Predict and prevent in practice – Richard Price

11 August 2014

Welcome to the new ORR blog. One of the privileges of being chief executive is that I get the first crack at writing a blog entry. I want to use this to give you a better insight into what people at ORR do and why - working across the industry to ensure an efficient, effective and safe railway for everyone.

Just last week, I had a different rail experience from my normal commute, as I went out on a night visit with David Metson, one of the ORR's Railway Inspectors, to see engineering works on London Underground.

I saw first-hand the work being done to replace track, to restore embankments and retaining walls and to waterproof bridges – difficult work, often in very confined physical spaces - all part of a major project to renew the tracks shared by the Metropolitan and Piccadilly lines in west London.

Renewal work like this is essential to reduce operational risks and delays to passengers, and to make sure the tube retains its position as one of the very safest railways in the world.

Predict and prevent in practice I was really impressed with the high standards the project has set itself. The things that stood out for me were the planning and organisation to engage staff in thinking about the way the work is done, to learn lessons from previous experience, to ensure delivery stayed on track, and to make sure work is carried out safely and efficiently.

My visit last week saw just a small part of the great work by the orange army of maintenance staff, who are out every day and night and in all weathers, right across the country, undertaking complex and physically difficult work to maintain and improve the rail network.

It often goes unnoticed, but this challenging work is what keeps people's trains on time and keeps the network safe. It's also one area we want Network Rail to focus on, for the mainline network, over the next five years.

We will be monitoring their asset management and maintenance work and want to see a move away from the previous approach of 'find and fix' once things have gone wrong, to a more proactive culture of 'predict and prevent'. This becomes all the more important as we look to make the network more resilient to changing weather patterns.

The reliability of the network matters hugely to passengers, freight customers and train operators. They want to see improvements in performance, fewer delays and disruption. As the combined economic and safety regulator, that is what we expect Network Rail to deliver.

I hope that you enjoy reading this blog. I want it to give you a look behind the scenes at ORR, and an understanding of the great efforts going on here to help to improve Britain's railways.