Winter 2015-16

Prolec keeps key rail project on track

A specially engineered solution is improving productivity by ensuring adjacent lines can be kept open during significant  railway modification projects.

The High Output Plant System (HOPS) train being used to electrify the 235 miles of railway between Maidenhead and Swansea has been uniquely designed to have the capability to work ‘adjacent line open’ so trains can still run when work is being carried out. This saves time and money because work no longer has to be restricted to times when lines can be temporarily closed for safety reasons.

German rail plant equipment manufacturer, Windhoff (which built the HOPS train) approached Prolec to design and install its standard safety solution, PME Rail Ultra, on the HOPS train in order to allow Network Rail to keep adjacent lines open while the train does its work.

This request came after Network Rail had highlighted potential safety issues with the positioning of the excavator arm on the HOPS train. Prolec’s challenge was to engineer a system to meet safety requirements by ensuring the excavator arm functioned within safe working parameters.

‘If you have something swinging on the end of the arm which suddenly stops moving, the uncontrolled pendulum effect can present a very real danger of injury or damage,’

says Gary Welch, test engineer at Prolec who was involved in the project. 

The Prolec team met the challenge by designing a sensor solution with a special ‘soft stop’ system to ensure the excavator arm is manoeuvred in a safe and controlled way. They then worked closely with Network Rail to gain industry approval for the system. Adjacent Line Open (ALO) approval is a standard that permits rail vehicles to carry out essential maintenance while allowing trains to run on adjacent lines. This was key to solving the wider industry issue of improving maintenance efficiency, increasing safety and reducing costs.

‘By minimising the jolt and swing of the excavator arm, Prolec’s safety system reduces risk and meets the strict rail industry standards that allows ALO to work.

 ‘This means on multi-track lines other lines can be kept open, minimising disruption and speeding up the process considerably,’  

says Harvey Moore, Prolec’s quality and project manager.

Although there are other systems on the market, Prolec is the only company to offer a safe and industry accepted ALO solution with a soft stop system.

‘Our product really is solving a major industry problem. It means Network Rail can run the HOPS train for longer and harder, enabling it to deliver its potential,’

 adds David Menon, managing director of Prolec.

Prolec’s adapted PME Rail Ultra system controls all movement and positioning and ensures that no parts of the excavator or load will encroach on the adjacent line. The system was installed at Network Rail’s Swindon depot by Prolec support engineer, Fergus Fieldhouse, who worked to a tight deadline in a challenging environment. 

Network Rail is committed to switching many of its lines from diesel to electricity, and the move to electrify the Great Western Main Line is the biggest investment in the Great Western railway since Brunel built it over 150 years ago.

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