Ballast is, quite literally, the foundation on which the rail industry is built. These seemingly insignificant chippings play two vital roles: they support and hold the sleepers in place and they aid drainage. Over time, however, the ballast clogged and becomes a less effective drainage agent. Traditionally, this has meant that it needs completely replacing but Network Rail invested in the High Output Ballast Cleaning System, which sieves and cleans the ballast. This enables some of the existing ballast to be re-used.
NR has used the HOBCS for ten years and it’s only now that the full impact of this system can be felt. It’s saved 2.6 million tonnes of ballast over the past ten, which equates to a cost saving of £9m. It’s had environmental benefits - that’s 2.6m tonnes of ballast that hasn’t had to be dug from the ground whilst the passenger has felt the benefit too - it avoids the need for long duration possessions allowing a full midweek and weekend train service and it delivers higher hand back speeds to ensure train capacity levels are maintained.
But NR hasn’t rested on its laurels and has invested a new Ballast Cleaning System, BCS5 for 2017. This is not only better for the environment (reduced fuel consumption, emissions and biodegradable oil) but can also save a further 100,000 tonnes of ballast per year. Oh, and it can also work on electrified third-rail lines too.
Judges said, “Although we had some initial reservations about this entry because HOBC is not a new technique, this entry ticked all the boxes: not only in terms of environmental sustainability, but very clearly in terms of economic benefit to the industry, train operators and ultimately, passengers.”
Highly Commended - Merseyrail: Town Green Station Environmental Improvement Project
The Archie Bishop Award is akin to the Duke of Edinburgh Award but run by the Archbishop of York. The award encouraged children to ‘be the change they want to see’ within their communities so pupils from Aughton St Michaels School decided the land running along Town Green Station needed a helping hand. Over a 12 month period, with help from West Lancashire Borough Council, Network Rail and Merseyrail, they installed a community garden and a place to display their own artwork
Judges said, “The entry had several commendable features, including the direct involvement of a local primary school and numerous local stakeholders and agencies, with a very clear line of sight to the national curriculum. We felt that this was a great example of community engagement at a very practical level which would continue to bring the railway closer to the communities it serves.”
Highly Commended - Colas Rail: Future Leaders Programme
Colas Rail’s Future Leaders Graduate Programme is part of its overall strategy to ensure that it has enough talent, at all levels, to deliver a sustainable business. FLP currently has over 150 trainees, graduates and staff being strategically up-skilled which comprises around 10% of its workforce, from trainee drivers to commercial graduates. Colas also supports the development of the technical apprenticeship schemes to address the skills gaps in the industry as a whole.
Judges praised Colas’ new approaches to accelerated development and noted that feedback from Network Rail was overwhelmingly positive. They said, “We had some lingering doubts about long-term sustainability within Colas itself, but felt, on balance, that its training and development programme would bring longer term benefits to the rail industry more widely by contributing skilled and passionate engineers to increase the talent pool that others will be able to fish in.”