BROKEN RAILS still a pose a safety hazard on Railtrack's network, senior asset manager David Cooper told a Railway Civil Engineers Association meeting this week.
More effective rail management, he said, was vital to stemming the problem and to increase safety standards on the railways.
Railtrack predicts that its maintenance investment programme will reduce the number of broken rails on the network from 923 last year to 500 by 2010. However, Cooper said this figure could be improved once new train- mounted monitoring equipment comes into use.
'Cost will not be an inhibitor,' he said, emphasising Railtrack's commitment to reduce the figures.
However, the Rail Inspectorate reported a 'very disturbing' rise in broken rails last year after its annual report showed breaks rose 23% during the 12 months to March 1999 (NCE 9/31 December 1999). This report came one month after Rail Regulator Tom Winsor also criticised Railtrack's performance on tackling the broken rail problem (NCE 18 November 1999).
At that time, Railtrack maintained that steps taken had already seen a fall in broken rail incidents since last April.
Railtrack is also keen to increase dialogue with train operating companies to monitor and decrease the number of 'flat' wheels in operation - a major contributing factor to broken lines.