Network Rail shifts to paperless processes

UK’s infrastructure manager Network Rail intends to transform its operational processes in 2021. Most of the planning, risk assessment issues and management reports will become paperless. To this end, the public body will implement a one-stop digital platform from the British tech companies Nutshell Software and OnTrac.

To keep pace with the digital trends, Network Rail will launch the dedicated improvement programme next year. It is called Planning for Delivery, or P4D, and, among others, is devoted to reducing near misses, close calls, accidents, and fatalities on the railway. The programme will affect approximately 600 companies, mostly contractors, that cooperate with Network Rail and deliver various services to it.

Two Newcastle-based tech companies Nutshell Software and OnTrac will provide the next generation of Rail Hub, a one-stop digital platform that allows railway workers to plan and deliver safe work on or near the line. “In short, Network Rail are going paperless. Inefficient and outdated paper-based processes including track-side safety briefings, track access/resource plans, work package plans/risk assessments, and management reports will all become a thing of the past, replaced by user-friendly mobile apps, digital forms, and automated processes that will help the industry communicate and operate more effectively, learn from mistakes, and ultimately save lives,” Martyn Cuthbert, Founder of Nutshell Software, said.

Rail Hub platform

Rail Hub is an end-to-end solution, which was developed by OnTrac and is based on the 019 Standard. This digital platform includes six apps dedicated to specific tasks. The Safe Work Pack (SWP) system provides remote access to safe work packs across desktop, smartphones and tablet devices. As a result, it allows railway workers to create fully customisable safe work pack in less than 10 minutes without any paper and the necessity to visit their offices. Another app, ePIC, is dedicated to electronic signing safe work packs by only using tablets.

Railway workers using tablet computer, source: Network Rail

The National Hazard Directory (NHD) is an essential database for organisations planning and delivering safe work and access to any part of the rail infrastructure. It provides users with invaluable information, such as the precise identification of all recorded hazards, descriptions and exact locations – together with other essential information for the safe planning and delivery of work throughout the industry. In addition, the eTrac-GIS app generates digital maps and visualisations on the basis of the geospatial data.

Two other apps are devoted to safety issues. With the help of the OnTrac Access Points, which includes a database of over 18,000 approved access and egress points throughout the Network Rail infrastructure, the workers can quickly find safe and pre-approved walking routes along the tracks. It also allows to find the exact location of railway workers in case of an emergency. And the last app is the Work Package Plans and Task Briefing forms (WPP/TB) that guide users through methods of work, tasks and risks in a simple workflow.

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Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines RailTech.com and RailFreight.com.

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