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Balfour Beatty Rail – Committed to Scotland

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In mid-August, Balfour Beatty Rail invited Network Rail, key rail consultants and members of both the Westminster and Holyrood parliaments to take part in their first Open Day to celebrate the opening of their permanent office in Shettleston, Glasgow.

The full spectrum of rail disciplines were showcased including representation from other parts of the Balfour Beatty Group including Plant and Fleet Services, Regional Civil Engineering and Engineering Services giving delegates the opportunity to meet and discuss all of their rail life-cycle requirements from concept to delivery.

Interesting kit

Several interesting pieces of equipment had been brought in especially for the day.

One of the brand new B41UE Matisa Tampers, part of Balfour Beatty Rail’s recent £20m investment in new plant, had been specially transported all the way from Cambridgeshire, and the recently approved Air Insulated Switchgear, detailed elsewhere in this feature, that will be trialled on the Paisley Corridor project was brought over from Balfour Beatty Rail’s base in Offenbach, Germany.

There were a number of other items of plant on display as well. A Front Shovel Excavator, Base Ballast Hopper, Unimog, Top Ballast Hopper, Doosan and an Ultrasonic Flaw Detection RRV all attracted interest.


Peter Anderson, Managing Director of Balfour Beatty Rail UK, in an address to the delegates, spoke of the Group’s work in Scotland, and specifically important rail projects such as Paisley Corridor Improvements, Glasgow Central Station, Gourock Station, Airdrie to Bathgate Rail Link, Edinburgh Waverley Station and the Forth Bridge, emphasising the benefits of the projects for the local communities.

Innovation – Air Insulated Switchgear

As one of the exhibits, Balfour Beatty Rail GmbH in Germany showcased their Air Insulated Switchgear. The Rail Engineer has already reported on a solid conductor beam system for overhead electrification (issue 66 April 2010).

Since then, Balfour Beatty Rail has introduced Air Insulated Switchgear (AIS). This has been designed specifically to meet the requirements of 25kV 50/60Hz railway applications and is derived from conventional 3-phase switchgear.

The Balfour Beatty Rail AIS TracFeed TAC switchgear is developed for use with single phase (TAC1) and two phase (TAC2) railway applications serving all AC feeding systems such as conventional, booster and autotransformer.

It is common for switchgear used for 25kV railway applications to be insulated using SF6 gas (Sulphur Hexaflouride). This is a better insulator than air, so that the gaps between components can be reduced while still avoiding arcing.

However, SF6 is a “greenhouse gas” as defined in the Kyoto protocol. This leads to restrictions both in manufacture and disposal of the gas. Specifically with regard to switchgear, the equipment has to be monitored 24/7 as any leakage will not only cause the equipment to malfunction but will also result in an environmental incident.

Clever design has allowed Balfour Beatty Rail to utilise air insulation. This provides a product that conforms with current environmental requirements and is also easily extendable – there is no longer the need to bleed off SF6 gas, make modifications, and then refill.

First introduced on the continent, the initial trial site for the new switchgear in the UK is at the Paisley Gilmour Street TSC (Track Sectioning Cabin). The requirement for a single circuit breaker provides an ideal opportunity for the trial site at Paisley.

Airdrie-Bathgate electrification being installed. Photo: the rail engineer.

Initiative – Overhead Line Training School

Apart from the high-profile announcements of electrification in England, on the Great Western main line and between Manchester and Liverpool, there has been a quiet surge in electrification projects in Scotland. The new Airdrie-Bathgate route is electrified, as are the new lines on the Paisley Corridor Improvement Scheme (PCI). And shortly EGIP (Edinburgh-Glasgow Improvement Programme) will be starting – and that is electrified.

So Balfour Beatty Rail has identified that there is a skills shortage for electrification specialists in Scotland. The company already has an overhead line training school at Kirkby on Merseyside, and drawing from that expertise they will shortly be opening a new training span at Shettleston.

Balfour Beatty is currently speaking with local schools and colleges and the new facility will be open in March 2012.

The current PCI OLE team will provide many of the skills required to run the programme and several current projects are only a few miles away. Balfour Beatty Rail fully intends to bridge the skills gap in Scotland in preparation for the electrification projects coming up over the next few years.

Shettleston Community Growing Project (SCGP)

Another key purpose for the Open Day was to reinforce Balfour Beatty Rail’s commitment to the community, the latest being the Shettleston Community Growing Project (SCGP).

A resident-led initiative in the heart of Shettleston, the Project has instigated the transformation of a derelict site into a multi-use space for residents, community groups and local schools and will help reduce carbon emissions by some 1,286 tonnes a year. For every Open Day delegate Balfour Beatty Rail will be donating £10 to this wonderful project.

Peter Anderson commented, “Today has been about celebrating the opening of our new office here in Shettleston, once again showing how committed we are to supporting Network Rail, Transport Scotland and local communities.”

Key current projects

As the day unfolded, Balfour Beatty Rail teams were continuing to put that commitment into practice by way of a number of ongoing multidisciplinary projects in other parts of Scotland. Key standout examples are the Paisley Corridor Improvement and Forth Bridge Refurbishment projects.

Paisley Corridor Improvement

The Paisley Corridor Improvement (PCI) in Renfrewshire is a £169.8 million project to upgrade one of the busiest two-track railways in Scotland to three and four tracks. As part of this, Balfour Beatty Rail is midway through a £27 million multidisciplinary contract on behalf of Network Rail to construct additional running lines and install associated overhead line equipment (OLE).

At first sight, the project looks quite straightforward. 4.5 miles of a widely spaced two-track railway are being upgraded to three tracks with an additional 1.5 mile section of four tracks between Glasgow Central and Paisley Gilmour Street.

However, this six-mile stretch of railway handles more than 300 trains every day and forms a notorious bottleneck to services operating on the Ayrshire Coast and Inverclyde lines. There is no way it can be closed during the upgrading process.

The very nature of converting a busy two-track railway into three and four tracks inevitably requires a lot of construction access, and managing this whilst minimising disruption has been the biggest challenge for the project team, as Balfour Beatty Rail’s Project Director Doug Lee explains:

“As well as heavy traffic on the route, the scheme also demands the installation of 39 point ends within tight schedules, significant civil engineering and modification of the OLE.

“Because of access problems on this busy route, the project does not comprise of a simple linear progression of works. Instead, staged works feature heavily – 26 stages over a 12-month period. If we miss a stage or overrun on any one of them, it will seriously impact upon the later stages.”

Access for the construction activities is limited to short possessions and the importance of maximising their use is critical to meeting a demanding programme of works.

The frequency and nature of the possessions vary throughout the project to suit the traffic demands and many weekends have been planned for 11 plus 8 hours duration rather than the traditional straight 29 hours. In this way, the railway is restored to traffic for the busiest part of the day, from late morning until mid evening.

The most recent possession was for 72 hours over the weekend of 6 August 2011. 12,000 man hours were worked over that weekend, split between Balfour Beatty Rail, Network Rail and Invensys Rail. An extensive programme of electrification, signalling, track work and civil engineering formed part of the first major commissioning stage of the project as a whole.

The second part will take place over Christmas 2011 although there will be some significant interim track and electrification works during September involving four 54 hour possessions.

The project is on track to be delivered successfully and on time at the end of 2011 and is of strategic importance to Balfour Beatty Rail.

“We are very keen to maintain our business presence in Scotland and PCI forms a vital part of our business plan in this respect,” says Doug.

“This contract demonstrates the strength of our partnership with Network Rail north of the border and we look forward to delivering a first class service.”

Paisley Corridor improvements. Photo: the rail engineer.

Refurbishment of The Forth Bridge

Balfour Beatty Regional Civil Engineering is currently undertaking a works contract, in partnership with Network Rail, to refurbish the Forth Bridge.

The works on the Forth Bridge are carried out in a series of phased operations at a number of locations at any one time.

Complex access scaffold is erected and the work areas screened from the environment before the existing layers of paint, applied over the last 120 years, are removed using an abrasive blasting technique. Steelwork requiring maintenance is then repaired before the new paint is applied in three protective layers, to preserve the steelwork for years to come.

The Forth Bridge is a marvel of Victorian engineering, carrying the East Coast Main Line railway over the Forth Estuary by way of a 2.5km cantilever bridge.

Designed by Sir John Fowler and Sir Benjamin Baker and constructed by Sir William Arrol at a cost of £2.5 million, it incorporates 55,000 tonnes of steel held together with some eight million rivets.

This unique structure has been in constant operation since its opening in 1890 by the then Prince of Wales (later King Edward VII) and has been the subject of the legend “like painting the Forth Bridge,” a job that has never been completed.

The bridge in fact has only ever been painted in a single operation when it was built but has been continuously maintained ever since, with painting being carried out where and when it was required.

The contract is set to mark the end of the modern myth when the painting on the Forth Bridge comes to an end in 2012.

The painting on the Forth Bridge comes to an end in 2012. Photo: EIFION.

Recent successes

While Balfour Beatty can’t lay claim to be the first painters of the Forth Bridge over a century ago they can rightfully put their stamp on a number of high profile rail projects successfully delivered in Scotland over recent years.

Edinburgh Waverley Railway Station

Edinburgh Waverley railway station is immense. It covers an area of 25 acres in the centre of Edinburgh and is used by over 19.2 million passengers a year. It is Britain’s second largest station after London Waterloo.

The station was first opened in 1846 and was rebuilt between 1892 and 1902. In 2008 Network Rail delivered a £150 million project to improve the infrastructure of the station and provide much-needed extra capacity.

This included two new, longer platforms and the reintroduction of platform 5, extensive track remodelling and new signalling to allow four more trains to pass through the station per hour each way, and extra platform capacity for longer commuter services.

Improved appearance

The next stage was to improve the appearance of the station for passengers. In 2009 Balfour Beatty Regional Civil Engineering was awarded a £50 million 3-year contract to refurbish and completely re-glaze the 34,000m2 station roof with clear, strengthened glass to shed new light on the station concourse and platforms.

The project will see all of the old glazing on the roof replaced including a large section made of clear plastic sheeting, the result of a low cost temporary fix made twenty years ago.

The station’s original Victorian ironwork features are to be repaired and repainted while non-essential station furniture, buildings and redundant high level walkways will be removed. In addition, new lighting and roof drainage systems will be installed, footbridges renovated and the concourse and platforms will be resurfaced.

Crash deck

Work commenced with the installation of a ‘crash deck’ at the east end of the station. This is being moved east to west across the station as the roof works progress. For increased safety and environmental considerations, the crash deck and the working areas are encapsulated.

Safely above the crash deck, the project team is stripping away old glazing, abrasive grit blasting the steel work to strip off old layers of paint and installing a support system for the new glazing. This will be made up of 28,000 new glass panels, the first of which was put in place on 21 April 2011.

Throughout the work the station will remain operational. Close working relationships between Balfour Beatty and Network Rail’s station personnel were required from the outset to ensure there is minimal disruption to passengers, trains and third parties while delivering safely a quality restoration of this historic station.

The contract is on schedule to be completed by November 2013.


The Airdrie-Bathgate Railway Project was the longest new conventional passenger line to be built for over 100 years. As part of the £300 million scheme, funded by Transport Scotland and delivered by Network Rail, Balfour Beatty Rail was awarded a £55 million contract in May 2008.

This involved the double-tracking of the single line between Airdrie and Drumgelloch as well as laying two tracks between Drumgelloch and Bathgate. The entire route from Airdrie to Edinburgh’s Haymarket Station was electrified with a 25kV AC classic booster system including the provision of new traction power supply sites along the route.

The railway infrastructure work naturally fell into two distinct sections. The first was the operational railway between Haymarket and Bathgate. This used the existing Edinburgh-Glasgow lines from Haymarket to Newbridge Junction in West Lothian and then the recently double-tracked branch to Bathgate where it included a new light maintenance depot complex.

The second section covers the route from Bathgate to Airdrie which extensively comprised a new two-track electrified railway.

Airdrie-Bathgate - Winner of Best Project - large (projects valued over £20m) at the 2011 Network Rail Partnership Awards. Photo: the rail engineer.

Birdsmill Viaduct

One of the more challenging aspects of the contract was the construction of overhead line equipment on the historic Birdsmill Viaduct. Built in 1849 and now Grade B listed, the multi-span masonry structure is located to the west of Newbridge Junction, carrying the Bathgate branch over the River Almond.

Access for construction plant and equipment was limited and, to add to the complexities, the works had to be undertaken in the harsh winter months of early 2010.

To complete them safely and on time, a coordinated approach was necessary to dovetail functional engineering and construction requirements, coupled with strong working relationships between contractor Balfour Beatty Rail and client Network Rail.

Due to the limited access to the bridge from ground level, plant and materials were brought in by rail.

The first construction operation on the viaduct was to install the OLE mast mounting brackets. This involved removing some of its masonry to make way for a new cast-in-situ concrete plinth, installing the bracket mounting bolts, coring through the outer masonry to make provision for the tie bar, and then installing the brackets themselves.

As much of this was carried out on the river spans, the use of scaffolding would have been very difficult and costly. As a result, specialist subcontractors undertook the work using a rope access system. Once the brackets were in place, the overhead line gantries could be easily installed.

New track

On 7 June 2010, Balfour Beatty Rail’s New Track Construction (NTC) machine started work. This high output system can lay new track at a rate of up to 250 yards per hour by implementing a continuous process of sleeper and rail installation onto a pre-prepared formation. The unit comprises a truss wagon, reception wagon, self-powered wagon and sleeper carrying wagons.

As well as high output production, other benefits are high quality track installation and lower manpower and plant requirements as well as reduced risk of injuries during track installation compared with traditional techniques. The NTC provides a means of constructing track that is consistent with both Network Rail’s ‘Safety 365’ and Balfour Beatty’s ‘Zero Harm’ policies.

Overhead line foundations, structures, cantilevers and return conductor wiring were the first elements of the new-build section to be installed. Carrying out this work before the track was laid provided flexibility in the type of plant and equipment that could be used.

When the trackbed had been prepared and rail positioned, the NTC unit came into operation. The final elements involved the overhead line wiring, tamping and stressing.

Power supply

A new traction power supply was provided via a 2x18MVA feeder station at Bathgate in which a Distribution Network Organisation compound has been installed that contains two 25kV disconnectors. Sectioning of the supply for the new-build railway is undertaken by track sectioning cabins located at Raiziehill and Drumgelloch.

This taxing project, made more complicated by the logistical problems of work spread across 40 miles of southern Scotland, was completed by Balfour Beatty over a two-year period without an over run.

Photo caption: Airdrie – Bathgate – Winner of Best project – large (projects valued over £20m) at the 2011 Network Partnership Awards

Glasgow Central Station

Glasgow Central Station is the largest of the two main line stations in Scotland’s second city, and is the second busiest station in the UK outside of London (Birmingham New Street is slightly busier). It was first opened in 1879 and, as passenger numbers grew, has been enlarged and rebuilt several times since.

With the recent resurgence in rail travel, and the improvements to the Paisley Corridor that runs out of Glasgow Central, it was time for another rebuild.

Balfour Beatty Regional Civil Engineering was contracted to do the work, including the removal of the existing platform 12 and the construction of two new 150m long platforms on the site of the short-stay car park.

Glasgow Central station caters for 34 million people per year. Photo: the rail engineer.

Big improvement

Work started on the new platforms at the end of September 2009 and full timetabled operations commenced on 24 May 2010. The Glasgow Central works are the biggest improvement to passenger facilities at the station since 1906 when the original 1879 station was increased from eight to 13 platforms.

Today the station caters for 34 million people per year and further growth is forecast. As a result, two new platforms have been constructed, each able to accommodate six-car trains.”

Glasgow Central Station is built on two levels and an extensive labyrinth of tunnels, vaults and arches exist beneath the site of the new platforms. This necessitated the installation of new structural columns and beams as well as the casting of a concrete slab to support the new platforms and associated track, S&C, OLE and signalling.

The reinforced concrete supporting columns with integral transverse beams were cast in situ, partly on new foundations with loads spread through existing foundations. A concrete slab was cast in situ on top of the columns; the slab track was then installed.

Platform 12

Work was carried out over Christmas 2009 to permanently close the existing Platform 12 (formerly 11A) and remove the track and overhead power lines. Platform 12 was never originally planned for passenger use. At the time of construction it was actually called the ‘fish, fruit and milk platform’ but it became increasingly used for passenger trains in recent years as the numbers and length of trains using the station increased.

However it was very unpopular with passengers because its location on the bridge over the Clyde was physically remote from the rest of the station and it was also out beyond the cover of the roof. The new platforms solve all of these problems.”

Miller’s arch

Closure of this platform permitted the track slewing and S&C work needed to create a route to the two new platforms, the entrance for trains being constructed through the station’s famous arch.

This impressive feature, built as part of the station’s 1906 extension, was designed by the Caledonian Railway Company’s architect, James Miller.

A collection of modern flat-roofed buildings had cluttered the base of the arch and these have been demolished to fully reveal the grandeur of the original Grade-A listed structure.

The arch was never designed to have trains passing through it so it’s fortunate that it offered sufficient clearance to accommodate two tracks and it certainly provides an impressive entrance into the station.

Now there is a clear unhindered view of the arch and, for the first time, this extends below its original visual base at platform level to reach the new tracks.

To maintain consistency with the overall arch appearance, the newly exposed sub platform section of arch has been stone clad as part of the project and replacement period doors have been provided in the arch abutments.”


The platform renumbering at Glasgow Central sounds somewhat confusing. Platform 11A, which had been temporarily renumbered as 12, has been replaced by the new Platform 12. The new Platform 13 did not previously exist.

The original Platform 12 has become Platform 14 and the old 13 is now 15. There should be no confusion however about the benefits delivered by the new platforms and station enhancements that Balfour Beatty has delivered.

Gourock Station

Gourock Station was always a bit of an afterthought. When the Caledonian Railway first built the Inverclyde Line, it terminated at Greenock Central. However, this was further from the quayside than the Glasgow & South Western Railway’s Greenock (Prince’s Pier) so the Caledonian was losing business. They therefore extended their line to Gourock Pier which opened in 1889.

The new station was right on the quay and was built to handle a large number of ferry passengers. It had three platforms, one on the quayside and two as an island platform, and extensive glass canopies over all three. However, in the 1980s these were cut back, and by 2006 the whole station was looking tired and dilapidated.

The station hotel had been demolished, as had the old pier, and all that was left were the three platforms, a closed station building, and a portable ticket office. Various improvement schemes for the area had been proposed, including moving the complete station, but nothing had been carried through.

So in 2010 Network Rail awarded a £4 million contract to Balfour Beatty Regional Civil Engineering to improve matters. A large part of the work was to improve the sea defences but in addition the platforms were to be renewed as were the canopies and OLE equipment.

The existing overhead wiring was fastened to the old canopies, so Balfour Beatty’s initial task was to remove that and erect conventional gantries. This left the site free for the removal of the canopies and installation of the replacements.

One platform face at a time has been taken out of service so that they can be resurfaced, and the whole project is on schedule for completion in November 2011.

In summing up to delegates at the open day, Peter Anderson commented:

“Today has been about launching our new office here in Shettleston, once again showing how committed we are to supporting Network Rail, Transport Scotland and local communities.

“We are here to make a difference and I would like to thank everyone involved.”



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