Summer 2014

Right on track

Prolec’s new rail maintenance system means fewer disrupted journeys for train travellers.

With rail usage in the UK increasing at an unprecedented rate, a major objective for Network Rail – which manages the country’s railway infrastructure – is to complete its upgrade and replacement programme with minimal temporary line closures.

Now, thanks to Prolec, a new software system for ‘Adjacent Line Open’ (ALO) working that will allow Network Rail to do just that, is being rolled out across the UK. 

ALO working means trains can run next to the maintained track while maintenance is carried out, thereby avoiding the need for extra line closures and the consequent inconvenience to passengers. The system is used in road-rail excavators, which carry out many maintenance  operations on railways and have retractable steel wheels so they can work on rail lines as well as normal terrain.

The first rail system for road-rail excavators was designed by Prolec 20 years ago. Aware of the company’s extensive experience with excavator safety technology, in May 2013 Network Rail approached Prolec with a request to develop a solution that would increase the use of ALO working during maintenance operations.

“They were looking for a system that would accelerate the uptake of ALO working, due to the perceived benefit to the network of fewer line ‘possessions’ or closures."

Says Gary Tuffy, sales and marketing director.

Working with major rail contractors and machine builders, Prolec took just nine months to design and test the new software system, PMERail “Ultra”, which builds on the company’s highly versatile and modular PME hardware platform.

Innovative control hydraulics and feedback loops provide crucial back-drive capability, preventing the machine from moving into danger zones and actively driving it the other way.

Gary adds:

“The clever part is the software’s ability to monitor all movement and to use the excavator’s own hydraulic power to ensure 25 tonnes of load and excavator doesn’t slew into an oncoming train!”

David Menon, managing director of Prolec explains:

“As the name implies, PMERail Ultra is the ultimate in safety solutions for road rail operations. We are now in the final phase of post-install testing and will be rolling this out to more machines across Network Rail’s road-rail excavator fleet during the coming months.”

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