Wednesday, July 4, 2018

New Contract for Rail Freight Operator to Ensure Trains Stay on Track  

A First for UK Company and Change of Roles for 'Hook and Haul' Firm

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Shipping News Feature UK – GB Railfreight (GBRf) has been awarded the operating and maintenance contract for three custom built engineering trains on the newly-built Elizabeth line, agreeing a five-year deal with the potential for a three-year extension. A new rail milling train and two multi-purpose engineering trains with bespoke machinery attachments will be delivered to London later this year, ahead of the new link's official opening in December.

The 48 metre long rail milling train is the first of its kind to be used in the UK rail industry. It is able to scan the rails using electromagnetic crack detection, looking for any defects. If it identifies any issues with the track, it can mill the surface of the rail to remove defects and cracks, reducing wear on the new Elizabeth line train wheels and the tracks. Metal chips will be collected in a container on the train and later recycled as high quality scrap metal.

The milling process eliminates the problems of sparks, fire and dust created by traditional rail grinding trains, leaving a smoother surface that will provide a quieter, more comfortable ride for passengers. Using this state-of-the-art technology should reduce the need for major track maintenance, meaning less disruption for customers. Manufactured by Austrian company Linsinger in Steyrermühl, it has two drivers’ cabs and space for up to four members of staff as well as a welfare facility.

The two multi-purpose engineering trains, supplied by Plasser UK, have been manufactured by ROBEL Bahnbaumaschinen in Freilassing in Germany. They can be configured to be between 40 and 80 metres long, depending on the task, with a number of modular attachments. The trains’ unique gantry system, provides the capability to change a five tonne, 35 metre switch rail within the short overnight engineering hours. The trains can also be configured for different purposes using cranes, a scissor lift for working on overhead line equipment or cabling, and a water tank and jet for drainage clearance and tunnel cleaning.

These trains will also be the main way to transport new rail, platform screen doors, station transformers and more, through the central section of the Elizabeth line once stations are complete. All three maintenance trains are fitted with the Elizabeth line’s new central section signalling system, enabling them to move around the railway while passenger trains are still running to maximise the time spent working during the night.

The contract will see GBRf’s involvement in the Crossrail construction project come full circle. In 2012 GBRf supported the Crossrail tunnel excavation, taking London spoil from Westbourne Park to Northfleet. The product ended up on Wallasea Island, creating Europe’s largest man-made wetland nature reserve which supports GBRf’s sustainability goals. Since then, GBRf has been heavily involved in the Elizabeth line tunnel fit-out, supplying up to 27 drivers a day, seven days a week. John Smith, Managing Director of GBRf said:

"Winning the Elizabeth line Yellow Plant contract is fantastic news. Having been heavily involved with delivery of construction rail services for the project, the award of a longer-term operations and maintenance contract shows just how valued GBRf’s contribution has been. Whilst mainly invisible to those above ground Crossrail is a civil engineering marvel that will transform London’s transport system. I’m extremely proud of GBRf’s involvement with the whole venture."

Operating and maintaining Yellow Plant sees the company diversify from its traditional business model of ‘hook and haul’, to a more varied business model. This enhances and progresses GBRf’s vision for growth in both its engineering and operations. Mark Wyborn, GBRf’s Infrastructure General Manager, commented on the deal:

“Winning this contract is great news for GBRf and this paves the way for diversification and sustainability. It is a great opportunity to continue the hard work on the Elizabeth line and knowing that GBRf has contributed to each phase of this huge infrastructure build and will continue to do so, is fantastic for us.”

The contract is expected to begin in September 2018.

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