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Making a rail impact

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With its continuing drive for increased efficiency and the resulting cost savings, Network Rail has encouraged its contractors, and their sub contractors, and THEIR subcontractors, to invest in the latest equipment which can deliver more for less.

In the latest control period, for example, efficiency has to increase by 20%. That means every shift has to produce 20% more work, or a set project has to be delivered 20% more quickly and 20% more economically.

It’s a tall order and one which, frankly, Network Rail is struggling to achieve. But that doesn’t ease the pressure on contractors. If anything, it makes it more intense.

This need for speed reaches right across the railway. Every infrastructure project is looking for these savings. Traditionally, one of the more time-consuming elements of a project is the groundwork. With access to the railway limited, and with contractors often having to set-up and then break down the site so that trains can run during the day, the need to achieve more in a shift has never been more intense.

Investment is the key

During its 30-year history, Van Elle Group, based at Pinxton, Nottinghamshire, has established a reputation for delivering high-quality piling and ground engineering solutions for its clients.

A key element in the Group’s activities is its involvement in railway projects. This division  has gained significant experience and expertise in both design and construction, enabling it to undertake rail projects of all sizes and complexities for Network Rail and its contractors.

To carry out its piling and foundation work, Van Elle has invested around £15 million in plant and equipment during the last few years.

This substantial investment has resulted in the purchase of various rail- related machines including a number of DX impact piling hammers from British firm BSP International Foundations. Based in Ipswich, BSP is one of the world’s leading manufacturers of piling hammers and related equipment.

BSP has specifically developed the DX hydraulic drop hammer to drive tubular steel piles to support electrification staunchions, gantries and other railway projects requiring foundation piling. It has been designed as an attachment for mounting on road/rail or tracked hydraulic excavators with an operating weight of around 32 tonnes or more.

When mounted to the machine’s boom and dipper arm configuration, the hammer can be quickly erected from a horizontal transport position to vertical. Side tilt adjustment of five degrees left and right allows it to cope with the track’s cant. During piling, the hammer is automatically guided or crowded in the vertical plane.

Facts and figures

Three compact models are available from the Ipswich-based manufacturer. The DX20, DX25 and DX30 models offer dropweights of 1.5 tonnes, 2 tonnes and 2.5 tonnes respectively with maximum impact energies of 20kNm, 25kNm and 30kNm. Blow rate at rated energy for all the models is approximately 60 blows per minute.

As standard, each hammer is fitted with an 800mm diameter drive cap which is well suited to the common application of driving 762mm and 610mm diameter tubular piles used in the construction of electrification stanchions. It also accommodates other common sizes, such as 457mm, 406mm and 305mm steel piles.

Important features of the DX range include a hydraulic double-acting cylinder which produces high impact energy and a fast blow rate with a low hydraulic power requirement. The new models have the ability to drive piles with an ultimate load bearing up to 1800kN and, during operation, there is total control over hammer stroke and blow rate. Weighing from 4.5 tonnes for the DX20 up to 5.8 tonnes for the DX30, the hammers can be transported easily and be operational on site in a matter of minutes.

According to Van Elle Rail, the BSP hammers, mounted to a tracked/ wheeled excavator or the company’s Colmar RRVs, are the best solution for driving steel tube piles accurately, quickly and safely. They can be used to work alongside the company’s vibrating hammers as piles can be lifted, positioned and vibrated down before the BSP impact hammer completes the installation process using a rapid blow- rate. This pile installation system offers principal rail contractors and Network Rail an unrivalled solution to OHLE signal and gantry bases.

Recent rail projects involving the DX hammers include the installation of 610mm and 762mm diameter driven piles for the Great Western’s OHLE work on behalf of Amey, and piling for both Birmingham New Street and Reading stations for Volker Fitzpatrick and a Costain/Hochtief JV respectively.

Van Elle Rail’s investment in new rigs, equipment and staff training ensures that it has the resources to carry out rail projects of all sizes and complexities successfully and safely. The company is also a Network Rail plant operating scheme provider and a principal contractor’s licence holder.

Now that the TransPennine and Midland main line electrification projects are being resumed, and with HS2 to come, Van Elle’s investment in new plant and equipment, particularly the new range of BSP hammers, has been made at just the right time.


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