Safety matters, Newcastle South Junction


High speed handovers: Newcastle South junction

Jessica Tabinor morson vital training

Safety matters, Newcastle South Junction

In just nine days, spanning a total of 221 hours, maintenance, route planners and route teams worked around the clock to deliver a £8.6million track renewal project at Newcastle South junction.


Used by more than eight million passengers each year, the junction forms a critical part of the East Coast Main Line. The switches and crossings located throughout the complex layout were originally installed in the 1980s and despite regular maintenance to retain good working order, it had become one of the most unreliable junctions on the route, having failed 15 times between January and October 2017 and causing disruption and delays. 

Sitting south of Newcastle station, the blockade was delivered by the Switch & Crossings (S&C) North Alliance, a partnership between AmeySersa, Network Rail and their supply chain. 


Vital Human Resources supplied more than 40 track operatives across ES assistance, CC, COSS, LKT and TM disciplines to deliver specialist works in plating and stitching up and gauging modular layouts, kangoing, ballast profile, plate oiling, cutting joints in and rail drilling. 

The project took place just 80m from live trains, requiring a collaborative approach to health and safety to overcome the challenges on what was the largest and most complex project of its kind on the LNE over the last decade. The site was also located on a viaduct, adjacent to a river and presented a tight footprint for work.  

Safety matters, Newcastle South Junction


The limitations of the site presented a number of challenges, which included: 

  • OLE jumper arrangements to allow electric trains to run in and out of the station as per diversions.
  • Headroom constraints, including short engineering trains and limited isolation headroom.
  • Working on weak structures with Kirow Cranes.
  • Risk of striking and breaking OLE wires and these coming down in the station area; as well as a risk of the public coming into contact with wires.
  • City centre location restricting the access of materials, plant and pedestrians.
  • Hoarding requirements off of Platform bays 9
  • 12 to protect passengers from straying into the worksite where the crane was working.
  • Bringing 88 panels in via road haulage. 

To maintain safety, live footage from helmet-mounted cameras was streamed 24/7 to a Silver Command Centre, enabling access to real-time updates and a complete overview of work on demand. 


In just nine days, more than 114 close calls were reported, mainly concerning exceeded hours (56) and DNSO (35). 

One injury on site was the result of a pull chain falling from the MEWP, which struck an IP on the helmet and cut the individual’s cheek. Luckily, the IP’s hardhat endured most of the blow and minimised the laceration to their face. 

The IP had been taking OHL height and stagger measurements at the front of the MEWP. The pull lift had not been secured properly within the confines of the basket in that the hook head/snatch block was riding on the basket toe board, potentially on a point of balance, with the actual chain hanging out of the basket itself. As a result, the pull lift fell when the IP moved to the side of the stationary MWEP to take another measurement.

 A further four property/RRV damages were reported on site, which included: 

  • A vandalised MEWP found with its battery stolen at south access. A spare MEWP was used and additional security mobilised to visit the access point periodically.
  • Platform 12’s concourse was damaged by telehandler wheels on an existing UTX, which was undermined due to the weight of blocks. This was covered, barriered and repaired before station handback. 

After commencing working on site at 00:15 on Saturday 6 January 2018, the section of track successfully reopened again at 05:15 on Monday 15 January 2018.

Download your copy of Morson's Safety Matters magazine Summer 2018 to read more about our involvement in the community, health and safety innovation, project wins, top tips and case studies.