Published 11th February 2013
Network Rail has commendably bitten the bullet and agreed to be the subject of a TV series on BBC2. This starts on February 12 at 9pm and carries on every Tuesday for a total of six episodes ending on 19th March.
Network Rail, (NR) Train Operating Companies, (TOCs) and the British Transport Police, (BTP), suppliers and contractors are also featured. The programme is described as an observational documentary, which will reveal the people who help keep the railway running, and the challenges they face.
This series has been almost two years in the making and Network Rail’s media team had been approached by a number of documentary makers and decided that the time was right to take a calculated risk and let the BBC in behind normally closed doors to film.
The series is said to show the general public, stakeholders and funders, an insiders’ view on the size and complexity of our railway and the challenges it faces. This decision to film was endorsed by David Higgins and Tom Kelly and fitted with the NR stated ‘open and transparent agenda’.
The TV production team were free to contact and film with anyone that was happy to be involved, although there was regular contact between the media team and producers throughout.
Rail.co.uk’s Phil Marsh was part of a team to whom the same offer was made in Railtrack days in the mid 1990s, but the senior management team were not brave enough to let the cameras in. It was all too political at the time!
Many people working across the industry from signallers and station teams to route managing directors and project programme managers took part in more than 90 hours of filming at stations, depots, on track, in offices, construction sites, route controls and signal boxes across the UK. The series is narrated by Kevin Whately of Lewis and Inspector Morse fame.
NR gave the film crews contact details of their national and route control teams and access to key people in Network Operations who manage access to the railways.
The series may also make it clear to those watching, some of the underlying reasons for journey delays and rail costs, where currently misunderstanding fuels public frustration.
How does one of Britain’s busiest stations operate? This episode follows the East Coast and Network Rail staff running the station, the challenges they face in train dispatch, how they interact with passengers during times of disruption, dealing with recruitment, and the issue of fares and the cost of running the railway.
Summer madness (Leeds station)
Filmed over the summer months in and around Leeds station and the Yorkshire area, this episode covers a real mix of issues and people from the across industry. It covers the Real Ale Trail (Northern); how route control deals with, and the impact of trespass and NR’s trespass campaign, how they reacted to the flooding, compensation, cable theft; and the tragic death of a young lad at Rossington.
Standing room only (Reading)
The massive Reading redevelopment is featured showing the people that are delivering the project, including behind the scenes planning meeting about closures and the building of the new platform 10. It also features how mobile operations managers work, seeing how they handle a dead dog on the line and a suicide at footpath crossing. The cost of delays is highlighted again with the impact of delays caused by a freight train cutting through a cable looking at both passengers’ experience and the engineers fixing it.
West Coast Main Line
On the trains at Euston with Virgin staff dealing with passengers, including with Liverpool and Everton fans heading for the FA Cup semi final and final. Customer service at Manchester Piccadilly with NR’s station team and out with a track renewals team where the pressures to get work done in a tight timeframe so not to impact on service next day are shown. The capacity issues and the case for HS2 is also made subtley.by the narrator.
Railway on my doorstep (how the railway impacts on communities)
What was the economic impact of reopening of the Ebbw Valley railway near Newport for passengers and jobs? It looks at how station staff in Liverpool and Cardiff cope with crowds when sporting events and parades are on.
Other subjects covered are fare dodging, training new staff, trespass, rubbish clearances on the track the impact of high winds on services on the ECML at King’s Cross station.
The final episode looks at the railway north of the border. It follows a track worker in the West Highlands, one of the remotest parts of the network; maintenance teams known locally as “ice men” who work at night to keep the tracks clear of snow and ice during winter; and see how we replace track outside Edinburgh Waverly as well as operations at Glasgow Central
Witten by contributing author Phil Marsh