Network Rail Western Route – Remote Asset Monitoring

Network Rail awarded ITM Monitoring, now SOCOTEC Monitoring UK Ltd, the asset-monitoring framework for earthworks and track monitoring systems throughout the Western Route in the summer of 2015.

Starting in nine locations spanning from Cornwall to Oxfordshire, ITM have designed bespoke monitoring systems to suit each individual location. These systems are a cost-effective approach to ensure Network Rail has the necessary tools to monitor the condition of their embankments and cuttings, ultimately keeping their passengers and trains running safely.

Summary of the Works

  • Client: Network Rail
  • Start Date: 2016
  • Completion Date: Ongoing


  • 44 Cameras
  • 541 Earthwork sensors
  • 35 Fence sensors
  • 138 Cant sensors

Earthworks Monitoring

Using knowledge gained through their earthworks examinations, Network Rail Western Route characterised a number of sites as Earthworks Hazard Category D meaning they do not yet require direct action but pose a high estimated annual probability of failure. It was on a number of these sites that ITM were contracted to design and install monitoring systems.

To ensure an effective and fit-for-purpose remote condition monitoring system ITM worked with Graham Birch, former Senior Asset Engineer (Geotechnics) for Network Rail Southern, to act as Contractors’ Engineering Manager and aid in the design of all nine sites. Each design is site specific and takes into consideration the surrounding geotechnical properties of the cutting, such as slope gradient, height and geology, as well as factoring in details such as line speed and width of cess.
Working as a Principle Contractor to Network Rail, ITM have collaborated with the client’s design team to ensure all CDM regulations were met and expectations regarding health and safety exceeded. 

ITM were new to the Western Route quickly developed a great understanding of the local processes and procedures required when working as Principle Contractor for Network Rail Infrastructure Projects. The design development phase of the scheme was managed as per Network Rail’s requirements and the collaborative working environment ITM foster is a quality Network Rail regard highly. Pristo Camelo, Scheme Project Manager at Network Rail 

Once the monitoring systems were installed, any slope movements would be detected by the pole mounted tilt-sensors, which in turn trigger onsite cameras to take a photograph. Sensor data and camera images are then accessed by Network Rail operatives via web based software enabling them to quickly make well informed decisions about the condition of their earthworks assets.

By using less sensitive tilt-sensors than those typically installed in track or structural monitoring applications, the earthworks sensors provide a non-directional measurement of tilt, which can trigger an alarm if any predetermined value is exceeded.

Heavy flooding across the Somerset Levels in 2014 had a detrimental effect on the stability of embankments situated alongside watercourses. It was imperative that any impact on Network Rail’s assets is closely monitored to ensure any indications of movement can be identified at the earliest possible stage.
By installing a mesh-network of cant sensors, ITM Monitoring provides hourly readings to determine the change in cant and therefore any potential settlement of the track that may affect the running of trains. This data is processed and visualised by the Calyx Online Monitoring Software™, which alerts Route Asset Engineers via email if an alarm level is triggered.

Track monitoring can also be an effective method of ensuring that largescale slope slips on sidelong ground are not affecting the integrity of the track. This is the case in Cornwall where ITM Monitoring have combined the installation of cant sensors and fence sensors to monitor the gradual movement of an historic slope slip near Liskeard.
By working with the Network Rail Asset Engineers from the design stage through to commissioning, and combining the expertise of ITM Monitoring and expert consultants, the Western Geotechnical Remote Condition Monitoring Project (GRCM) has developed and installed unique monitoring systems that are providing cost effective and fit for purpose solutions.

Project Manager Tom Scott explains:
'Working as the Principal Contractor on any project introduces additional challenges and it has been no different with the Western Route GRCM Project. Despite a steep learning curve at the beginning of the project, the ITM Monitoring Team is now well acquainted with Network Rail’s design and delivery processes.

We have already delivered safety critical data from one of our track monitoring sites, allowing Network Rail Asset Engineers to make informed decisions when planning remedial action. An additional tenth site has also been installed and commissioned, monitoring an historic mine shaft collapse in Cornwall. We look forward to a long-lasting relationship with Network Rail and the opportunity to continue providing cost-effective and fit for purpose monitoring solutions across the Western Route.'