As featured in the April/May 2012 Railway Strategies Magazine, page 94-95.
New innovations and opportunities in geotechnical engineering and earthworks for rail
WITH the proposed new high speed rail routes and a potential £8 billion of investment in Britain’s railways, there is a lot of change ahead for the industry.
New construction methods and materials will be used and developed as the rail network expands, especially if Network Rails’ drive for a 25% reduction in costs is to be achieved. Yet it’s important not to forget about the existing 20,000 miles of rail track and 25,000 stations. Innovative maintenance and refurbishment solutions are needed to ensure that vital projects protecting these assets are completed in a cost and time efficient way to complement the new rail schemes.
According to recent figures the British rail network is busier than ever with 2.75 million passenger journeys each day and eight per cent of all internal journeys made by rail. Maintenance work is essential but there is real pressure for contractors to carry out this work as safely and quickly as possible and with little disruption to everyday rail travel.
Currently, before any major trackside work can take place, line side refuges need to be constructed to protect the workforce, potentially doubling the timescales of the project. A more time efficient method of green zone working is needed to reduce possession time and costs.
One solution is replacing traditional concrete groundwork with geotechnical engineering such as screw foundations. This method works by using specifically designed screws which go deep into the ground to provide the same stable foundations as concrete. The screw-in support system can be installed using a hand held electric or hydraulic device.
For more than six years JPCS has been carrying out installations on highways sites using Groundscrew® technology and realised this technology could be effectively transferable to the rail environment.
Groundscrew® is a robust foundation system and a sustainable alternative to traditional concrete foundations for trackside work. The system removes the need for excavation and concreting, so where you would usually cast small concrete pads Groundscrew® can be used instead.
In the case of line side refuges, Groundscrew® is a time saving alternative to concrete as a single Groundscrew® can replace one cubic metre of concrete. The complete set of refuges could be erected in one shift (eight hours), compared to traditional concrete methods which take two shifts plus seven days curing time in between, thus significantly reducing the need for possession time and reducing all associated risks with working trackside.
The new earthworks solution
The majority of trackside equipment such as LOC cabinet bases, LCD hinged signal posts, REB cabin bases, axel counters and cable support posts are currently installed using concrete but new geotechnical engineering solutions could replace the need to use concrete for these projects.
Any trackside groundworks involve time and require track access control approval. Using concrete means excavation needs to take place and concrete needs to be poured, which often takes 24 hours to set. Using screw foundations eliminates these requirements: no excavation is needed, no wet trades are required and there is no cart away. Trackside structures can be removed and replaced in one shift. Not only does this reduce possession time, disruption and costs, it improves health and safety rates, as fewer trackside workers are needed and for a reduced length of time.
Technology such as Groundscrew® doesn’t have to be limited to cabins and signage. It is so secure in the ground it can support modular platform extensions and elevated trenching support.
For example, Groundscrew® is being trialled as part of a network rail refurbishment project. The screw will be used as the foundations for a renovated ornate handrail fixed on the platform edge at the station. Using the screw foundation system means little disruption to a heritage site.
Long term solution
Groundscrew® provides a guarantee of 20 years and has been successfully tested to 50 years’ lifetime in the ground.
Over the past years JPCS has installed more than 20,000 Groundscrews® and has approved generic Form A and Form B for the use of Groundscrew® in the installation of LOC cabinet bases, line side refuges, ground signals and trackside signage.
The rail maintenance solution for the future
JPCS have been working in the rail industry since 2007, with clients such as Network Rail, London Overground, Secro, Barhale, Bethell and Merseryrail on a variety of surfacing works and maintenance projects. The business has recognised the great opportunity screw foundations offer to the rail industry.
As the demand for rail travel continues and the rail network expands, the industry needs maintenance solutions which promote best practice, reduce trackside working times and increase health and safety rates.
There are approximately 18,100 signal boxes and signals along the UK tracks to be maintained and updated. A geotechnical solution like Groundscrew® is the ideal solution the railway operators, contractors and specifiers.
To see how Groundscrew® works watch our YouTube video:
With thanks to the Railway Strategies Magazine. To find out more about the the Railway Strategies Magazine, please visit their website.