Recently, our Kier Rail Signalling Team completed a UK first. Here, Paul Cornelius, contracts manager for Anglia at Kier explains, how the signalling team have worked collaboratively with Network Rail to deliver a safer railway line in the East of England.

“Every year, Network Rail manages 20,000 miles of track as well as thousands of signals, level crossings and stations. It helps people and goods travel safely from one part of the country to another. As one of Network Rail’s delivery partners, we understand this aim and our most recent project had safety at its core.

In 2017, Kier were approached by Network Rail to help make an area of its network from Lowestoft to Ipswich safer. This section of line features 28 user worked / footpath level crossings, whereby a person travelling by car or foot needs to call the signaller to ask permission to cross.

Due to the long sections between stations, a person wishing to cross the line could wait up to 10 minutes and sometimes even longer. This long wait could encourage people to cross the line without authorisation and therefore putting not only their lives at risk, but also passenger lives – it was clear, action was needed.

Over the last two and a half years, the Kier Rail Signalling team have worked collaboratively with Network Rail to deliver a solution from initial project development through to delivery.

The railway line between Ipswich and Lowestoft spans 47 miles, with nine intermediate station stopping points. Once a train leaves a station, the signaller is only aware that the train is in the section between two stations but does not know the exact location. What we have done is add additional sections between stations to give the signaller more accurate train location information. This allows the signaller to make safer decisions when authorising users to cross the railway line. This helps reduce a level crossing user’s frustration and waiting time and in turn makes them less likely to take unnecessary risks.

In order to detect the position of trains, the Frauscher axle counter system was used. This detects the presence of a train by counting wheel axles at certain locations on the network. Kier implemented a UK first whereby we installed Supervision Reset and Axle Counter Head Control.  These are features of the Frauscher Axle Counter System.

Supervision Reset and Axle Counter Head Control reduce signaller workload by safely undertaking operational actions without impacting on the train service, therefore reducing train delays and inconvenience to passengers. The implementation of these features will have a significant benefit on future projects as well.

The commissioning works were carried out over a 52-hour period or “possession” as commonly referred to in railway circles. The possession was handed back to Network Rail ahead of schedule, two weeks ago.

Working on the 47mile railway is a logistical challenge to ensure staff and materials are at the right location to undertake planned tasks according to the commissioning programme. We also used this opportunity to recovery of existing cables in parallel to the new works.

With the current COVID-19 restrictions, Kier rose to the challenge. This was a huge operation and during this time we carried out works in-line with Public Health England’s guidance and the Construction Leadership Council’s Site Operating Procedures. Numerous measures were implemented, such as a one-way system on site, screens for staff signing in with markers on the ground to ensure social distancing. Network Rail were most impressed that Kier provided hand sanitisation stations along the line for all staff to use when accessing or leaving site.

What’s more, the signaller needed to continue with his responsibilities, but it would not be possible within the signal box where we were working. Kier relocated the signaller including communication services to another building to ensure that he was separated from all other staff and therefore safe.

This is the latest project carried out by our Kier signalling team for Network Rail to help make the railway safer, more reliable and consistent. It has been a huge team effort from all involved with the aim clear from the start - to protect level crossing users, railway users and operators and make this a safer railway line for communities in the East of England.”

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