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Inspection and maintenance explained

AS MAINTENANCE contractor for the East Coast Main Line, Balfour Beatty was responsible for inspecting track and ensuring the line was fit for operation.

The section of line where the crash occurred was visually inspected by Balfour Beatty staff just a week before the crash.

This involved a qualified track inspector walking the line. It was due to be checked again on the afternoon of the crash.

After Railtrack was privatised Balfour Beatty won the maintenance contract for the East Coast Main Lineunder one of 35 regional RT1A contracts.

It is negotiating a new deal with Railtrack under the new IMC2000 contract which is due to start in March, superseding the old RT1A contract.

IMC2000 contracts increase the detail and number of key performance indicators for rail maintenance.

As with the old RT1A contract they also include an obligation to keep the railway operational to the required standard.

The RT1A contracts were signed under a fixed price, lump sum fee deal. They gave little incentive for the contractor to innovate or share ideas with Railtrack.

The new IMC 2000 contracts aim to be 'open book'. Railtrack hopes they will encourage maintenance contractors to work more closely with their clients.

Balfour Beatty was named preferred bidder for the five year £250M East Coast Main Line contract in August.

The ECML contract covers the 890km of track from Kings Cross to the Scottish border, including 1,500 switches and crossings and 4,000 track circuits. The contractor has also been named preferred bidder for the Kent, and Great Eastern & Anglian regions which have a combined value of £350M.

Maintenance contracts require Balfour Beatty to maintain the infrastructure between the boundary fences surrounding track. This involves signalling, electrification, structures, track and other elements such as vegetation.

The track is visually inspected each week, and an ultrasonic test done every two to three months.

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