The railway on the Mallaig Line at Lochailort in the West Highlands has received major improvement works to enhance the resilience of the line. This project was delivered through Network Rail, with a reported budget of £1.8m.
The resilience works started in February of 2022, following on from previous activity that was undertaken at the location in the Summer of 2020. The consistent reliance works have come due the severe weather-related issues, such as flash floods that washed away 80 metres of railway. These continued instances of dangerous conditions have led to Network Rail and supply chain partner QTS conducting the much-needed resilience works to ensure safety along the railway.
The improvements initially saw the installation of a new concrete drainage tunnel/culvert, next to the existing Allt na Criche bridge that carries the Allt na Criche burn under the railway. Engineers also removed 800 tonnes of material from the existing railway embankment in preparation for the new culvert. These excavated materials were then recycled, for the most part, on the site for usage in other elements of work, reducing the carbon wastage in the project.
The 63.3 tonne culvert was installed in a 78-hour period of continuous working, to complete the work in time to avoid major disruptions for the rail network. Four, precast culvert sections were installed in ten lifts using a 250-tonne crane to complete the task, then seeing the area backfilled with 450 tonnes of stone around the culvert to raise it back to track level. The embankment was then reinstated before there could be 40 metres of new rail could be laid on the 200 tonnes of new ballast.
This improved rail line and track must be supported structurally to ensure the resilience is maintained against future flooding, so a new Terramesh bund 112 metres in length, up to 2.3 metres in height and 5.3 metres wide at the base was then created.
Jeremy Spence, Network Rail’s programme manager for the work, said:
“Our work on the Mallaig line at Lochailort was a significant undertaking, given the sheer size of the culvert and the scale of the excavation involved.
“The successful delivery of the work and the significant benefits this project delivers will help tackle severe weather incidents that are increasingly frequently presenting challenges to the railway industry.
“By protecting the railway from extreme weather events, we also mitigate the risk of the impact of this for passengers, freight customers and lineside neighbours.
“I would like to thank our contractor QTS as well as the local community for their patience and support while we delivered this critical improvement to Scotland’s Railway.”
“Our team undertook some important work during this period, including the installation of a structure that will help manage waterflow to safeguard the integrity of the railway during heavy rainfall.
“We appreciate the patience of the lineside neighbours and the travelling public."
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