Delivering a world-class service for London

Source: RTM Apr/May 16

Mark Bullock, managing director for Balfour Beatty Rail, discusses the past and ongoing track works happening across the capital’s rail network as part of their extended Track Partnership with London Underground (LU).

Balfour Beatty Rail provides a broad range of services across the entire lifecycle of rail infrastructure. Its 1,600-strong workforce includes almost 100 apprentices, trainees and graduates who get the opportunity to work closely on a wide range of exciting projects and solutions. One example is the recently awarded £170m two-year extension to Balfour Beatty’s Track Partnership contract for LU. 

Track Partnership, an alliance between Balfour Beatty Rail and LU, is responsible for delivering essential track and drainage renewal work across the LU network. The contract scope includes the renewal of points and crossings, ballasted track and associated drainage, signalling, traction power and conductor rail works. 

Passenger benefits 

Initially appointed to the contract in 2010, Balfour Beatty has collaborated with LU to develop innovative ways of working which have resulted in better productivity and lower unit costs. As a result, the partnership has been able to constantly renew the asset whilst minimising disruption to passengers. Record volumes of work have been delivered in ever shorter timeframes. 

In Balfour Beatty Rail, technical expertise and engineering excellence are core aspects of how the business approaches problems. This is particularly so in the technology solutions division which has been growing steadily in the past few year as customers have benefited from access to Balfour Beatty’s leading edge in-house technological capability, which includes products such as asset monitoring systems. These systems assess assets and detect failures before they occur, bringing a wealth of benefits to the customer improving safety, cost and reliability. 

In the UK and abroad 

These technologies are not just used in the UK. Balfour Beatty has been exporting UK engineering expertise to overseas markets. Recent examples include work on the Singapore Metro where Balfour Beatty has installed signalling monitoring equipment that records the operating condition of points – a critical part of any network for both performance and safety. Similar technology has also been installed in Hong Kong, as well as track and overhead line measurement systems. 

Balfour Beatty engineers are also involved in the IEP with a state-of-the-art programme which is dedicated to developing a laser-based track monitoring system. This system will be fitted onto the new Hitachi supplied trains to measure the condition of the infrastructure as they travel at speed across the network.  

This technology is also being expanded for use on Crossrail where Balfour Beatty is in the design process for the new Bombardier fleet. 


Returning to the LU, similar systems are already in use on the Tube trains. Here, Balfour Beatty is using and supplying DataMap, a condition visualisation system that automatically manages the vast amount of data produced.

DataMap helps identify developing faults which then allows for remedial work to be planned in advance, before the fault develops and affects the passenger service. In doing this, and monitoring track more frequently, Balfour Beatty is able to obtain a better indication of the deterioration rate of the track. This all adds up to minimising disruption to passengers and giving them a more reliable service. 


An example over the 2015 Christmas period saw the Track Partnership completing a 700m track renewal project at Paddington. The works were delivered safely and on time, in challenging weather conditions. Not only that, but the tracks were temporarily re-opened to allow for travel over New Year’s Eve and then finally completed and successfully reopened on 4 January. The whole package of works saw minimal disruption to the general public as a result of the DataMap visualisation system allowing for a co-ordinated and planned approach. 

The proprietary technologies developed by Balfour Beatty for rail projects allows for larger renewal works, such as the Paddington Christmas track renewal work, to be better planned and co-ordinated, allowing for any disruption to the public to be kept to a minimum while the customer benefits from reduced cost and disruption and a minimised risk – which is always a challenge for an intensively operated metro like the LU.

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