RAILTRACK SAID this week that it will put a 120 strong in-house team in charge of organising track possessions, instead of expecting contractors to organise them.
The move is part of a drive to increase maintenance efficiency and will also result in longer sections of track being closed for longer periods.
Railtrack hopes to have recruited the new team by Christmas.
The move follows recommendations in a report produced by LEK Consulting for Railtrack chief executive John Armitt.
Since privatisation, work has been carried out in short overnight or weekend possessions. These are organised by contractors and aimed at reducing disruption to services and compensation to operators.
But contractors often have to revisit sites several times because possessions are too short to allow them to complete work in a single visit.
'Traditionally we have carried out work in the shortest and quickest possessions. However we now realise this is a high cost low efficiency option and we are looking at optimising possession times, ' said recently appointed Railtrack possessions director Nick Pollard.
Railtrack has also developed a costing tool incorporating the 13 types of work Railtrack carries out. This shows that in the long term, longer possessions over longer sections of track are more efficient.
Evidence of this philosophy has already emerged with the weekend closures of a section of the West Coast Main Line south of Manchester (NCE 5 September).
Pollard also hopes the new possession management regime will help drive down the current 'unacceptable' frequency of possession disruption, caused by short notice cancellations or illegal train movements within possession areas.
INFOPLUS www. nceplus.co.uk/magazine/ rail