Managing safety, performance, and efficiency of signalling power in CP7: Best in class asset management

September 21, 2023

CP7 has been touted as the ‘make-do-and-mend’ control period. Prospective economic headwinds, the impact of inflation, and the need to balance government books mean that Network Rail would have to deliver more with less.  Network Rail will have to find even more efficiencies in the delivery of work and seek novel and innovative ways to maintain safety, performance, efficiency, and sustainability.

There have been discussions in the media about the potential to allow some assets to degrade over CP7 with the expectation of renewal in CP8. However, there has been resultant pushback from the Office of Rail and Road (ORR) and other railway stakeholders challenging this thinking. Nonetheless, life extension works (LEW) will be front-and-centre in ensuring the railway operates safely and in compliance. However, what’s the possibility of determining the life remaining in the asset to ensure minimum intervention and maximum asset availability and efficiency – all with minimal environmental impact?

Over the last few control periods, we have made great strides in understanding the failure modes and effects of various railway assets from switches and crossings, earthworks and drainage, plain line and OLE. Still, the out-of-sight assets, like signalling power supplies (SPS), could well be the Achilles’ heel in our ability to deliver the required business outputs in CP7.

It is essential to understand that very few railway assets have such an impact on performance as a failure of signalling power. In addition, the invasive and high-pressure environment of fault finding, maintenance, incident response, and SPS can be a recipe for disaster. Safety issues, performance failure, missed KPIs and waste all result from being unable to predict and prevent failures and intervene before life expiry. Furthermore, renewals on SPS tend to be a blanket approach based on information gathered during a 5-yearly test, which can be affected by local climatic conditions at the time of the test and referenced against asset age. This leaves the asset manager with very little intelligence to determine the actual underlying condition of the asset and no real prospect of being able to deliver spot renewals.

So, what’s the solution?

Previously, no technology was designed to provide the necessary insight into this asset. Monitoring technology for SPS has always focused on triggering an alert when base thresholds for safety are breached. Compliance with BS7671 was the endgame, with an eye specifically on the basic electrical safety of the asset, but since 2018, thanks to a proactive collaboration between Network Rail and Viper Innovations, there is an answer.

CableGuardian is the only technology proven to provide an in-depth understanding of asset conditions, allowing you to deliver in both the project and maintenance domains. To maximise efficiency and sustainability in renewals and to deliver LEW or spot renewals for SPS systems, CableGuardian has been designed to monitor insulation resistance (IR) and insulation capacitance (IC) to best-in-class levels. The CableGuardian technology can proactively monitor the safety and performance degradation of cables, switchgear, and transformers over multiple control periods. This allows teams to intervene well before failure or plan renewal years in advance, therefore allowing the engineer to plan exact life extension works to the minimum spec, enable maintenance-delivered rolling renewals based on hard evidence and encourage planning to be done multiple control periods ahead. CableGuardian allows you to renew only what you have to in the most efficient way possible, enabling you to meet the minimum viable product (MVP) criteria on every renewal or LEW while significantly reducing the use of virgin materials. Huge efficiencies can be enjoyed by minimising the scope of renewals and specifying CableGuardian to deliver RAMS requirements, obviating the need for expensive auto-recon systems.

In addition to the ability to deliver minimum LEW, looking at safety, performance, efficiency, and sustainability in the operational phase of the asset, CableGuardian enables the true predict-and-prevent capability for the widest range of SPS failures possible. In addition to IR and IC, the system continuously monitors voltage, current and volt drop to help asset owners detect high resistance contacts; poorly installed or damaged joints on new and older cables; overloads, sags, and swells to identify power-related signal reversions and Cat B SPaDs. We have worked in collaboration with Network Rail to modify standards and put in place TVs to enable CableGuardian to be used in the place of periodic maintenance, cutting boots on ballast and disruptive disconnections, saving millions each year in operational costs, and eliminating thousands of vehicle movements with the resultant sustainability gains that this brings.

Network Rail has proven over a prolonged period that CableGuardian pays back handsomely in whatever configuration chosen to deploy from Schedule 8, maintenance savings and operational expenditure, but what options are available to us in a climate of reduced capital spend?

Although we’ve discussed LEW opportunities, various client CP7 publications, however, share thoughts on asset information and data-as-a-service delivery models. In an environment of lower capital availability, avoiding the costs of upfront hardware purchase and providing information when and where it is required is now being considered to hit KPIs, deliver safe operation and maintain the performance of every asset. CableGuardian can deliver capital and operational expenditure strategies or hybrids of both. Viper Innovations has already worked with clients across the UK to provide ad-hoc data-as-a-service deployments to cover specific assets and to deliver campaign fault finding, so if the client is looking for a way to deploy CableGuardian in a time of low capital spend, we are here and ready to work with you to find solutions from the mainline right through to the smallest branch.

So, if you are looking for ways to deliver a life extension strategy for assets, improve the safety, performance, and efficiency of SPS asset management or are looking for MVP strategies for project delivery, contact Viper Innovations today at or get in touch via our contact form.