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Why Choose Rope Access For Rail Maintenance


There’s no doubt that keeping the railways in perfect, working order is of incredible importance. Trains keep people going to work on time, help families see each other and can be the beginning of a once in a lifetime adventure… but what’s the best way to keep on top of it? At SAS Rope and Rail, we thoroughly believe that rope access is the best way to keep on top of rail maintenance, and here’s why:

Efficiency is Key

Rope access is well regarded for its efficiency when it comes to maintenance, be it for buildings or even the railways. Though we do require possession of the tracks before we start working, which can take upwards of a few hours, once we do arrive we make sure that we start the job quickly and thoroughly. With less equipment than other techniques, once we get the approval we need we can begin to fix whatever issues await us.


We Can Help Fix it All

Due to the training undertaken at SAS Rope and Rail, we are able to solve a whole assortment of issues. We work on a variety of aspects when it comes to rail maintenance – high level cleaning, station roof repairs and railway bridge inspections are only naming a few. Whether the issue arises in a confined space, or at a location high up, we can fix it for you. After working on rail maintenance for well over a decade, you can guarantee that we’ve seen it all before – with vast experience within the industry, you can be sure that we’ll get the job done well. We make sure that we’re incredibly open with all of clients, allowing them to know exactly what is going on and when – gaining a mutual respect is of great importance to us.


A Proven Record

Huge names within the railway business are fond of using rope access – we’ve even completed projects for companies such as Network Rail using this technique. With companies such as this investing within rope access, you can be assured that they’ve got faith in rope access as a system and us as a business. Alongside this we’ve also helped in projects including the Fourth Bridge and have carried out work at whole variety of stations, including the famous Paddington Station. You definitely won’t be alone in choosing rope access as your preference in rail maintenance.


Get Your Results Safely

Rail maintenance does come with risks. When you have people working on the lines, in confined spaces or even up a height, it’s important to know that those who are out there are confident in the fact that they’re not in danger. Rope access is one of the safest techniques when it comes to this. Not only has everyone who works within this industry has been highly trained, we also make sure that our workers are taught about all potential hazards, with a Health and Safety Consultant also available for advice.

5 Rope Access Techniques in the Industry


Rope access is thought of as one of the most efficient ways to complete a variety of work, ranging from building maintenance to railway bridge inspections. However, due to it being a highly skilled trade and containing potential hazards, it’s necessary that we implement certain techniques throughout – this aids us in making sure that the work is completed in a safe manner, as well as all tasks being completed to the highest possible standard. Here are five of the main techniques that we use when carrying out rope access work:

  • Always Making Sure That Your Harness is Attached at Two Points

This is used for two main reasons: safety and precision. If you remain attached at two points then the likelihood of danger is dramatically reduced and you’re able to move in a more direct manner. At SAS Rope and Rail, safety is incredibly important to us – our workers are integral to our company.

  • Fall Arrest

This technique is only used when necessary. It is required when there will be some degree of free falling – fall arrest makes sure that this is kept to a minimum. This is usually done by keeping a check on the safety equipment that one of our workers is using, such as making sure their helmet is worn at all times and keeping the harness attached at certain points. This will mean that they’ll remain vertical.

  • Ascending and Descending the Rope

Ascending and descending the rope are necessary skills for anyone wanting to work within the rope access business, though the techniques for doing so are often updated. Learning how to ascend the rope is taught early on within training and, just as Newton said, what goes up must go down. Learning both techniques are of immeasurable importance within the industry.

  • The Tying of Knots

For obvious reasons, this is a vital component of rope access. This is also taught early on to those wanting to work within the rope access business, having to be known to pass Level One of the IRATA Certification Scheme. There are an incredible number of different knots that our workers need to, and do, know how to complete, each aiding them to successfully complete their work on your buildings to the highest possible standard. As the trade of rope access develops, more and more different ways to tie knots are coming out – we make sure that our workers remain up to date with the newest techniques.

  • Anchor Systems

This technique is not always employed but is occasionally done so, especially when it comes to working on rooftops or when there is confined space to work. Again, this technique is used mainly for safety – those working are at far less of a risk of falling when this system is in place. If someone were to fall, it would reduce the distance during a fall arrest greatly, ensuring their safety throughout the work.


Rope Access FAQ


There are various situations in which you could recognise the potential usefulness of rope access. Those includes wanting a thorough inspection of a bridge or other structure that you suspect might have become damaged in a vital spot, noticing that some bulbs have gone out in awkward-to-reach lighting, or seeking to better promote your company through the high-level placement of a sign. However, you could still have questions, like those listed below, concerning rope access.

What is rope access?

A fantastic source of rope access-related information and resources, Rope Access USA defines rope access as “a system of working at height where access is gained to the job site using ropes and related equipment”. The site adds that rope access is “considered a safe, quick and cost-effective method for accessing difficult locations”.

Why use rope access?

It could be said that we have already started answering this question. However, why should rope access be chosen over alternative access techniques like using ladders, scaffolding or mobile elevating platforms? One major reason is that, by arranging for qualified rope access technicians to carry out the work on your behalf, there is often a significantly lower level of risk.

This is largely due to not only the technicians’ experience and know-how, but also the fewer pieces of machinery and equipment that are typically necessary for the job. Sidewalk obstruction and workplace impact can also be reduced to an easily appreciable extent. The overall result can be a project that is completed in less time, with more safety and at less expense.

What can rope access be used for?

The range of purposes to which rope access can be put is vast. They include repairing masonry, maintaining and inspecting high-level façades, repairing and maintaining sealant, and installing signs and banners. All of these methods, and many others, can be used by our own rope access technicians. You can click here to see a more comprehensive list of services that they can deliver.

Is the rope access industry regulated?

Globally, rope access is regulated by IRATA International, otherwise named the Industrial Rope Access Trade Association. On the IRATA website’s Aims & Objectives page, the organisation declares that its mission includes promoting and maintaining high standards, work quality and safety in rope access and promoting continuous enhancement in all of rope access’s aspects.

It is in your interest to ensure that, when you seek an external provider of rope access services, you look for one that employs IRATA qualified rope access technicians. Thankfully, here at SAS Rope & Rail, we have a team of such technicians. Furthermore, core personnel here regularly undertake intensive training to enhance their abilities to recognise and avert potential hazards.

These aren’t the only ways in which we have endeavoured to protect safety. We are also RISQS Approved & Registered and have picked up accreditation from SafeContractor and Constructionline. Our comprehensive safety plan and use of an independent Health and Safety Consultant can also fuel your confidence that we are truly a reliable and safety-conscious rope access contractor.



Being a rope access technician can be daunting. Just ask Simon Wroe, who sampled the experience of being one for an article on The Guardian‘s website. Wroe recalled how he remained downbeat even while in the midst of Rats – as rope access technicians have been nicknamed – rigging ropes that would theoretically ensure he remained safe in the air. However, here, we have merely started touching upon why safety is vital to the rope access industry.

Safety has to be in both reality and perception

It’s easy to look up at someone carrying out rope access work at a significant height and want to silently pray for them. However, it’s not the kind of feeling that would be shared by the Rat in that situation – as it would be crucial that they are not only safe but also confident that they are safe.

“Up there, on a high level, if you start thinking: ‘What if this and that happened?’ you can get in trouble,” one rope access technician, Marcin Ciecka, explained to Wroe. “You have to think at all times that you’re safe.” One organisation, IRATA, is especially keen to ensure such safety for real.

IRATA prioritises safety for workers in rope access

On the Aims & Objectives page of the IRATA website, this organisation, from which rope access specialists here at SAS Rope & Rail have obtained qualifications, makes its commitment to safety clear. It sets out its aims “to promote and maintain high standards, safety, work quality and working practices for the industrial rope access industry” and “to be dedicated to the protection of individuals working in rope access”.

IRATA additionally explains that its primary activities are to “promote and maintain a high standard of: industrial rope access activities in terms of safety” and “prepare submissions and provide informed opinion and advice to government departments and others on matters concerning work-at-height health, safety and training”. Such a strong drive to preserve safety is unsurprising when we look more closely at what has the potential to go wrong for rope access technicians.

Examples of unfortunate occurrences that we can avoid

On the myRisks Information section of its website, the BBC outlines various examples of “what can go wrong” for rope access specialists. For instance, poor technique or the failure of an anchor could lead to a fall from height. Alternatively, items knocked or dropped off surfaces could strike a specialist, who could also suffer a rope burn should ropes or webbing material rub against their exposed skin. The specialist could even – should rescue capabilities be lacking – become stuck at height and, as a result, develop a condition known as suspension syncope.

However, here at SAS Rope & Rail, our technicians have been trained to avert such adverse happenings. Hence, when conducting rope access services such as masonry repairs, repairing and maintaining sealant and installing and inspecting eyebolts, they can help ensure rope access safety. Click the above link to read more about those services and how they could assist you.


5 Advantages of Working with Rope Access Specialists


The definition of rope access is, on the face of it, straightforward. On its website, IRATA International describes its rope access system as “a safe method of working at height where ropes and associated equipment are used to gain access to and from the workplace, and to be supported there.” However, you would need to look much closer at rope access – such as by reading the rest of this article – to learn much more about the advantages of turning to rope access specialists.

They can reach awkward and otherwise inaccessible places

The Guardian calls many buildings’ places, angles and drops “decidedly inaccessible” – despite the original intentions for these buildings to be used by humans. The site also cites rope access specialists as “often the best answer to a question architecture sometimes forgets to ask: how will this be maintained?” It hasn’t been unheard-of for an organisation to, for instance, spend millions of pounds on lights without providing a way for them to be accessed if the bulbs go.

However, rope access specialists can be useful in many different settings

We hope that we haven’t painted rope access technicians as catering for strictly a niche need. Rats, to use one nickname for them, can work in various places. This certainly applies to members of IRATA, an organisation with which Rats here at SAS Rope & Rail have become qualified. IRATA lists various places where these members can, today, be seen working – including “the world’s great iconic buildings, both old and new, as well as your local city centre or industrial complex”.

These specialists can work without impacting the public in the process

While you might have occasionally seen Rats pinned to towering buildings as you have gone about one routine or another, a lot of the time, rope access technicians really are both out of sight and out of mind. Adam Garre, who left a job as a tradesman to work in rope access, told The Guardian of the experience when “the world is going by and no one knows you’re there.”

The environment also won’t be adversely affected

Rope access specialists know how to work in a manner that minimises negative effects on the surrounding area. IRATA explains that, with rope access techniques, the main objective is to “plan, manage and carry out the work with minimal accidents, incidents or dangerous occurrences”. There should be “no damage to property or harm to the environment”, IRATA adds.

Our rope access specialists are IRATA qualified

This really isn’t to be overlooked. This is largely because being IRATA qualified means that our rope access technicians buy into IRATA’s philosophy of effectiveness that minimally impacts other operations or the area close to where the Rats are working. You can click here for a detailed rundown of rope access services that our rope access technicians can provide. Those services include, but are certainly not limited to, repairing masonry, installing banners and signage and painting. You can learn more by phoning us on 01793 644 908.


What drives a person to work in industrial abseiling?


Are you tasked with looking after a building or structure that, perhaps due to having a unique design or daunting height, has typically hard-to-reach spots? If so, you should seriously consider contacting us to seek assistance from one of our rope access technicians. However, what leads people to take up industrial abseiling as a job? Here’s an interesting insight…


A Rat is not in the kitchen but instead abseiling

For many of us, the idea of being suspended several feet in the air can feel daunting or even scary – especially if it’s concrete that we would be suspended over. Still, it remains clear that many of us genuinely have a head for heights. It’s not too hard to discern why such people might want to become “Rats”, as rope access technicians are known by people in the industry.

The Guardian has observed: “Most Rats are climbers and cavers who realised they could get paid to do what they love.” Nikodem “Niko” Strzeciwilk, a Rat of many years’ experience, admitted that he joined his industrial rope access course “only for the adventure,” adding: “I didn’t even think about the job.” Hence, you would probably assume that there must be no lack of daredevils among Rats.


Being fit for the job – in more ways than one

Being a Rat also calls for good physical fitness. Naturally, people who are keen on climbing and caving already have a head start in that area. “It’s a physical job,” Strzeciwilk has acknowledged, before conceding: “I wouldn’t like to do this when I’m 40. It’s like an athlete; it’s not a long career.” The Guardian writer Simon Wroe admitted, after trying a rope access routine himself, to his surprise at “the stress on my body – and I’m not using an 8kg drill or trying to pull myself back up.”


London, a “toy town”? Yes, really

However, the opportunity to reach possibly unchartered areas could also appeal. “Sometimes it’s three o’clock in the morning and you’re somewhere where, probably, no-one’s been in their life,” Adam Garre, an ex-tradesman who took up rope access work, has explained. “The world is going by and no-one knows you’re there. And you think: ‘This is breathtaking.'”

Abseilers could even capture some impressive shots on camera while they are in the air. By way of example, Guy Hayhow has taken some awe-inspiring views of London from high up. He has snapped images using an iPhone attached to a lanyard around his neck – and, fortunately for many people who wouldn’t be keen on following him into industrial abseiling, posted the pictures to Instagram.

Hayhow told the London Evening Standard: “When you’re up quite high, London can feel like a bit of a toy town… you’ve got HMS Belfast looking like you can pick it up and move it about from the top of the Shard.” Ultimately, though, whatever reasons people have for embarking on industrial abseiling work, you can benefit from their enthusiasm – read about the services that we offer in this area.


London’s historical links with trains

Looking at how London – and, indeed, Britain as a whole – changed in the nineteenth century, it’s hard to overlook the influence of the development of the railways. While there had long been horse-drawn waggons on tracks, there was less need for horses to be used in this way as the British railways advanced. Here are some of the biggest links that London has had with the railways’ history.


A revolution that became London-bound

Much of the railways’ early development occurred outside London. For example, it was in 1804, while the Napoleonic Wars were waging, that Richard Trevithick managed to put together a steam locomotive capable of transporting ten tonnes of iron. Similarly, in 1825, it was between Stockton and Darlington where the opening of a new rail line allowed two locomotives to transport, at a speed of 8 miles per hour, 21 coal waggons over 25 miles – a previously unheard-of achievement.

It would also be fair to say that not everyone was enthusiastic about the idea of railways coming to London. The History Learning Site counts the Duke of Wellington as one high-profile critic. Wellington, best-known for defeating Napoleon at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815, was concerned about trains possibly encouraging poor and undesirable people to travel to London.


“God’s Wonderful Railway” arrives in London

Nonetheless, it was in 1838 that Robert Stephenson completed a new rail line between London and Birmingham. Three years later, Isambard Kingdom Brunel finished the Great Western Railway, which ran between London and Bristol. So highly acclaimed was this new line that its initials, GWR, were used to dub it “God’s Wonderful Railway”. Aptly, Brunel’s name is preserved today by Brunel University, which is located in the Uxbridge area of west London.



A number of history-making firsts in the capital

London was also the location of the planet’s first underground city transport service, which opened in 1863 and connected Paddington and Farringdon. It wasn’t a complete success to begin with; as The Guardian reports, it was overcrowded and steamy. However, it was popular with passengers. For meeting demand, rail carriages were brought in from Great Western Railway – which, in 1923, formed one of the UK’s four major railway companies, also including London Midland.

The London Underground, as it came to be known, continued to develop in the twentieth century. Air-operated doors replaced manually-operated ones on Tube trains in 1929, while the District line saw its first aluminium train entering service in 1952. Development hasn’t relented this century; in 2010, the Metropolitan line saw the first air-conditioned, walk-through Underground train run.


Keep railways looked-after with our help

Despite the London railways’ great history of success, it remains vital to heed various issues relating to safety. At SAS Rope & Rail, we have the expertise to take care of various aspects of delivering and maintaining rail projects in London for your company’s benefit. We can, for example, carry out confined space works, structural surveys, roof repairs, structural welding, rail bridge repairs and gutter and reactive rail maintenance.


The Top 5 Tallest Buildings in London

Befitting such a globally popular and influential city, London has no shortage of skyscrapers; in fact, all five of the UK’s tallest buildings are in the capital. Here is a run-down of these buildings, from the shortest to the loftiest. They don’t include freestanding structures that aren’t strictly buildings, such as transmitting stations; neither do they include towers that are currently planned or under construction. However, these five buildings could all benefit from rope access window cleaning…


The HSBC Tower or Citigroup Tower

Both of these buildings take their colloquial names from the banks occupying them – though the buildings’ official names are, respectively, 8 Canada Square and 25 Canada Square. Both being 200 metres in height, they are tying for the status of London’s fifth loftiest building. However, as the Telegraph explains, the HSBC Tower is not available to enter if you aren’t an HSBC employee or haven’t arranged a meeting with one. The Citigroup Tower is similarly inaccessible.


The Leadenhall Building

This 225-metre building’s above-mentioned official name has arisen as the street was once home to a medieval hall that lead merchants frequented, as Londonist explains. However, an especially memorable nickname for the building is ‘the Cheese Grater’ – and indeed, with its cross-hatched design on a slanted profile, it does resemble that useful kitchen utensil. Alas, unless you visit on a particular open day, you are unable to enter the building as a member of the public.


The Heron Building

At 230 metres, this is the tallest building in the City of London financial district. It is named after not the long-legged bird, but instead developer Heron; that name is itself a truncation from Henry Ronson, father of the company’s owner Gerald Ronson. While the building’s formal name is 110 Bishopsgate, another name that has been used for it is Salesforce Tower. This refers to the structure’s primary tenant, the American cloud computing firm


1 Canada Square

From 1991 until 2010, 1 Canada Square was the country’s tallest building. At 235 metres in height, it remains the most prominent and, thanks to its pyramid-shaped top, probably the most quickly recognisable building on the Canary Wharf estate. This site is so-called because, in the 1930s, the area saw the establishment of a warehouse and quay for use in trading fruit with the Canary Islands. The aforementioned HSBC and Citigroup structures are located on this estate as well.


The Shard

This building’s 309.6 metres make it the tallest building in Western Europe – though, due to Brexit, another building could soon take its current position as the European Union’s loftiest. The Shard is aptly-named, as its pointy shape is akin to a glass shard’s. This distinctive form is also intended to bring to mind church steeples and sail ships of a long-gone historical London.

Here at SAS Rope & Rail, we offer commercial exterior cleaning services which are especially well-suited for helping to remove unsightly dirt even from buildings as tall as these. Our website includes many more details about these services.