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LUL forced to review live track working procedures

LONDON UNDERGROUND (LUL) has been forced to review its entire live rail working procedures after a method of work it approved on a contract was found by railway inspectors to breach safety laws.

Details of the review emerged just as a high court judge imposed fines of £225,000 plus £15,700 costs on the Tube operator for allowing men to work on live rails between 1998 and 2000.

LUL pleaded guilty in July to live rail working safety offences on the Central Line near Loughton. A sacked supervisor was also ordered to compensate workers who received electric shocks (see box).

The latest work practice revisions stem from a separate prohibition notice served by Her Majesty's Railway Inspectorate (HMRI) on LUL's Infraco Sub-Surface Limited (SSL) and contractor Cementation Foundations Skanska on an embankment stabilisation project in Chiswick on 28 November.

Skanska's method statement was approved by SSL and allowed for daytime surveying work on the live District Line tracks between Turnham Green and Chiswick Park. Work was to be carried out in the 10 minute interval between trains stopping at both stations.

Work on parallel Piccadilly Line tracks, which carry fast trains at two minute frequencies, was carried out at night with the line power switched off.

HMRI inspectors banned the daytime District Line work when they learnt of the plans, which they ruled would contravene the 1989 Electricity at Work Regulations.

However, a senior HMRI source highlighted that Skanska appeared to have drawn up its work plans based on standard LUL methods of work, believing that they met the HMRI's live rail working requirements.

The ban will have serious consequences for LUL as the ruling means that some of its standing live rail track working procedures and guidelines could lead to breaches of the law.

A source told NCE: 'The method statement was based on LUL's rules, but the method of work chosen was clearly in breach of the regulations. While this was specific to Turnham Green, there are broader implications which may change the way work is carried out on the Underground.'

The source said the regulations outlawed work on live rails unless there were special circumstances. LUL, he said, had adopted an interpretation which broke the law.

'LUL now appears to acknowledge that there have been situations where it has been working live when it would be reasonable for it not to do so, ' the source added, pointing out that this breached the regulations.

An LUL spokeswoman said that the prohibition notice was based on particular circumstances which were 'limited' but admitted a 'potentially farreaching' effect.

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