Thermal image of heated section of track at Wolverhampton station

Snow stopping the railways thanks to Network Rail helicopter

The heavy snowfall has caused numerous issues and delays over the past couple of weeks and Network Rail (NR) has worked to innovate around this challenge.

They have adopted the use of thermal imaging cameras mounted to an NR helicopter to help keep passengers and freight moving across the West Midlands.

Although sub-zero temperatures caused heavy snow to fall and ice to form on tracks this weekend (23/24 Jan), a large portion of the railway has been operating as normal.

This is helped by the Network Rail Air Operations team, which yesterday (25 Jan) carried out sky-high inspections of the West Coast mainline and key rail routes in the West Midlands. 

Network Rail helicopter preparing for take off in the snow

The detailed aerial photos were taken on the flight over Wolverhampton station, and also Tamworth station in Staffordshire, are to check that points, the equipment which allows trains to move tracks, do not become frozen and stop working.

In each set of points, the steel rails are heated to stop this from happening. If the heaters are working correctly the points show glow bright white in the thermal pictures, if they appear dark the helicopter team raises the alarm to engineers on the ground for them to fix.

Lichfield thermal images

Dave Penney, Network Rail’s Central Route Director, said: “With the West Midlands under a blanket of snow the Network Rail Air Operations team has been inspecting the railway from the sky today to help keep passengers and freight moving.

"Key sections of track are fitted with heaters and insulation to help stop them freezing. Thermal imaging cameras attached to a helicopter have been checking the heaters are working.

"Anything reported to us from the skies can then be looked at straight away by the extra teams of people on the ground and fixed as quickly as possible."

Wolves thermal images

Images: Network Rail 

Rail Technology Magazine latest edition APR/May 22

RTM APR/May 22

Equality, Diversity & Inclusion: An essential agenda for UK Rail's future

Our April/May 2022 edition of RTM is now live, packed full of insights and analysis of rail projects, innovations, and ambitions across the UK network. Jump in and hear from the likes of Tees Valley Mayor Ben Houchen on how they’re supercharging rail in the region, hear from RIA Chief Executive Darren Caplan as he outlines why ED&I is essential to the future of rail, and Alan Pattison breaks down the unique work which went into rebuilding Soham station, alongside much, much more…

Videos...

View all videos
TransCityRail Banner

TransCityRail

South \ 29 09 22
North \ 10 11 22
Mids \ 10 02 23

TransCityRail is a series of regional, interactive and insightful events across the country bringing together leaders, collaborators, problem solvers and innovators in a creative and invigorating way.
 

This series of events supports and informs the whole of the rail industry and connects suppliers with buyers, specifiers, leaders and decision-makers looking to procure a wide variety of innovative products and services for their region.

Podcast

The Green Rail Revolution

Maria Machancoses, Director of Midlands Connect discusses the importance of HS2 to the Midlands and the UK, their collaborative work with the Department for Transport, and how we need to embrace the railways again.

More articles...

View all