Critical Path Analysis at Network Rail
A Network Rail case study

Page 2: Operations planning

A plan of operations is required to see a project through from start to finish.


An important starting point is to set out your objectives so that you know where you are going. Key objectives for the Leven Viaduct project were to develop and implement a solution that would:

  • require no major maintenance for 25 years
  • remove any risk of line closure due to structural problems.

Engineers had to work out what was possible within a given budget and time constraints. For example, they had to consider the types of materials and fittings to use. They had to liaise with users of the rail line. This involved discussions with passengers and with companies which used the line to send freight. It also involved talking to the local community and environmental groups. A number of key issues and risks had to be considered in creating plans, such as delays. Resulting from bad weather and environmental considerations.

Critical success factors

In creating the plan a number of critical success factors were identified. These were:

  • to deliver the project within a given budget
  • to have no accidents or incidents during viaduct construction
  • to establish good relationships with the community and to respect the local environment
  • to ensure the efficient procurement of the steel that was essential to the project to minimise disruption to passengers and freight.

If Network Rail did not achieve one or more of these factors, it could have resulted in negative publicity and cost in production time or even legal action. The project involved huge tasks. The existing brickwork of the piers, or columns, which support the viaduct had to be repaired. The existing rails and decking needed to be taken up and replaced. This was a £14 million investment requiring:

  • the use of 3,500 tonnes of steelwork - this took nearly six months to produce
  • the replacement of 1,100 metres of track - if all the steel units and rails were laid end-to-end, it would stretch for nearly five kilometres
  • 2,000 m2 of brickwork repairs to the piers - similar to the size of a football pitch.

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