Making rail history
Source: RTM Oct/Nov 16
An innovative approach to partnership working has helped S&C North Alliance make rail history on the East Coast Main Line (ECML) by delivering the UK’s first 125mph handback on a S&C renewal. Neil Johnson, alliance director, explains why collaboration is the key to making line speed handbacks the norm.
With the ever increasing focus on improving rail safety and passenger experience, building high-quality, reliable infrastructure that helps to reduce delays and get passengers to their destinations on time is one of the biggest challenges we face.
The critical component to overcoming these challenges is making sure that we have the right blend of skills and expertise to get the job done. This was exactly the aim when Network Rail created the S&C North Alliance – a partnership between AmeySersa and Network Rail that brings together public and private sector experience to deliver S&C renewals and enhancement works across the northern half of Great Britain.
This alliance delivery model is a departure from the more typical client-contractor approach and is centred on taking a collaborative approach to putting our customers and rail passengers at the front and centre.
UK first: 125mph S&C handback
Typically, after engineering work, a temporary speed restriction is put into place to allow the ballast to settle, which can cause disruptions and delays to passenger journeys and additional costs to our route customers.
After two years of making incremental increases to the handback speed, the Alliance has delivered the UK’s first S&C 125mph line speed handback on the ECML – thanks to the adoption of new techniques and partnership working to embed a progressively assured ‘right first time’ approach.
Tactically, achieving the 125mph handback required the team to look at every step of the track renewal process in detail to work out how to achieve and demonstrate the narrow tolerances required.
Advanced engineering techniques were deployed: 3D dozing to get the bottom stone to an agreed tolerance of its absolute design co-ordinates on excavation, and the use of a Road Rail Variomatic Bomag roller to compact the bottom ballast to a measured and recorded uniform stiffness – an important quality control measure which has previously been unavailable.
For the first time on any S&C project, Dynamic Track Stabilisation was used, which vertically loads and laterally vibrates the track providing the equivalent compaction of around 100,000 tonnes of rail traffic or 100 high-speed trains passing over the infrastructure with each application, almost eliminating the in traffic settling period.
This achievement is not only good news for passengers: track installed to the high-quality standards needed to reopen the line at 125mph lasts longer, is more reliable and the whole of life cost of maintaining the asset is much lower.
In 2015 alone, the Alliance delivered the UK’s first 90mph S&C handback at Craigentinny, near Edinburgh, saving over 1,000 delay minutes – and, later in the same year, re-opened sites at Doncaster and Marshgate at speeds of up to 120mph, delivering more than £400,000 in delay-related Schedule 8 costs for the LNE route.
A melting pot of knowledge and ideas
These benefits have been delivered through a continued focus on incremental lean production and improving track quality, and this has been driven by collaborating working. The alliance model has built a truly integrated team with joint accountability.
Bringing the designer and installer into one organisation – often under one roof – has reduced duplication, improved knowledge sharing and made planning the work much more effective. This one team approach means that all participants in the Alliance share the same challenges, but also share the same sense of pride when everything goes to plan, driving the team to keep delivering the small changes that add up to big improvements that make ‘right first time’ a reality.
We’re really proud to achieve such a major milestone on an S&C project in Britain, in what is a significant step forward in making high-speed handback the norm after engineering work. We’re continually looking at new ways to refine our working practices and are looking forward to following out these new techniques to improve performance, delivery and reduce delays on other sites in the future.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
A short video about the 125mph handback can be viewed at:
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