Awards, contracts & appointments

01.01.07

What goes up, must come down

Source: Rail Technology Magazine Dec/Jan 2007

With over one billion passengers travelling on the UK railways each year, reliability and cost control are at the top of the agenda. And it’s not just up to Network Rail and the train operating companies to make this a priority. The challenge for rail product manufacturers such as Prysmian is to work with the whole rail industry to drive up the performance of their products and keep costs down.

With capacity running high, rail product manufacturers must lead the way with product innovations which will increase efficiency and cut costs. Products should be designed so that they benefit companies working right across the rail infrastructure market.

A key factor for companies like Prysmian Cables and Systems, formerly Pirelli Cables, is to help drive down project costs. Prysmian’s Flexo rail products have been used throughout the UK rail network for over thirty years. Based on pre-terminated, moulded technologies, the designs provide simple, fast assembly electrical connection systems, which reduce installation time and cost, while maximising safety and reliability.

One project which is receiving substantial investment is the West Coast Main Line, one of Europe’s busiest routes. Passengers are already starting to see the real benefits from new rolling stock, reduced journey times and increased reliability.

Using proven infrastructure and products which require little maintenance can dramatically improve the reliability of a route. GrantRail provides a wide range of contracting services to the railway industry and is currently refurbishing high performance switch systems (HPSS) at sites up and down the West Coast route, particularly in the Midlands and London areas. The company is using Flexo Point heater plug couplers designed by Prysmian’s team of engineers.

John Dixon, project engineer at GrantRail said, “The Flexo design is a proven piece of equipment. The plug couplers have been a godsend and helped to speed installation times by 50%. You just plug in the new cable, whereas before you would have to strip it back or even run new track supply cables.”

Traditionally, standard connection procedures involve cutting, stripping, crimping and terminating at every point along the track. This process is expensive in terms of both cost and time. Engineers working to stringent time constraints, often in adverse weather conditions, can find it increasingly difficult to meet deadlines.

“Our moulded clamplock and point machine terminations encapsulate the terminated cable in a rubber moulding with eyelets connected to the cable conductors”, explains Paul Smith, design engineer at Prysmian. “They are then factory tested for correct continuity, insulation resistance, and voltage. On assembly, the eyelets attach to the trackside equipment, so the installation is right first time, every time.”

“The breakdown and possession of the track is determined by the time it takes engineers to do any repair or upgrade work”, adds Smith. “Flexo products help to keep possession times down because they are more efficient. The safety implications of using Flexo products are ahead of the market, because they are pre-terminated in the factory. This means contractors only have to be on track for a short period of time. Once installed the products are extremely reliable.”

GrantRail approached Prysmian to see if they could help with the West Coast route installation.

“Prysmian have been very helpful”, said John Dixon. “I normally buy off the shelf, but I was aware that they undertake product development and bespoke solutions for clients, so I decided to approach them.

“Currently there is only one heater on each HPSS at locations on the West Coast route. We are upgrading to two so we can reduce any possibility of the sub detector from breaking. The solution was to use a product that was already approved by Network Rail, and then to modify the wiring to suit our application. This meant the approval process of the adapted product was significantly reduced.”

Most products have Railway Industry (RI) cat numbers and Link-up approval.

 Tell us what you think – have your say below, or email us directly at opinion@railtechnologymagazine.com

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