UK: Industry regulator the Office of Rail & Road has written to Network Rail regarding its concerns about a backlog in examining the condition of structures, including bridges, tunnels and culverts.

ORR said it has been closely monitoring the infrastructure manager’s progress to clear the backlog since 2021, but there has been limited progress and some regions have seen the backlog increase.

Network Rail has now agreed to provide ORR with a robust plan by June 30 setting out how it will achieve compliance. ORR will assess the plan, which will be finalised at the end of August.

ORR will then closely monitor delivery, and investigate overall progress at the end of Control Period 6 in April 2024.

‘There are over 70 000 structures on the rail network, so we understand the scale of the job of inspecting these assets’, said ORR Chief Executive John Larkinson on May 15.

‘Equally, we know this requires clear, robust and systematic examination plans but previous attempts to get on top of the backlog of work have failed. Network Rail has accepted the need to do better and it must now deliver against the agreed workplan to clear the backlog.’

Commenting on ORR’s requirement, Network Rail Safety & Engineering Director Martin Frobisher said ‘since the ORR first raised this matter in 2021 we have been developing and enacting recovery measures to ensure structures examinations are up to date. Between February and April 2023 there has been a 9% improvement in examination non-compliance. We recognise there is still work to be done to build on these improvements and we are liaising closely with ORR to get back on track. A plan will be submitted to ORR by the end of June.’