Plant force

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QTS is synonymous with originality when it comes to machinery on the UK rail network and innovation remains a driving force behind the development of its plant fleet. With bespoke equipment such as the Mega Chipper V1 and V2 already in operation, it leads from the front.

The Mega Chipper was the first of its kind and the company has continued to introduce world firsts onto the rail network, including the QTS Vegetation Compactor. It is the only one of its kind currently operating on the UK network and is secured to a trailer using ISO twist locks; it can hold up to ten times the traditional trailer load thanks to its moveable sides which compact to crush the brash and allow more vegetation to be removed from site, increasing efficiency.

QTS’ weed control unit can spray 44 miles of trackside in 8 hours.

Using the Liebherr Road Rail Excavator, a TMK tree shear can be attached in just under a minute, allowing all sizes of material to be handled with no loss in output. A rail trailer is also hitched to the Liebherr which can carry 20 tonnes of timber. This process can be carried out using only two operatives – a machine controller to look after the side of the vegetation compactor, and an RRV driver to operate the Liehber and the tree shear. This provides increased productivity and safety as there is no risk of entry into the exclusion zone and no manual cutting of trees, such as blackthorn and hawthorn.

By using the compactor, there is no impact on the lineside ground or drainage systems. Disturbance to wildlife is greatly reduced, as are noise levels compared to conventional chainsaws and wood chippers, reducing impacts on lineside neighbours. All brash and timber can then be removed off site and easily unloaded, either into a chipper or processed into biofuel.

QTS’ Vegetation Compactor can hold up to ten times the traditional trailer load.

Spray that again

Another new addition to the QTS fleet is the Weed Control Unit, a specially designed vehicle which aids the removal of trackside weeds which can travel safely on both road and rail. It is one of a handful of weed control machines in the UK and it currently has the largest water capacity at 3,000 litres. This means that it can carry out 44 miles worth of spraying over a 8 hour period. A separate tank is used to hold the chemicals, from which they are injected into the spray nozzles.

The machine has five different settings:

  • spraying down embankments, up to 6m from the running edge of the rail
  • spraying 6m up an embankment or a cutting
  • spraying directly into the four-foot, if required
  • direction can be controlled so that the spray can be both sides at once, or either side
  • two hand lances, installed at the rear of the truck, allow spot spraying.

All spray settings are controllable from the cab and can be switched off when near or passing waterways. One of the main benefits of this impressive machine is its ability to work under live overhead lines, except use of the spot spray setting.

Jetting power

QTS has also developed a ground-breaking piece of machinery which will join the company’s current fleet of six drainage vehicles, making it the largest and most diverse fleet of its kind in the UK. The Rail Mega Vac has 7 tonnes of water capacity and an efficient waste system which can hold 3m³ of waste, meaning it can work for longer before having to be refilled.

The multi-purpose machine can jet water at speeds up to 300 litres per minute using the main jetting hose, located at the rear of the machine. A secondary hose reel is fitted to the front which can extend up to 50m. It also has an auxiliary hose reel that is suitable for pressure washing. This allows track drainage to be unblocked in record time and is ideal for jetting large culverts and under-track crossings, using specialist jetting heads.

The hose – which has a diameter of 8 inches compared to the 6 inches specified on current machines – provides increased suction.

A before and after Unimog by QTS’ Special Projects team.

Outside the box

Alan McLeish, Managing Director of the QTS Group said: “We are committed to an innovative future in rail maintenance across the UK network. Our focus is on steady investment in innovation throughout our plant fleet, including everything from excavators and cranes to chippers and compactors.

“We’ve been working on more than 48 design projects this year. So, whether that’s upgrades to our existing Unimogs or new attachments for our road-rail excavators, we are committed to continuing to be at the forefront of innovation on the railway.”

In 2019, QTS introduced a Special Projects team which has revamped and restored 12 machines within its workshop. The first of these projects was on RRU06, a Mercedes-Benz U1650 Unimog. The machine was fully stripped down to a bare chassis and all of the main components that could be reused were blasted and painted.

The machine was completely rewired, and all air and brake components replaced. The engine and gearbox were fully stripped-down, and the worn parts replaced and rebuilt. The rail axles have been fully overhauled and rail wheels reprofiled. The chipper was originally mounted on the rear but, as part of the upgrade, an engineering change was carried out and the chipper was relocated at the front of the machine. This project took approximately six months to complete, including the PAB certification process.

John Simpson is the Special Projects Manager, based at the QTS HQ at Rench Farm, Drumclog. He said: “Our team is dedicated to the improvement and the refurbishment of old machinery and it’s such a great feeling to take an old Unimog that comes to you in pieces and then restore it so you can drive it out of the workshop.

“One of the best things about QTS is the vision of the leadership team – especially from Alan – when it comes to the plant. There is always the drive to do better and create more efficiencies through our machines, which is something we’re really proud of and look forward to doing more of in the future.”

The Rail MegaVac can jet water at speeds up to 300 litres per minute.

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