Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Bulk Rail Freight Transport for Europe's Biggest Construction Project

New Track Officially Opens to Support Crossrail
Shipping News Feature

UK – So what’s the best way to tackle the huge bulk transport job involved when you are clearing the spoil from the tunnels of Europe’s biggest construction project? As the scheme involved is Crossrail, the ambitious plan to put new rail tunnels running under the heart of London between Paddington and Whitechapel the answer is of course – rail freight.

Last December the contract to remove excavated material to a new RSPB nature reserve at Wallasea Island in Essex was awarded and this week Thames Gateway Minister, Bob Neill officially opened a new £13.5 million freight link from the North Kent Line to the former Lafarge Cement Works at Northfleet. Exactly one year after his first visit to the then empty Brownfield site, the Minister noted the significant progress that has been made to construct a new connection to the North Kent Line, reinstate the railway, and receive the first trainloads of Crossrail excavated material from London.

At the peak of tunnelling up to five freight trains a day will be operated by GB Railfreight from Westbourne Park in west London carrying a total of 7,000 tonnes of earth. Prior to the official opening by the minister over 10,000 tonnes of excavated material had already been transported from London to Kent. At Northfleet the excavated material will be transported by water for the last part of its journey along the Thames to its final destination. David Simms, Land and Planning Director for Lafarge Cement said:

"Crossrail's involvement in Northfleet has been a major catalyst in enabling the construction of this new freight line which will play a leading role in transporting excavated material from the new tunnels. The new rail link forms the second stage of Lafarge’s regeneration of the 104-acre site where a new residential and business community will be created, enhancing Northfleet’s connections to the River Thames.

“In the medium term we hope to use the rail link to serve our existing cement terminal. When Crossrail tunnelling completes, we intend to construct a new Aggregates Terminal which could export up to 1.2m tonnes by rail per year when it is fully operational. It is hoped that this sustainable form of freight transport could facilitate further jobs and development in North West Kent.”

Chris Dulake, Crossrail’s Chief Engineer, added:

“More than 1 million tonnes of earth will be excavated during the construction of Crossrail's western tunnels between Royal Oak Portal and Farringdon. Transporting excavated material by train will remove at least 50,000 lorry journeys from central London as well as ensuring its use for environmental improvement including a major new RSPB nature reserve in Essex.”

The size of the logistics project involved in the Crossrail project is impressive by any standards. Assembly of ‘Elizabeth’, the next 1,000 tonne tunnel boring machine (TBM) is currently under way and in total Crossrail will use eight of the mammoth TBM’s to construct the 42 kilometres of tunnel required undertaking ten individual tunnel drives to construct the 6.2m diameter rail tunnels.

The TBM’s range up to 7.1 metres in diameter and each is fitted with a full face cutter head which rotates at around 1 to 3 rpm. As the TBM advances forward the cutter head excavates the ground. The loosened material is removed from the cutter head via a screw conveyor, which moves the material through the back of the TBM and out of the tunnel via a conveyor belt.

For a time lapse video of Crossrail’s second TBM (Ada) being moved into position there is a link HERE.

Photo: One of the giant TBM’s being manoeuvred into place.