Network Rail

Network Rail asks us to upskill its overhead line technicians

After struggling to find a UK training programme for its European-designed high-speed overhead contact system, Network Rail's High-Speed division asked us to develop a bespoke solution.

Their brief

The company wanted to upskill and refresh the knowledge of its overhead line technical engineers, who carry out crucial maintenance on the system. Rather than how to do their jobs, the training had to focus on why those jobs had to be done in a certain way, covering health and safety and engineering reasons. The programme did not need to be accredited but Network Rail was keen to include some kind of assessment to check to understand.

Our solution

Using the University’s engineering expertise, we delivered a two-day face-to-face training programme about the overhead contact system (OCS) used by Network Rail High Speed. This helped the technical engineers understand the fundamentals of the overhead line equipment and how it operates, mechanically and electrically. Topics included:

  • An overview of the OCS: The system, how it fits into the railway infrastructure, supporting technologies, the changing environment and demand, alternative supplies, safety matters.
  • Electrical technologies: From fundamental practical principles to a more theoretical understanding of the electrical elements of the OCS, moving on to electrical interfaces, AC/DC areas, and earthing matters.
  • Mechanical technologies, including mechanical arrangements, the geometry of OHLE, the Train Pantograph, failure modes and reliability, maintenance standards and maintenance periods. 
  • Mechanical infrastructure, such as the kinematic envelope, open-route equipment and tunnel equipment.
  • Track technologies.
  • The physical environment: stations, tracks, tunnels, earthworks and drainage, access for measurement equipment.
  • Future trends and regulatory changes: HS2, specialisation and the need to keep a balanced overview, design for maintenance.

The training was very interactive, incorporating breakout sessions, group tasks and an informal class quiz at the end of the training to check the group’s understanding.

The sessions were delivered by three University academics who have significant relevant experience. They included:

  • a Chartered Civil Engineer with 27 years’ experience in the rail infrastructure industry
  • a mechanical engineer who is currently working with rail companies to develop new testing products for the rail maintenance industry
  • an electrical engineering specialist.

With a nationwide shortage of people who can install and maintain rail power lines, yet an upsurge in demand for these skills due to projects such as HS2 and Crossrail 2, we have high hopes for this programme and plan to develop similar solutions for other rail-related businesses in the UK.

“We’re creating a more knowledgeable, better-informed and better-engaged maintenance team, as well as assisting in the training and development of future employees.”

Dave Benson, Overhead Contact System Maintenance Engineer, Network Rail (High Speed)