The UK’s Network Rail has carried out a helicopter survey over Surrey to identify railway infrastructure faults on the line used by South Western Railway.

The helicopter survey will enable Network Rail engineers to cover a larger area in the single flight and detect possible infrastructure failures before they happen.

During these inspections, the high-tech thermal imaging helicopter captures high-definition images of areas of concern and ‘hotspots’ that may fail in future.

The aircraft is capable of surveying a rail route from London’s Waterloo station to Weymouth, Dorset, in three hours.

Network Rail route managing director Becky Lumlock said: “Using the helicopter allows us to predict and prevent infrastructure faults before they turn into delays and disruption for passengers.

“Using the helicopter allows us to predict and prevent infrastructure faults before they turn into delays and disruption for passengers.”

“This is one of the many tools we are using to help improve train performance for our passengers as part of our ‘Railway Upgrade Plan’.”

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In the last three months, Network Rail has conducted 18 helicopter surveys from a height of 1,000ft across the South Western network.

During these surveys, the helicopter detected 48 faults, which may have caused infrastructure failures and resulted in disruptions to regular passenger services.

In total, the helicopter has covered more than 3,000km at top speeds of around 110km/h. It is scheduled to conduct such inspections every four weeks.

Lumlock added: “We will be investing more than £2bn over the next five years to run the South Western rail route, helping us to provide better, more reliable journeys for people.”

Last week, Network Rail awarded a £200m contract extension to British Steel to supply long steel rails.