Here at the rail engineer, we like to report on the major infrastructure projects on Britain’s railways – the grand schemes, multi-million pound undertakings that will have significant benefits to the entire railway network. These often involve several major contractors, hundreds of engineers, and usually some great photography!
However, we shouldn’t fool ourselves that this is all that happens. For every major project which we report on, there are many smaller ones that go unreported which are just as important for local operations. So it’s good, from time to time, to cover those as well.
One such project was the recent work at Skipton Sidings. Northern Rail had two-and-a-half storage sidings to park up their class 333 trains overnight.
Capacity was needed for three extra 4-car sets, and there was no room at Skipton. So Network Rail was approached, in spring 2011, with a request to enhance the stabling capacity at Skipton to accommodate these additional units in time for the December 2011 time table change.
The existing sidings ran alongside the main line at Skipton. Numbering from the main line outwards, a single set of points turned off the line into road 1. A set of points then split off road 2 and a second set then turned off road 3.
Roads 1 and 2 were full length while road 3 was only half length as it is restricted by a dog-leg in the boundary fence. Total standage was 797 metres. There was a wide gap between roads 1 and 2, taken up by OLE stanchions and a rudimentary CET (controlled emission toilet) station.
Network Rail, working with Atkins, came up with a set of proposals to remodel the site to give four full-length roads. Road 2 would be moved over into the dead space next to road 1, and would be split to form a new Road 2A. There would still be room to move Road 3 over a bit as well, and make it full length giving an overall standage of 1,050 metres
This seemed to be viable scheme, and the proposal was submitted to the Network Rail Investment Panel for Grip 4 – 8 authority on 26th July 2011. This was under five months before the new sidings had to be in operation!
The project was swiftly authorised, and topographical and ground investigation surveys commenced to support the Grip 4 and 5 design stages.
Fortunately, on 11 August Network Rail announced its new Multi Asset Framework Agreements (MAFA) which cover small and medium sized projects combining signalling, track and civils.
As a result, Carillion, the MAFA contractor for the London North Eastern area, was already appointed so they could get straight on with the work without the normal delays caused by the need to invite tenders. Carillion’s welfare facilities arrived on site on 2 September.
Network Rail, Northern Rail and Carillion agreed daily site access arrangements. Carillion would take a T4 possession every day, with OLE isolation, and the site would be handed back to Northern Rail each evening to enable the stabling of trains. This enabling works phase was to be followed by an agreed extended two week continuous access to the Siding 2 and 3 area to facilitate the major track remodelling works.
Work continued apace. The surveys showed that the ground onto which track 3 would be moved had a distinct slope. Trains have to be stabled on near-level track to prevent any danger of run-aways if brakes are inadvertently turned off during parking and servicing, so arrangements were made to level off the ground during the possession.
All was ready for the two week possession from 21 November to 4 December. The existing tracks 2 and 3 were removed, and the site levelled. OLE stanchions were removed and replaced with a new headspan arrangement with columns installed on piled foundations.
Tracks 2 and 2A (now renamed 2A and 2B) were relayed in their new locations. A new set of handpoints occupied the space previously taken up by the CET station which now been relocated and extended to provide facilities to Roads 1, 2 and 3.
Road 3, full length this time and on the newly levelled ground, was laid into position. Concrete walkways were installed, and the new signalling and telecoms systems tested over the weekend of 3-4 December. The whole site was then handed over to Northern Rail a week before the timetable change (11 December) so that staff could familiarise themselves with the new layout.
There were still things to do. For example, lighting was temporary but would be replaced with permanent installations in the New Year, and some drivers’ walkways and fixed shore supplies still had to be completed. However, the project team, under Network Rail’s Martin Whyatt and Carillion’s Neil Lindley, had accomplished what they had been asked to do – completely remodel Skipton Sidings in 93 days from arriving on site.
In many ways the project was unusual, and lucky. As Martin commented, it seemed strange for his men to be working days and sleeping at night, but days were the only access they had for the first eleven weeks of the project. The weather had also been kind, if there had been heavy snow in November and December, as there sometimes is in Skipton, then things would have been more difficult. And the launch by Network Rail of the MAFA system also helped speed things up.
Following the hand-over, Martin Whyatt reflected:
“The success of this project reflects the tremendous achievement that has only been possible due to a determination to rise to a unique challenge for the benefit of Network Rail’s customers and travelling public alike.
“There was major commitment and support from all parties involved, particularly, Network Rail – including Route Asset Managers, NDS (provision of Engineering trains and bulk materials, track / ballast / sleepers), Network Rail Operations, Northern Rail (estates / station managers and operations staff), and of course Carillion. The timing of the MAFA rationalisation was perfect for this project and it enabled us to engage in a more open and collaborative way with the chosen supplier.
“The last 5-6 months have been extremely intense and there are many positive lessons to take from our experience.”