Current methods and innovations – a UK focus
31 January 2017 • Author(s): Brian Counter, Technical Director of the Permanent Way Institution (PWI)
In this article for European Railway Review, Brian Counter, Technical Director of the Permanent Way Institution (PWI), reviews current methods and innovations in the UK rail industry’s track maintenance machinery sector.
The UK rail infrastructure industry has gone through significant changes in the use of mechanised technology in the last 50 years. Large fleets of tampers and ballast regulators were introduced for maintenance and for renewals the new machinery consisted of ballast cleaners, rail cranes and tracklayers. In the 1980s new processes led to the introduction of stoneblowers and dynamic track stabilisers. Following privatisation in 1995, we have seen major shifts in the use and type of track maintenance and renewal machinery with much investment in high output track and ballast renewal equipment and modular switch wagons. However, following the rail regulator’s conclusions on CP5 in 2014, the formal concept of track refurbishment was established which bridged the gap between track maintenance and renewal. This has led to a number of innovations in this area. Also of particular relevance is the stunning growth in UK rail passenger numbers which have more than doubled in the last 20 years. This has led to reduced access and speed restriction availability, not only on mainlines but on the London Underground too where the ‘Night Tube’ was introduced in late-2016, effectively offering 24 hour running over the weekends.