HomeElectrificationSafer, quicker and sustainable cable protection

Safer, quicker and sustainable cable protection

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As the world, and the railway, goes more and more digital, the big growth industry seems to have been in the production of cable. Offices are festooned with cables linking computers, servers, storage devices, alarms, CCTV cameras, printers, scanners and a host of other devices. Every desk has the potential to have a ‘rat’s nest’ of cables lurking underneath it.

Homes are no different. To the cables linking computers, routers, printers and scanners can be added the ones to TV sets, control boxes, recorders, speakers, CD players and satellite dishes.

One solution to this is, of course, to make as much as possible wireless. Many devices now use Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or infra-red technology to get rid of those annoying cables.

Cable protection

The railway has the same problem. Some wireless technology is creeping in, but there is no solution to the need for power cables – both traction and signalling power – as they cannot be replaced. Communications cables, for signalling control and other functions, are often also needed for security and reliability reasons.

Braintree, Essex.

So, the side of the railway starts to look like the side of an office desk – cables, cables and yet more cables.

These cables need protecting. Traditional methods see ground-based cable troughing used. However, where there isn’t a clear walkway alongside, the trough lids are often walked upon. If the route is not of designated walkway width, this practice can be rather unsafe and, with slips, trips and falls maintaining their number-one spot in workplace incidents, it’s a risk that needs to be reduced.

And, of course, the manual handling of cable troughing has to be carried out safely and within prescribed weight limits. Solutions to improve this element of the project are very welcome.

There are two solutions to these problems. The first is to make the troughs from lightweight polymer materials – several different solutions now available.

The second is to elevate the trough above the ground on posts. Then, no matter the angle of the side of the embankment or cutting, the trough is safely above it all. It also can’t be walked on – another plus – and presents cables for maintenance at waist height, making things simpler for the maintainer.

Network Rail prohibited the manual handling of metre-length C/1/43 ground-based concrete troughing units in 2014. Since then, the industry has kept a very strict eye on the installation of cable troughing and any methods introduced to reduce the risk to workforces were, and still are, very welcome. With this in mind, Scott Parnell worked in partnership with Complete Composite Solutions to introduce the UK to a revolutionary product which was already leading the way across Europe with full approval by Deutsche Bahn.

Innovative system

ArcoSystem is the only elevated troughing system in the UK which can span six metres between post centres. Already fully approved by Network Rail, the product offers a reduction in hole centres (versus traditional elevated systems) of up to 75 per cent. This saves workforces from the process of digging out foundations, mixing postmix and water, and installing the posts every 1.5 to 2 metres, as is the case with traditional systems. With this reduction in post centres, there is also a decrease in the risk of cable strike, which can occur during any ground penetrating installation.

The ArcoSystem troughs are made from a lightweight, pultruded, twin wall fibre-reinforced polymer (FRP), which provides the strength to support each length over six metres. In addition to this, it means the overall weight of each six-metre length is under 36kg, making them safe for two people to lift easily.

The reduction in post centres not only protects workforces, but also decreases installation time by up to 60 per cent. As possession times get more and more congested, with more contractors having to share track time, this saving is invaluable.

ArcoSystem not only works well as a foundation-installed elevated route, it also interfaces seamlessly with the complicated rail infrastructure. Transitioning from ground-based troughing up to an elevated route then back to a wall mounted system is easy. Alternatively, it also works perfectly for a suspended route by utilising handrails on one of the many walkway systems. The system should be hung on the outer edge of the handrail to prevent the safe walking area being reduced in size.

Should the standard range of ArcoSystem not be suitable for certain areas, Scott Parnell will work closely with project designers, engineers and construction teams to develop bespoke units to fit, no matter what the infrastructure is that’s presented to them – versatility at its best!

ArcoSystem has now been present in the UK’s rail sector for three and a half years and has been used on some major schemes, from Crossrail Anglia and Weaver Wavertree resignalling to, more recently, HS2 enabling works at Euston. In such a short space of time, it has become a popular choice amongst contractors with over 125km of route now installed on the UK’s railway network.

Safer installation

Although Scott Parnell has seen ArcoSystem go from strength to strength, the company has certainly not just sat back and rested on its laurels. It has also worked on creating an installation technique which was even safer for workforces to implement. Following an overview of the entire installation process, Scott Parnell identified areas for improvement and enhanced these accordingly.

ArcoSystem offers a vast reduction in manual handling by reducing the number of holes installers need to dig into the ground for post foundations. As the six-metre distance between post centres cannot be expanded, the maximum saving in manual handling is achieved. Furthermore, it is not possible to reduce the weight in the system components without affecting the integrity of the product. Scott Parnell will never compromise on quality, and therefore it was realised that improvements were possible and would be made. Stand by for the innovation of the year…

For each post foundation which is embedded into the ground, approximately 60kg of postmix is used, along with around 20 litres of water to mix it. This process, which has not changed since elevated troughing was first introduced into the rail sector, is one which is almost always done manually, without the aid of machinery. It therefore has a considerable musculoskeletal impact on the installation teams, especially those gangs installing troughing systems shift after shift, project after project.

Introducing Techno-Crete

To combat this problem, Scott Parnell has introduced Techno-Crete, a new product that provides an innovative solution by replacing the need for both postmix and the associated water, around 80kg of product, with just 1.6kg!

To put this into perspective:

  • 1km of traditional two-metre span troughing requires 30 tonnes of postmix;
  • 1km of ArcoSystem six-metre span troughing, with only one third the number of posts, takes 10 tonnes of postmix;
  • 1km of ArcoSystem six-metre span troughing, installed with Techno-Crete, needs just 267kg of Techno-Crete.

Techno-Crete is revolutionary in the reduction of manual handling, but the benefits of this innovative product do not end there. With a curing time of just 20 minutes, Techno-Crete can decrease the installation time of ArcoSystem even further.

Where postmix has traditionally had a curing time of 24 hours, this has meant installation teams have had to plan work carefully and revisit site again to install the trough route onto the posts once the postmix has set. However, one recent installation using ArcoSystem with Techno-Crete resulted in 22 metres of route being installed within just four hours – all while workers were being suspended from ropes down a steep embankment!

Techno-Crete also has sustainable benefits. It is manufactured using 85 per cent recycled and sustainably sourced vegetable and rapeseed oils. This is a key advantage as CP6 begins, which has the toughest sustainability targets the sector has ever seen.

The CO2 saving compared to postmix is over 70 per cent – approximately 10kg of CO2 per post foundation. Just 100 foundations using traditional postmix would require six tonnes of concrete to be used. Also, at the end of its life, Techno-Crete can be crushed and fully recycled into products such as precast concrete.

Techno-Crete is delivered to site in a two-part set – ‘Bag A’ and ‘Bag B’. When the foundation is ready, the two bags are opened and one poured into the other. A vigorous shake will mix the two components together and then the mixture is poured into the ground. Within 10 minutes, the product will expand to twenty times its original size and within twenty minutes the mix will have set. Health and Safety protocols are no different to that for the application of postmix, and transportation and storage costs are both dramatically reduced.

Scott Parnell’s new Techno-Crete is also ideal when used as a foundation for a variety of railway systems, from handrails to fencing and DIS boxes. Anywhere postmix can be applied, Techno-Crete can be used as an alternative.

Using TechnoCrete.

Innovative supply

Sharon Rice, national rail manager at Scott Parnell, said: “The UK’s rail industry has been aware of the implications that manual handling has on its troughing installation teams for some time and huge progress has been made to improve this. At Scott Parnell, we have worked tirelessly to make sure we do our best to support this movement. For example, we were one of the first to provide six-metre length GRP troughs which sit comfortably within safe weight limits for two people, reducing not only the weight, but number of lifts required during installation.

“With the introduction of Techno-Crete, we are taking things one step further by eliminating the need for three 20kg bags of postmix, which are currently required to install each individual post. Posts are often positioned in difficult to reach locations meaning that postmix, and the large water quantities needed to mix it, causes a huge manual strain on workforces and often requires a costly RRV to get it to the installation point. One box of Techno-Crete weighs far less than a single bag of postmix, meaning that one person can easily carry the material for up to 12 foundations in a single lift.

“With all this in mind, Techno-Crete has the potential to make a real difference to the rail sector and the way construction and improvements are carried out. In particular, the reduction in time to complete projects and the resulting safety benefits of quicker installation and manual handling makes it ideal for possessions”.

With innovations such as this, it is clear to see why Scott Parnell is the supplier of choice for the rail industry.

Rail Engineer is the leading independent quality monthly magazine for engineers, project managers, directors and leading rail executive decision makers. Head to www.railsubs.com to make a free subscription to RailEngineer magazine or one of its sister publications.


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