Out with the old: London Underground's track renewal works

Source: RTM Apr/May 2019

Alistair McLaughlin, programme delivery manager for Balfour Beatty, and John Lambert, head of track programme for Transport for London (TfL), explore the intricacies of London Underground track renewal works as part of the new Integrated Track Team.

In February 2019, Balfour Beatty was awarded a four-year contract by TfL for the replacement of life-expired track assets across the London Underground network.

The £220m contract award reflects the positive and long-standing relationship between Balfour Beatty and TfL, who have worked together for over 15 years, and further cements the shared priorities of driving safety, reliability, affordability and innovation across London’s underground network.

With five million passenger journeys carried out each weekday, track renewal plays a vital role in keeping the Tube moving at the speed and frequency required to meet the demands of London’s intense train service. In addition, track renewals are essential to support further line upgrades and maintenance, including addressing issues with noise and vibration.

Balfour Beatty has an experienced team who are ready to take on the challenge and are truly connected with TfL’s own workforce. Named the ‘Integrated Track Team’, the Balfour Beatty and TfL workforce will work as one to deliver the project with a joint goal in mind: carry out track renewals in a safe, reliable and efficient manner. At its peak, the project will employ up to 300 staff, including a number of apprentices and graduates to build out the knowledge and experience required by a project of this type. 

Balfour Beatty will approach this challenge with a focus on driving innovative solutions that deliver sustainable infrastructure – analysing carbon usage and ultra-low emission fuels – while continuing to reach across the network with the behavioural safety campaign: Making Safety Personal.

It is of the utmost importance to Balfour Beatty and TfL that works are delivered safely, reliably, on time and on budget. With the help of specific and detailed performance measures, the team aim to deliver consistent improvement and innovation whilst controlling costs. To do this, throughout the programme of works, Balfour Beatty will introduce new measures and technologies such as Digital Delivery – a suite of software programmes that automate, create efficiencies and realise sustainability goals – while continuing to safely deliver the highest standard of work and reducing any potential disruption to the travelling public.

Works over the next four years will focus largely around renewing critical assets. With 123 switch and crossing units to be installed, there is a need for in-depth understanding of the underground’s access procedures along with knowledge and experience of the extensive planning required to carry out track renewals with the London Underground engineering train fleet. On top of this, 13km of track and 11km of drainage will also be renewed.

It’s a tough challenge for all: logistically difficult, physically constrained and comes with a potential impact on the smooth running of one of London’s busiest means of public transport. These challenges, however, will be matched by Balfour Beatty’s comprehensive knowledge and unrivalled expertise of the rail infrastructure market. This programme will use the first and only 3D controlled 13T excavator in the UK – a computerised system for excavation, eliminating human error and advancing the grade control process – ultimately bringing largescale construction technology to the subsurface railway, improving quality and accuracy of the work.

Additionally, and with an aim of improving passenger experience, the brand-new use of 4D planning tools will be able to provide greater certainty of programme achievement to time, quality and cost by advancing the use of technology and limiting human error.

John Lambert said: “This is an exciting opportunity to change the way London Underground delivers its track renewals.  This contract seeks to create a strategic partnership with Balfour Beatty focussed on delivering our shared priorities of safety, reliability, affordability, customers and our people.”


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