Key takeaways from this insight article
What you’ll learn:
What rail notifications are and when they should be sent
Types of communications you might send to addresses
Who is considered to be a ‘lineside neighbour’
The advantages of sending high-quality rail notifications
How using the right tool makes this process faster and simpler
It is impossible to overstate the importance of rail travel in the UK and globally. Millions depend on this transport system every day to get to work, school, holiday destinations and more right on schedule:
990 million rail passenger journeys were made in the UK between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022 – and as high as 1.7 billion pre-pandemic
Over 15 billion net tonnes of freight is transported by rail in Great Britain every year
2,567 stations are in operation across the country (as of 2020)
There are over 20 million miles of track throughout the UK
Reliable, frequent rail is central to how the UK runs – without it, everything comes to a standstill. But to maintain this regularity, it is imperative that tracks, stations and surrounding equipment are periodically maintained, repaired or replaced. In May 2022 alone, Network Rail conducted 248 of these projects on nationwide routes.
When this happens, it cannot only disrupt travel plans, but also impact those living by the railway. Whether it’s noisy engineering works late at night, reduced train schedules or impacts on nearby roads, it’s crucial that those affected are informed about what’s happening and what this means to them.
Here, we discuss the importance of rail work notifications to lineside neighbours and residents, and how tellthem™ makes these easier than ever to organise.
What are rail notifications?
Rail notifications or communications are used to inform local communities about railworks or related developments that may affect them. This is often done via mail communications, as it’s the most effective way to get information to relevant addresses in a way that’s likely to be engaged with.
Typical rail notifications can be split into two broad categories:
Rail notifications about maintenance, repair, and upgrade works to existing railways
Rail notifications about upcoming projects to expand railways
Rail notifications and communications will typically be sent 7-14 days in advance of repair works conducted on train lines and at stations. For longer projects regular updates may also be provided.
A lot of work goes on behind the scenes to uphold health and safety and keep railways running as efficiently as possible. These maintenance works can include:
To minimise the disruption caused by planned engineering works they often occur overnight, so pre-notifying lineside neighbours of disruption to their household via mail communications is absolutely essential.
Rail notifications also play a big role in helping contractors meet their health and safety obligations during railworks. Alongside safety education events in nearby schools and online campaigns, these communications are imperative to making the local community aware of the risks involved in these projects and how to stay safe until it is completed.
An example of these types of communications can be seen in this example, where Network Rail informs residents of improvement works at the Geilston Level Crossing in Cardross.
The network of railway tracks across the UK is constantly evolving. In 2019-20, 251km of electrified track was added to the network in various projects, as new proposals emerge to make travel faster between key destinations.
Before developments get off the ground, it is often a requirement that communications are sent to addresses in the vicinity of the proposed railway lines to seek their views, encourage feedback and generally make them aware of what’s happening.
HS2 is a good example of this. The largest rail investment in the UK’s history, this 250-mile high-speed line connecting London to Manchester needed to go through these hoops to reach this stage of development.
In fact, SCS Railways, one of the major contractors involved in HS2, used our Targeted Delivery & Mapping Platform at tellthem™ to inform locals in Camden about disruptive utility works attached to this project.
Types of communications that may be sent to residents ahead of works to develop, expand and add to the railway include:
Brochures and pamphlets describing the project and its purpose
Surveys and questionnaires to measure public opinion of the project
Letters informing locals of how upcoming works will impact them
Invitations to public forums and inquiries connected to a development
Regular updates to ensure people are kept safe and informed
A useful example of these notifications can be seen in the Department of Transportation’s piece on the InterCity West Coast Rail Franchise.
Why is it important to send rail notifications?
Fundamentally, sending mail notifications is often an obligation ahead of any railworks that may disturb or impact lineside neighbours, and it will typically be a contractor or rail network's responsibility to deliver communications to these homes, businesses and other stakeholders.
This is because the consequences of rail maintenance works and developments can be significant for those living in the area:
Schedules may be delayed or limited, forcing people to change their plans
Noise may disturb local residents, particularly those who work from home
Night works could impact people’s sleep schedules
Works can spill over into nearby roads, leading to traffic congestion
There may be restricted access to parts of the station
Dust and debris may spread into surrounding homes
When these have the potential to disrupt lives and put safety at risk, rail notifications are key to make people aware of what’s happening. These help those affected prepare for inconveniences and take all necessary steps to plan ahead.
Prior to a new project or development, it is also valuable to send out feedback forms, surveys and invitations to gauge public opinion. This is often mandatory ahead of any significant investment into a project to confirm that it is in the public interest.
How does tellthem™ make rail communications faster and simpler?
While rail notifications are unquestionably important in keeping communities engaged and informed, and in most cases are a legal requirement to deliver, they have historically been tough to execute.
Identifying the addresses around particular stretches of rail would take hours, with teams looking up postcodes, hand-drawing maps and having back-and-forth conversations with print and postal services. A time-consuming, productivity-sapping nightmare – especially when these need to be delivered urgently.
We have even heard from rail infrastructure professionals about the hours they would waste collecting nearby addresses on Postcode Finder or Google Maps, and then personally employing a member of their team to drive to each address with letters, leaflets and brochures. For many, this has always been a draining, tedious and unrewarding task. However, many have now discovered a faster, simpler and smarter way to meet this obligation...
With tellthem™, the nightmare is over. Our one-of-a-kind Targeted Delivery & Mapping Platform (TDMP) condenses this once hours-long process into a few minutes. No hand-drawing maps. No juggling service providers. Just one free-to-use online solution.
At the core of this is our unique ELR search function. Developed through our long relationship with Network Rail, users can input any ELR code to instantly locate the exact stretch of rail line they’re working on, and define the surrounding addresses you need to reach.
That means no more lost hours. No more wasted resources. No more stressful, last-minute phone calls. In a couple of clicks you can draw precise delivery zones and arrange the print, fulfilment and postage of your rail notifications.
tellthem™ in action: Helping QTS inform residents of vegetation removal
For example, QTS Group (on behalf of Network Rail) was tasked with clearing overgrown vegetation on the railway line between Adwick and Fitzwilliam stations. As this noisy work would be happening overnight, it was critical that nearby properties were made aware of any disruption.
QTS used tellthem™ and its advanced ELR search to immediately pinpoint the 273 addresses that would be affected around the track they were working on, making it quick, simple and affordable to get their rail notifications to residents well in advance of the project starting.
Delivering rail notifications efficiently and effectively
Mail communications play a crucial role in the smooth, efficient running of any rail project, whether it’s gathering public feedback ahead of these commencing or making sure lineside neighbours are informed ahead of potentially disruptive works.
At Lbox, we understand how important it is to get these communications to the right people at the right time, in a way that doesn’t eat into your productivity. Using tellthem™ means that sending essential notices to residents, businesses, constituents and stakeholders has never been faster or easier:
Plan an infinite number of campaigns anywhere in the UK at no cost
Only pay for print, fulfilment and delivery upon order
Target single postcodes, rail lines and more with powerful search functions
Harness three intuitive mapping tools – Polygon, Radius and Buffer Line – to create plot delivery zones in seconds
Use both 1st/2nd class Royal Mail and unaddressed delivery
We guarantee to produce and send orders up to 10,000 items at 24 hours’ notice