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Track Condition in the UK

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modernrail

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I perceive, and it might only be perception, that track condition in the UK is not as good as on the continent. A few questions:

1. Is that a fair statement?
2. If so, why is it - older underlying infrastructure or we do not replace track as often as they do on the continent?
3. What problems does this cause to the track that could otherwise be avoided or reduced - unexpected track defects, worse performance in very hot/cold weather?
4. What costs does this cause to the TOCs/ROSCO's in terms of increased maintenance costs? Could an accelerated track replacement programme be justified on the ground of lower maintenance costs for trains (leaving aside the fact that the incentives to make this work are fragmented in the privatised industry we have).
5. Is there any other upside from accelerating track replacement in the UK (for instance reduced costs attributable to delay) and do forum members think this should be more of a priority than it is at the moment.
 
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Harbornite

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I know you are referring to Europe and not North America, but I don't think the track in this picture would be tolerated in our country, even for freight-only lines

5348.1331879562.jpg

http://www.railpictures.net/photo/392342/



As for the UK, the worst track I've seen in an image could well be this


s89124.jpg


http://www.2d53.co.uk/blaenauffestiniog/Trawsfynydd Branch 3.htm
 
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Trog

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I think it is only your perception, and that for many defect types we have less problems than the continent. One that was mentioned to me in the past was that we have a lower rate of buckles, perhaps due to us insisting on a raised ballast shoulder. I also remember being told of a senior engineer on a visit to France who was told that they did not suffer from RCF. He looked down at the rail they were standing over and asked what these cracks and marks were then.
 

D Foster

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I perceive, and it might only be perception, that track condition in the UK is not as good as on the continent. A few questions:
.

:D What are you basing your perception on?
a. statistics?
b. reports (what of)?
c. miles/kilometres travelled - how many and where?
d. pictures or video?
e. Something else?
:D
 

coppercapped

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I perceive, and it might only be perception, that track condition in the UK is not as good as on the continent. A few questions:

1. Is that a fair statement?
2. If so, why is it - older underlying infrastructure or we do not replace track as often as they do on the continent?
3. What problems does this cause to the track that could otherwise be avoided or reduced - unexpected track defects, worse performance in very hot/cold weather?
4. What costs does this cause to the TOCs/ROSCO's in terms of increased maintenance costs? Could an accelerated track replacement programme be justified on the ground of lower maintenance costs for trains (leaving aside the fact that the incentives to make this work are fragmented in the privatised industry we have).
5. Is there any other upside from accelerating track replacement in the UK (for instance reduced costs attributable to delay) and do forum members think this should be more of a priority than it is at the moment.

To your Point 1. Track quality in the UK varies considerably depending on route, line speed utilisation, tonnage, formation and the enthusiasm of the local civil engineer.

What the passenger perceives as track quality is also affected by the performance of the vehicle's suspension and its interaction with the body's resonance modes, where one sits in the vehicle and the interaction of the seat cushion with the suspension.

There are considerable variations between routes within one country as well as between countries on the European continent. One could always tell when travelling by sleeper from Paris to Hamburg whether one was in France, Belgium or Germany.

So, no. It is not a fair statement.
 

Bald Rick

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That depends which part of the U.K. Network you are used to.

For almost as long as railways were invented, the railways south of the river have had a worse track quality than those north of the river. This is partly down to geology, partly down to how they were built, and partly down to the traffic that now uses them.

In my experience, albeit many years ago, track quality on the continent is better than in the UK, except (oddly) on the high speed lines, where it is better on HS1 than the French LGVs.

The French have lower maximum axle loads - and their track certainly is used less intensely, so it gets much less damage. Also in France, they still have a daytime 'white time' in the middle of the day for track inspection and occasional maintenance.

Since my last trip to Europe, UK track quality has definitely got better. I also suspect that some railways (esp SNCF) will have got worse, as their classic railways have been subject to significant budget reductions.
 

Ships

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I don't have the information but it would be interesting to see what the permitted standard deviations for uk vs sncf etc are for equivalent category lines
 

Bald Rick

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I don't have the information but it would be interesting to see what the permitted standard deviations for uk vs sncf etc are for equivalent category lines

I'd like to see that too.

Also the SNCF rules on cant deficiency, which appear to be a bit more exciting than ours.
 

theironroad

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I can't really comment on the comparison in the op, but as a driver I think some of the track quality isn't great in the UK to say the least.
 

Harbornite

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That is incredible! :lol:

Do you know how long the line wasn't used for? The article suggests nineteen years for a passenger train but it doesn't look like they'd been much freight down there for some time either!

At the time, the only freight was flask traffic to and from Trawsfynydd power station which ceased in 1998! However, trains hadn't regularly been past the headshunt since the 1960s, before the line to Bala was closed and severed by LLyn Celyn.
 
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modernrail

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My perception is that track condition is worse in the UK. I do not have data. There are a few examples.
1. This is not mainline, but the state of the track on the circle/district line seems to be very poor. I was very surprised when TfL put new trains on these routes without upgrading the track. You still get shaken about a fair bit on the S Stock and it left me thinking - I hope a wedge of my rather expensive fares are not going to be wasted on suspension maintenance that could be avoided. I also wonder whether the condition of the track influences what seem to be low and often line speeds - although I know the signalling also contributes to this and is due to be replaced.
2. Second one also not mainline - when the new Victoria line trains were introduced they had to carry out extra grinding etc to allow for higher speeds - this suggests that the track could have been in better condition before this work.
3. I use the Brighton mainline quite a lot and find the ride on new or reasonably new trains to be absolutely awful. On a recent trip to Gatwick airport I noticed how thrown around you can be on the line.
4. I recently used one of the 319's from Wigan to Liverpool. The ride seemed to be all over the place on this.
5. Track on the continent always looks better maintained to me. This is to the untrained eye and might be unfair. It is not just the track, but the trackside as well. Continental track beds often seem neater and better kept, with less foliage sticking out of the ballast and more modern looking track components.
6. When NR announces track replacement, it is often for relatively short stretches, whereas there appears to be more consistency on track across a whole route on the continent.
7. In general when I board a train in the UK I expect to get thrown about - with the possible exception of the WCML. In general when I board a train on the continent I expect a smooth or very smooth ride.
 

SpacePhoenix

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The Island Line track must be in need of work, when i was on it about what must have been three years ago that was really bumpy
 

DarloRich

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My perception is that track condition is worse in the UK. I do not have data. There are a few examples.
1. This is not mainline, but the state of the track on the circle/district line seems to be very poor. I was very surprised when TfL put new trains on these routes without upgrading the track. You still get shaken about a fair bit on the S Stock and it left me thinking - I hope a wedge of my rather expensive fares are not going to be wasted on suspension maintenance that could be avoided. I also wonder whether the condition of the track influences what seem to be low and often line speeds - although I know the signalling also contributes to this and is due to be replaced.
2. Second one also not mainline - when the new Victoria line trains were introduced they had to carry out extra grinding etc to allow for higher speeds - this suggests that the track could have been in better condition before this work.
3. I use the Brighton mainline quite a lot and find the ride on new or reasonably new trains to be absolutely awful. On a recent trip to Gatwick airport I noticed how thrown around you can be on the line.
4. I recently used one of the 319's from Wigan to Liverpool. The ride seemed to be all over the place on this.
5. Track on the continent always looks better maintained to me. This is to the untrained eye and might be unfair. It is not just the track, but the trackside as well. Continental track beds often seem neater and better kept, with less foliage sticking out of the ballast and more modern looking track components.
6. When NR announces track replacement, it is often for relatively short stretches, whereas there appears to be more consistency on track across a whole route on the continent.
7. In general when I board a train in the UK I expect to get thrown about - with the possible exception of the WCML. In general when I board a train on the continent I expect a smooth or very smooth ride.

so many issues to challenge there! I hesitate to make the usual points as the assumed cognoscenti have decided they are excuses.
 

theironroad

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The Island Line track must be in need of work, when i was on it about what must have been three years ago that was really bumpy

As a first timer on the island line a couple of months ago, I was very surprised at just how bad the ride quality is. I guess it's the combination of the ancient ex tube stock and track in need of upgrade.
--- old post above --- --- new post below ---
My perception is that track condition is worse in the UK. I do not have data. There are a few examples.


5. Track on the continent always looks better maintained to me. This is to the untrained eye and might be unfair. It is not just the track, but the trackside as well. Continental track beds often seem neater and better kept, with less foliage sticking out of the ballast and more modern looking track components.
.

This is one of my current bugbears, trackside foliage is out of control in many places, and often only held back by the passing of trains. Apart from the noise of small branches etc hitting train body side, it causes damage to the paint/vinyls.

As for foliage from ballast, yes it looks messy and reinforces images of a second rate railway. Even worse is the foliage, often large bushes, saplings and small trees growing out of the joins in brickwork where the mortar has long since gone and dust and soil has taken its place. It looks bad and surely can't be good for the integrity of the brickwork and structure.

Apart from some radical tree cutting to alleviate leaf fall issues, often when foliage is cut back it is only done to relieve an immediate issue, such as foliage obscuring signals etc rather than a root and branch :D clearance.

Unfortunately, since regular steam left the network, lineside vegetation doesn't seem to be a priority and the manpower needed has been diminished, using outside contractors only when really needed rather than doing regular preventative clearance.

Don't get me started on trees and bushes on scenic lines like the west highland line or to kyle. I accept that some of these scenic line issues are outwith the railway boundary, but no point advertising and promoting scenic lines when views are regularly obscured.
 

skyhigh

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Even worse is the foliage, often large bushes, saplings and small trees growing out of the joins in brickwork where the mortar has long since gone and dust and soil has taken its place. It looks bad and surely can't be good for the integrity of the brickwork and structure.

There's a bridge over the railway near me that now has small trees growing out of the gap between the wall of the bridge and the pavement - the trees appear to be pushing the wall over to a slight angle on part of the bridge. I'm assuming Network Rail are aware of this and it's not a problem, but it certainly doesn't look good!
 

YorkshireBear

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There's a bridge over the railway near me that now has small trees growing out of the gap between the wall of the bridge and the pavement - the trees appear to be pushing the wall over to a slight angle on part of the bridge. I'm assuming Network Rail are aware of this and it's not a problem, but it certainly doesn't look good!

Never hurts to report something to the national helpline just in case they are not aware. http://www.networkrail.co.uk/aspx/1346.aspx

Its not an emergency though.
 

30907

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Interesting topic, and I wonder if our mainland-based members would like to comment (is it possible, mods, to link to this thread from the International forum?).

Just to be anecdotal: I've just done Paris-Toulon and Marseille-Paris on TGV, mostly an excellent ride, but thé classic line Marseille-Toulon noticeably poorer quality as well as slow.
I also did the Cote Bleue line as far as La Couronne - mostly, track in good nick, though weeds and dirty ballast abounded, but in both directions there was a long section of maybe 30mph running (but in different places each way, so I presume condition of track not an underlying infrastructure issue). Marseille-Arenes-Estaque was very slow.

Maximum speed on that route seemed to be about 60mph, though I wasn't timing, and I've noticed across Europe that, away from the real high speed lines, maxima tend to be low by our standards - which has a positive effect on the ride too!
 

infobleep

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In the 1990s, when I use to come back home from a family holiday in Austria onto the British Rail trains, I use to call it the British Rail dance. Let's do the British Rail dance.

I found the ride quality a lot smooth in Austria than over here.

I don't know about the difference now though.

Sent from my SM-G925F using Tapatalk
 

Llanigraham

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Having crossed from Toronto to Vancouver by train last year I can assure you that even the Cambrian line is excellent. I could not get over how rough the track was in Canada and talking to a P-way man from CP he could not understand how a little Mid Wales branch line could have a speed limit of 90mph, compared to the maximum we had on the trip of 50mph!
 

Islineclear3_1

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Of course the problem is - when is a good time to do maintenance?

Trains are getting busier, more carriages are being added to ease capacity, more people travel on the weekends now, there is always an outcry when there are weekend/bank holiday possessions, certainly the lines in the south of England are probably the most intensively used... need I say more?
 

30907

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In the 1990s, when I use to come back home from a family holiday in Austria onto the British Rail trains, I use to call it the British Rail dance. Let's do the British Rail dance.

I found the ride quality a lot smooth in Austria than over here.

I don't know about the difference now though.

I'd broadly agree with you for "western" European mail lines, but I'm not sure how much is due to track and how much to rolling stock (typically heavier and longer) - and, as I hinted earlier, to speed.
 
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That depends which part of the U.K. Network you are used to.

For almost as long as railways were invented, the railways south of the river have had a worse track quality than those north of the river. This is partly down to geology, partly down to how they were built, and partly down to the traffic that now uses them.

Is that true for all rivers or one in particular?
 

SpacePhoenix

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This is one of my current bugbears, trackside foliage is out of control in many places, and often only held back by the passing of trains. Apart from the noise of small branches etc hitting train body side, it causes damage to the paint/vinyls.

When I was visiting the Isle of Wight, we went via Brockenhurst and Lymington Pier stations, between them two stations in a few places you could hear tree branches hitting the side of the train
 
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