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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

National Rail
Product typePublic transport
OwnerRail Delivery Group
CountryUnited Kingdom
Related brands
MarketsUnited Kingdom

National Rail (NR) in the United Kingdom is the trading name licensed for use by the Rail Delivery Group, an unincorporated association whose membership consists of the passenger train operating companies (TOCs) of England, Scotland, and Wales. The TOCs run the passenger services previously provided by the British Railways Board, from 1965 using the brand name British Rail. Northern Ireland, which is bordered by the Republic of Ireland, has a different system. National Rail services share a ticketing structure and inter-availability that generally do not extend to services which were not part of British Rail. The name and the accompanying double arrow symbol are trademarks of the Secretary of State for Transport.[1]

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ An Introduction to Rail - Network Rail engineering education (11 of 15)
  • ✪ An Introduction to Switches & Crossings - Network Rail engineering education (12 of 15)
  • ✪ Introduction to Level Crossings - Network Rail engineering education (4 of 15)
  • ✪ Controlling Trains - Network Rail engineering education (3 of 15)
  • ✪ Introduction - Network Rail engineering education (1 of 15)


[train passing] ♪ background music ♪ (Narrator) At Network Rail we're responsible for over 20,000 miles of track and that means over 40,000 miles of rail. Rail has many advantages over roads. It's self-steering and faster, it's got a higher loading capacity and, most of all, it's safer. [train passing] 15 times safer than travelling by car. And one of the main reasons it's so safe is because our maintenance teams and engineers put a huge amount of work and care into looking after it. The type of material we choose to make our standard rail from is very important and highly specified. It's a 0.6% carbon steel with other alloying additions to increase its strength and hardness. It's a high performance material and as hard as a typical drill bit. 99% of our rail is made by Tata Steel in their huge steelworks in Scunthorpe. As a guide to the scale of the operation the building containing the rail production line is over a mile long. The rail production process begins with 7.5 meter long blocks of steel called "blooms" weighing 6.5 tonnes. These blooms are heated in a furnace to 1,240 degrees centigrade to make the steel behave plastically and be capable of being shaped. The red-hot blooms are cleaned and de-scaled and then moved through the production line. Computer controlled machinery squeezes, rolls and manipulates the blooms into a new form. In less than 10 minutes, the original bloom has a completely new cross-section profile and has been transformed from 7.5 meters to just over 108 meters in length. The rails are then pre-bent whilst still hot to counter the bending that occurs as they cool. Once cooled, the rails are straightened and trimmed and then passed through a complex computer controlled NDT process to look at their profile, internal and surface quality using UV, lasers, ultrasonics and eddy currents. The tests ensure that every rail leaves the site free from defects. At Network Rail we want the longest rails that we can practically deliver. The fewer joins, the stronger the rail. The longest rail that Tata Steel currently supplies to us is 108 meters long. So two rails are flashback welded together to produce a 216 meter string. This is the practical limit of what we can deliver to track. Finally the finished rails are loaded onto a delivery train. The rails are flexible enough to negotiate bends in the line and make their journey direct to the location where they're required. The standard of rail produced by Tata Steel is very high. But even the best rails won't last forever. (Brian) My name is Brian Whitney. I'm the Principal Track Engineer for Network Rail. Part of my job is to understand how the degradation of rail occurs, how quickly it happens, where it happens and how to mitigate against it. There's four main types of degradation we see with rail. There's fatigue damage on the surface and internally within the rail. There is wear. Both on the head and side wear. There is also plastic deformation of the rail. And a loss of section due to corrosion. There's a few examples of rail we have here. This sample here shows a fatigue crack which is initiated from the surface of the rail. It's caused by the repeated passage of wheels over the surface which will initiate small cracks. And then, through fatigue, this will grow progressively over a long period of time. The discolouration and classic markings you can see here are a result of the surface becoming oxidised and corroded where it becomes exposed to the elements. Surface damage and rolling contact fatigue is our biggest cause of problems. It accounts for something like 50%-60% of all defects we remove from track each year. Other forms of fatigue that we see... Here we have a large star crack which is originated from the bolt-hole at a rail end. Equally these are defects we need to manage. If they are allowed to go to failure it can result in a piece of the rail head becoming detached. Plastic deformation is another thing we see where the rails degrade. This is where the rails are physically deformed. They are spread; the rail steel itself is distorted and deformed under traffic. You can see the start of a small split within the middle of the web. These will propagate under traffic if not managed. They'll grow to a larger size, the split will open up and in extreme cases can result in a piece of the rail becoming detached. Most of our defects of this type occur in older rails where there are either inclusions or impurities within the rail steel which form a point of weakness which, under repeated loading, will cause the rail to fail. Another type of degradation is corrosion. Here we have an example of a rail removed from an aggressive environment, where the foot of the rail has corroded away, a large amount of material has been lost. This will result in rail failure if the rail is not removed in good time. Aggressive areas are where we would have exposure to water, or perhaps the sea or salt water. Level crossings are particularly bad where we have a lot of water from the road and also during winter salt is applied to the road which causes a significant increase in the rate of corrosion in those locations. And finally we have to deal with wear. This can be either vertical wear on the top of the rail or side wear you can see here on the side of the rail where the wheel wears the rail away. (Narrator) One of the most important ways we manage rail is through inspection. At Network Rail we use a fleet of monitoring trains to check on the condition of our track. Monitoring vehicles allow us to cover large quantities of rail miles in regular cycles. But in complex switch and crossing layouts we still need to inspect on foot using portable kit. (Brian) This piece of equipment here is a Sperry Roller Search Unit also known as "a Walking Stick". This is used by our ultrasonic operators who carry out a large amount of pedestrian testing in areas where we can't use vehicles to test or in areas in lower category routes where we don't programme the vehicles. The ultrasonic equipment here contains the Sperry Roller Search Unit this contains 9 probes which are used to scan the head and web of the rail, the floor detector which provides the signal and response and is used to detect any defects internally in the rail. This is contained in a walking stick to make it easy to push along the rail to ensure the stick stays aligned with the rail to carry out the necessary inspections. The inspection processes that we use today, the frequencies and the techniques and technologies that we use have been developed to minimise the risk of a rail breaking to find defects in sufficient time that we can plan their re-mediation. If this isn't carried out at the right frequencies then we can end up, potentially, with a catastrophic accident similar to what happened in 2000 where the train derailed because of a defective rail at Hatfield. (Narrator) Following inspection, the next most important part of rail management is preventative maintenance and the principal means of preventative maintenance are grinding and lubrication. Grinding is carried out on our main lines on a regular cyclic basis. It maintains the correct shape of the rail, removes small surface imperfections, and reduces the stresses that lead to fatigue damage in the surface of the rail. We use lubrication to minimise rail wear. Track based lubrication equipment deposits a small bead of grease onto the wheel which is then carried around the outside bend of a curve. Lubrication is used on most tight curves on the network to reduce rail wear and the premature replacement of the rail. Eventually, however, it will be necessary to replace the rail. The primary reasons are the number or severity of defects, wear or corrosion. Some rail can last up to 40 years if on a straight piece of track. But on the curves of a high speed line, or where the rail is affected by road salting the lifespan can be reduced to less than a year. Typically, if a relatively short section of rail needs to be replaced this will be done at night to minimise the disruption to traffic. In this instance, a corroded level crossing rail is being removed and replaced. The defective rail is cut out and then removed from the site using a road-rail vehicle. Once clear, the replacement section which has been cut to the required length is brought in and lowered into place. This will be attached to the existing line using an aluminothermic weld. First the rail is clamped and hauled into position and a mould assembled around the two rail ends to be joined. The rail ends are heated before welding to prevent the rail steel becoming brittle if it is allowed to cool too quickly. A crucible is placed on the mould. It contains iron oxide with specific alloying elements and volatile aluminium powder which causes the chemical reaction that reduces the iron oxide into steel. The chemical reaction generates a huge amount of heat that melts the constituents to form liquid steel which pours into the mould fusing the rails together. The mould and excess weld metal is removed while it is still hot. The stripped weld is then profiled to exactly match the rail profile and produce a smooth finish. Following inspection, the new level crossing rail is ready to be used as part of the network. [TRAIN PASSES] (Brian) The rail management engineer continues to face a significant challenge. Modern expectations for 24-7 operation, and modern vehicles, whilst safer and more comfortable, are often heavier. These all result in great amounts of damage. One of the ways we can help combat rail damage and deterioration is the development of new materials. A number of processes have been employed to produce, traditionally, harder and harder rail steels to reduce wear. Recently we've worked with Tata to engineer a new steel which provides not only a wear resistance but also a resistance to fatigue damage. This material, HP, we've just started installation in track and utilises some clever metallurgical and chemical alloying additions to produce a strong, premium grade rail steel without the need for expensive heat treatment. This provides us with a cheaper premium rail steel with a similar performance to some of the more expensive heat treated steels currently available. (Narrator) Careful management of materials, their specification, production, maintenance and replacement is a crucial part of rail engineering. It allows us to maintain progress. To keep trains running safely and efficiently. No matter what the demands of traffic, line speed or location.


National Rail and Network Rail

Young Person's railcard rail ticket from Wellington to Shrewsbury
Young Person's railcard rail ticket from Wellington to Shrewsbury
Child return ticket from East Kilbride to Glasgow
Child return ticket from East Kilbride to Glasgow

National Rail should not be confused with Network Rail. National Rail is a brand used to promote passenger railway services, and providing some harmonisation for passengers in ticketing, while Network Rail is the organisation which owns and manages most of the fixed assets of the railway network, including tracks, stations and signals.

The two generally coincide where passenger services are run. Most major Network Rail lines also carry freight traffic and some lines are freight only. There are some scheduled passenger services on privately managed, non-Network Rail lines, for example Heathrow Express, which partly runs on Network Rail track. The London Underground also overlaps with Network Rail in places.

Train operating companies (TOCs)

Twenty eight privately owned train operating companies, each franchised for a defined term by government, operate passenger trains on the main rail network in Great Britain. The Rail Delivery Group is the trade association representing the TOCs and provides core services, including the provision of the National Rail Enquiries service. It also runs Rail Settlement Plan, which allocates ticket revenue to the various TOCs, and Rail Staff Travel, which manages travel facilities for railway staff. It does not compile the national timetable, which is the joint responsibility of the Office of Rail Regulation (allocation of paths) and Network Rail (timetable production and publication).

Design and marketing

Since the privatisation of British Rail there is no longer a single approach to design on railways in Great Britain. The look and feel of signage, liveries and marketing material is largely the preserve of the individual TOCs.

However, National Rail continues to use BR's famous double-arrow symbol, designed by Gerald Burney of the Design Research Unit. It has been incorporated in the National Rail logotype and is displayed on tickets, the National Rail website and other publicity. The trademark rights to the double arrow symbol remain state-owned, being vested in the Secretary of State for Transport.

The double arrow symbol is also used to indicate a railway station on British traffic signs.[2]

Corporate Identity

The National Rail (NR) logo was introduced by ATOC in 1999, and was used on the Great Britain public timetable for the first time in the edition valid from 26 September in that year. Rules for its use are set out in the Corporate Identity Style Guidelines published by the Rail Delivery Group, available on its website.[3] "In 1964 the Design Research Unit—Britain’s first multi-disciplinary design agency founded in 1943 by Misha Black, Milner Gray and Herbert Read—was commissioned to breathe new life into the nation’s neglected railway industry".[4] The NR title is sometimes described as a "brand".[5] As it was used by British Rail, the single operator before franchising, its use also maintains continuity and public familiarity; and it avoids the need to replace signage.

The lettering used in the National Rail logotype is a modified form of the typeface Sassoon Bold. Some train operating companies continue to use the former British Rail Rail Alphabet lettering to varying degrees in station signage, although its use is no longer universal; however it remains compulsory (under Railway Group Standards) for safety signage in trackside areas and is still common (although not universal) on rolling stock.

The British Rail typefaces of choice from 1965 were Helvetica and Univers, with others (particularly Frutiger) coming into use during the sectorisation period after 1983. TOCs may use what they like: examples include Futura (Stagecoach Group), Helvetica (FirstGroup and National Express), Frutiger (Arriva Trains Wales), Bliss (CrossCountry), and a modified version of Precious by London Midland.

Although TOCs compete against each other for franchises, and for passengers on routes where more than one TOC operates, the strapline used with the National Rail logo is 'Britain's train companies working together'.

Other passenger rail operators in Great Britain

Several conurbations have their own metro or tram systems, most of which are not part of National Rail. These include the London Underground, Docklands Light Railway, London Tramlink, Blackpool Tramway, Glasgow Subway, Tyne & Wear Metro, Manchester Metrolink, Sheffield Supertram, Midland Metro and Nottingham Express Transit. On the other hand, the largely self-contained Merseyrail system is part of the National Rail network, and urban rail networks around Birmingham, Cardiff, Glasgow and West Yorkshire consist entirely of National Rail services.

London Overground (LO) is a hybrid: its services are operated via a concession awarded by Transport for London, and are branded accordingly, but until 2010 all its routes used infrastructure owned by Network Rail. LO now also possesses some infrastructure in its own right, following the reopening of the former London Underground East London line as the East London Railway. Since all the previous LO routes were operated by National Rail franchise Silverlink until November 2007, they have continued to be shown in the National Rail timetable and are still considered to be a part of National Rail.

Heathrow Express and Eurostar are also not part of the National Rail network despite sharing of stations (Heathrow Express also share its route with GWR and TfL Rail). Northern Ireland Railways were never part of British Rail, which was limited to England, Scotland and Wales, and therefore are not part of the National Rail network.

There are many privately owned or heritage railways in Great Britain which are not part of the National Rail network and mostly operate for heritage or pleasure purposes rather than as public transport.


National Rail services have a common ticketing structure inherited from British Rail. Through tickets are available between any pair of stations on the network, and can be bought from any station ticket office. Most tickets are inter-available between the services of all operators on routes appropriate to the journey being made. Operators on some routes offer operator-specific tickets that are cheaper than the inter-available ones.

Through tickets involving Heathrow Express and London Underground are also available. Oyster pay-as-you-go can be used on National Rail in Greater London from 2 January 2010.

Passengers without a valid ticket boarding a train at a station where ticket-buying facilities are available are required to pay the full Open Single or Return fare. On some services penalty fares apply - a ticketless passenger may be charged the greater of £20 or twice the full single fare to the next stop. Penalty Fares can be collected only by authorised Revenue Protection Inspectors, not by ordinary Guards.

National Rail distributes a number of technical manuals on which travel on the railways in Great Britain is based, such as the National Rail Conditions of Travel,[6] via their website.


Pocket timetables for individual operators or routes are available free at staffed stations. The last official printed timetable with up to 3000 pages was published in 2007. Now the only complete print edition is published by Middleton Press (as of October 2016). A digital version of the full timetable is available as a pdf file without charge on the Network Rail website,[7] however passengers are recommended to obtain their timetables from the individual train companies.

National Rail Enquiries

The National Rail Enquiries website includes a journey planner, fare and live departure information. The site is designed to complement the myriad different websites of Britain's privatised rail companies, so when users have selected which tickets they wish to buy, they are redirected to the most relevant train company website, where they can buy their tickets without booking fees.

In 2012 the website was joined by a mobile app mirroring its functionality. The app is available for iPhone, Android and Windows Phone.[8][9] However Trainline remains the most downloaded rail app in the UK with 9.4 million users.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Archived 16 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine trade mark EU001733575
  2. ^ Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002, Schedule 7
  3. ^ "National Rail Descriptor Guidelines". National Rail Descriptor Guidelines. Rail Delivery Group. Archived from the original on 7 October 2017. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  4. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 1 October 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link): "British Rail’s double-arrow"
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 23 May 2013. Retrieved 5 April 2013.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link): "National Rail is the collective brand for Britain's train companies working together"
  6. ^ "National Rail Conditions of Travel". National Rail. Rail Delivery Group. Archived from the original on 21 October 2017. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  7. ^ "Electronic National Rail Timetable". Network Rail. Network Rail. Archived from the original on 30 December 2016. Retrieved 24 October 2017.
  8. ^ "National Rail Enquiries announces a new app for iPhone & Android". National Rail blog. National Rail Enquiries. 1 May 2012. Archived from the original on 8 October 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  9. ^ "Download our FREE app and become more mobile and get FREE alerts". National Rail Enquiries. National Rail. Archived from the original on 30 September 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2016.
  10. ^ "Mobile App - Trainline". Trainline. Archived from the original on 30 September 2016. Retrieved 1 October 2016.

External links

This page was last edited on 25 January 2019, at 12:20
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