A recent government review, set up after devastating floods last winter across parts of Northern England, has recently earmarked additional funding for flood defences in England with a further £2.5 billion by 2021.
Network Rail had already allocated funding for flood defences as part of its £38 billion CP5 programme and Tier 1 contractors such as Construction Marine Ltd (CML) already have contingency plans for the winter in place, covering manpower and materials.
CML was one of five successful suppliers appointed by Network Rail London North East to deliver more than 400 projects under CP5, improving earthworks, bridges, tunnels, footbridges and station buildings. The continuity provided by the framework has led to 90 per cent of the work being provided in-house and the company has its own plant fleet and national agreements with its supply chain partners to ensure standards are maintained.
For CP5, the railway network faced a leap in the level of expenditure and the volume of work that needed to be delivered safely and on time. Network Rail recognised that meeting the CP5 efficiency challenges would require closer and improved relationships with its suppliers to create an effective vehicle for delivery. The frameworks have been designed to deliver a range of benefits including outstanding levels of safety, improvements in cost and quality and greater productivity through collaborative working.
Farnley Haugh landslip
Storms last November and December had a major impact on rail infrastructure, with the landslip at Farnley Haugh leading to the closure of the Newcastle to Carlisle railway line between Prudhoe and Hexham.
CML was called in as the lead contractor within hours of the Farnley Haugh slippage to clear 35,000 cubic metres of earth, rocks and debris from the site. Managing director Charles Mortimer believes the CP5 principles contributed to the company’s successful approach to the emergency. “Our in-house delivery team is underpinned by engineering support, including both structures and geotechnical engineers, so we were able to provide Network Rail with a one-stop shop which can be invaluable in emergency response situations. The framework contracts not only helped us develop and maintain a strong in-house workforce but gave us the freedom to manage the overall programme of works, allowing us to immediately allocate the required level of skilled resources.”
Chief executive of Network Rail Mark Carne was impressed. He wrote to the company: “From everything I’ve heard your team did us proud. Ensuring we meet commitments made to the public is really important and I am delighted we will be opening the railway in line with the timescale indicated to passengers. This is a tribute to your team and I am sure you will be proud of them. It is great to work with companies like CML – thank you.”
The CP5 framework contract has meant CML working with other suppliers, enabling partners and Network Rail engineers to work together to generate efficiencies through planning, design and implementation. In its most simplistic form, this has involved the shared use of access roads and temporary works, such as the embankment stabilisation works that CML carried out in conjunction with the underbridge reconstruction by Amalgamated Construction (AMCO) at Staid Lane, on the Sheffield and Barnsley Line. Designs were integrated at the interface between the underbridge works and the earthworks, and access roads and compounds were designed to accommodate both elements of work, reducing temporary works and land access costs.
The challenge facing CML in the replacement and rebuilding of two bridges in Lincolnshire was Network Rail’s commitment to maximising the volume of work to reduce rail passenger disruption and provide the most cost effective solution. CML worked over the Christmas period with the Network Rail teams, signalling and telecoms companies and was able to return the bridges as programmed.
Another effective cost reduction was achieved when CML recently shared access with another framework partner, Balfour Beatty, into a 50-hour bridge reconstruction blockade. CML installed 400 linear metres of cess retention on the Barnsley & Horbury line near Darton station, the joint working arrangement reducing costs.
Collaboration was crucial in the planning and delivery of the High Output Operation Base (HOOB) in Harwich, the fifth HOOB that CML has delivered for Network Rail in as many years. CML completed the multi-disciplinary project, including constructing new offices, workshop and stores, allowing the HOOB’s train and staff to move in while the depot was still under construction. This meant Network Rail and AmeyColas could commence their operations on time.
Impact on costs
One of the most noteworthy changes introduced for CP5 was the increased level of detail required for cost and volume reporting, and the constraints imposed on the level of intervention and hence the unit cost of repairs.
Charles Mortimer acknowledges this has been challenging: “On many of the sites, we have had to implement economical maintenance or refurbishment work that will enable the asset to retain its condition or reduce the likelihood of failure, rather than implementing shorter lengths of expensive belt and braces repairs. This revised policy has presented the opportunity to develop cost effective methods of implementing repairs to minor earthworks issues that fall within the maintenance/refurbishment category.”
To counter this, the company has developed an efficient cess retention system which can be installed quickly, providing support to the ballast shoulder and a compliant cess walkway, and has now installed several kilometres around the network.
The soft scour protection schemes CML worked on in sites in Devon and Cornwall offered cost effective, environmentally friendly and sustainable solutions. The ‘soft option’ for these schemes comprises the use of rock rolls, combined with willow stakes and pre-seeded matting. They accumulate silt, due to the small stone size, and can be fully vegetated which helps to support native wildlife populations which is not possible with traditional ‘hard’ solutions such as rock armour.
CML is recognised by Network Rail as one of the best safety performing companies and, as part of CML’s safety programme, the buildings and civils framework team created a safety training day with a difference.
In conjunction with the company’s in-house training manager and health and safety team, site supervisors and site managers developed a series of practical sessions which would challenge site teams to share learning and best practice, to educate and help employees understand exactly what is needed in respect to safety performance and the safety culture. This meant that experiences were shared from both sides of the table – everyone was accountable.
Says Charles Mortimer: “It was fantastic to see our Dinnington Depot transformed into a ‘hazardous’ work site with site managers and operatives working through practical scenarios together. It has been one of the most successful formats we have experienced for developing the knowledge of our staff, and encouraging the right behaviours.”
The company has also introduced some of Network Rail’s examinations competencies in-house (STE4 and STE2) so it can now offer the facility for doing visual and detailed culvert examinations whilst cleansing; providing a one- stop shop for drainage clearance, inspection and examination.
Charles Mortimer believes the safe, successful delivery of CP5 framework contracts has allowed CML to showcase its capability as a railway contractor. “These contracts have been important in inspiring client confidence. Through the continuity they provide, we’ve been able to continue to invest and grow, broadening our company competencies. And, importantly, they give recognition to our dedicated workforce, which has a tremendous impact on staff morale.”