posed by still water level flooding is critical to the assessment of CERD assets and infrastructure risk.  If the line is located within an area at risk of still water level flooding and then becomes inundated closure of the line may be necessary, causing disruption to services and in some cases significant financial penalties. 

Climate change impacts 

In order for the asset management plan to be effective over an extended timeframe, these risks were analysed in the present day but also for three time epochs: 2025, 2055 and 2115.   

Case study 

JBA Consulting has now completed the assessment of over 150 CERD assets across the Route and has developed a comprehensive management plan, which is in the process of being actioned. The system is now being rolled out across the Western and London North West Routes, considering a further 100 CERD assets protecting many miles of track and infrastructure. New system developments are also underway with a cloud-based storage and viewing platform being considered. 

Andy Cross, Network Rail Wales Route asset manager, said: “This innovative approach to coastal asset management has put us in a position where we can now look forward in the way we manage our assets.  

“It provides the basis for whole life asset management, enabling us to explore further innovations with our supply chain as well as other coastal asset owners.  Working with JBA has been refreshing and rewarding as we have jointly developed this smarter approach.” 

AssetCoast won the South East England Engineering Excellence Award for Innovation at the Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE) awards in July 2015. This follows an earlier award for AssetCoast, also presented by the ICE in May 2015.

(Image: c. Matt Buck)

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