United Kingdom

Innovating to maintain infrastructure: developments in rail plant

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Technical Lecture
25 June 2012 17:00 - 20:00
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The second summer lecture to be organised by the Young Members of the Railway Division was held One Birdcage Walk. Innovating to Maintain Infrastructure: Developments in Rail Plant was kindly sponsored by Interfleet Technology and brought together three speakers from across the industry to discuss how rail plant is being used to improve infrastructure maintenance.

The event was opened with a presentation on the new tunnel cleaning train (TCT) for London Underground. Alan Wilson, the TCT project manager, explained that despite manual cleaning, the volume of dust is building up since the death of the old TCT which became a reliability liability. The innovative technology that will rid the Underground of its dust is carried on a train formed of two previously retired Victoria line motor cars sandwiching the tunnel cleaning unit all neatly packaged to fit London Underground’s tight gauging requirements.

The central cleaning car is home to an array of suction heads that will closely follow the infrastructure and remove dust. An emergency rescue system employs a solid rubber wheel and hydraulic motor should the TCT find itself stranded in a tunnel. Alan described how suction heads have been engineered to be more effective by employing a curtain of high pressure air to surround the vacuum.

Luke Tandy, Rail Plant Technology Engineer presented a number of innovations from Network Rail. Direct wheel braking fitted to on-track plant will soon become mandatory for machines operating on Network Rail infrastructure. This innovation will reduce the stopping distance, improve vehicle performance and improve safety. Staff safety is also being addressed by a proximity warning system for road rail vehicles. This innovation will protect staff in the vicinity of RRVs by using wireless technology such as Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) together with revised procedure.

Tandem crane lifting on Network Rail infrastructure will be improved by the use of a twin tension system to monitor load transfer. Luke explained that advantages can be gained from this system including being able to work under overhead line equipment, enhanced safety due to better stability of the load and improved efficiency.


The Vermeer Ballast Undercutter and Engcon Tiltrotator were introduced by John Murphy, Managing Director of Quattro Group. The Vermeer Ballast Undercutter removes ballast up to a depth of 630mm below the top of the rail whilst leaving the track undisturbed giving a far more efficient process. The rate of excavation is up to 90m per hour with the contaminated ballast removed via conveyor belt.


The Engcon Tiltrotator uses technology from the forestry industry to enhance an otherwise run-of-the-mill road-rail excavator. The addition of a universal joint provides flexibility to the plant allowing it to be used in new ways or more efficiently. Quattro Group has implemented the Tiltrotator to excavate parallel to the track making renewal and maintenance of drainage trenches more efficient.

Steve Limbert, of Interfleet Technology, concluded the speeches with an overview of plans for Interfleet to move into electrification design.

The panel question and answers session rounded up the formal proceedings before the event moved to the Old Star. This less  formal setting, attended by the speakers, gave all delegates an opportunity to debate about the innovations presented, no doubt with a better appreciation of the role of rail plant in infrastructure maintenance.

Toby Johnson chairs the question and answer session


One Birdcage Walk
Nearest tubes: Westminster and St James's Park
United Kingdom

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