In a world where service delivery, trust and safe practice define success, the demands placed on rail plant hire companies have always been challenging.

Add to this the pressure both to reduce costs and deliver efficiency savings and the net result is that plant suppliers need to innovate, think outside of the box, and work more closely with clients than ever before.

Hydrex is the largest UK supplier of road-rail plant with over 300 on-track machines, 1000 attachments and around 500 fully trained and experienced operators.

It is taking these challenges seriously and is encouraging its entire team to work more cleverly, focus on safety and use new processes to enhance production.

Earlier this year the company outlined their plans for 2011 with “safety, reliable delivery and investment” the cornerstones of the company’s strategy.

So has this been achieved? It seems so as the Hydrex management team has helped set new production records on two recent projects, the Charlbury to Worcester redoubling programme and the Boston to Skegness track renewals project.


The £67 million Network Rail-backed Charlbury to Worcester project for AmeyColas was to double 21 miles of single track during mid-week night possessions and a single 9-day blockade in August.

Hydrex operatives used tracked and wheeled excavators to great effect to lay 1500 sleepers in one night’s possession at a rate of 22 chains per hour.

Hydrex was tasked with creating a new formation with new bottom ballast, unloading sleepers, spacing them out and then placing them in their final position, before thimbling and stressing the rail.


On Babcock’s Boston to Skegness project, 1,002 yards of track renewals were delivered in nine hours and 36 minutes.

This project was the largest conventionally-delivered track renewals programme (by volume) in 2011 and involved Network Rail, Balfour Beatty, DB Schenker, Hydrex, SES and Volker Rail working in partnership.

In collaboration with Babcock’s LNE Track Renewals team, the task for Hydrex involved the removal of the old track using two Terex Gigarailers in a tandem-lift operation followed by the levelling of the ballast using rail-road dozers and Kobelco SK135s.

Once the site was fully prepared, the new track was laid in place using Balfour Beatty’s NTC train.

Hydrex appointed a dedicated team of machines, engineers, machine operators and planners to provide a seamless and consistent approach to the plant operations for this project.

At any one time, they were controlling up to 7 different machines undertaking delivery, loading and site preparation activities, and finishing with follow-up works including brushing and cleaning the site.

As Peter Baverstock, Rail Services Director at Hydrex, commented afterwards, “These production records symbolise our ‘working in partnership’ philosophy at Hydrex. We place great importance on this and are keen to continue to work with clients, efficiency and safely, to help achieve the required targets.”


In order to combat some of the traditional pressures of managing assets in the plant industry, Hydrex has invested in PDA devices with GPS technology for the company’s team of service engineers.

This initiative, known as PRE-EMPT, has been designed to ensure accurate and transparent reporting of maintenance and service jobs, with the added bonus of reducing paperwork and administrative duties.

For the customer, this will lead to increased confidence in effective maintenance through prescribed and timed checks on all assets, in other words carrying out the right checks at the right times – without deviation.

It also means there is increased visibility at the audit stage as, at any point in time, a full asset file can be accessed by an auditor with no hidden elements, no lost files and no misfiled papers.

PRE-EMPT also provides a footprint of activity with everything date stamped and traceable.

Jobs can be communicated quickly to the field engineer, a programme of work can be changed and, within minutes, a work schedule can accommodate urgent events.

The hidden benefit to the customer is the ability to gain access to flexible reporting, which in turn can be used by Hydrex to drive efficiencies through management information.

At any point in time Hydrex will be able to see the locations of the engineering work force through their acceptance of tasks on their PDAs and through the GPS capability in the handset.

The devices will also be able to take good quality photographs and add relevant documentation to the asset file on the management system.

Bob Tonks, Hydrex’s National Engineering Manager, commented on the new system. “PRE-EMPT will revolutionise the way our Engineering team carry out their work. This is not a ‘Big Brother’ type exercise, far from it. Instead, it helps us to gather solid data, expel paperwork and plan our scheduled maintenance activities effectively.”

PRE-EMPT underlines the company’s commitment to working in partnership with its clients by providing accurate, transparent reporting.

Safely Home

Hydrex also remains firmly committed to the company’s “Safely Home” programme, which continues to gather pace. One area of focus has been to reduce the risk of working at height with the development of prototype platforms to prevent falls.

The current design comes in two parts which can be locked together into an ‘L’ shape (for fitting around machines), in-line (for working on two machines parked nose-to-tail), and individually (to gain access to one machine).

The platform is long enough to allow an engineer to both work on the superstructure in safety and to gain access to the cab with tools while avoiding violating the three points of contact rule.

The platforms are easy to manoeuvre and the wheels each have brakes to lock them securely into position.

Safely Home also now has a stand alone committee made up from staff in Operations, Compliance, Human Resources and Marketing. This is helping to keep the programme fresh and maximise the impact of internal and external campaigns.

Carl D’Ammassa, Chief Executive, is proud of what has been achieved:

“At Hydrex, we are committed to building strong, trusting relationships with our client base.

“Our recent production achievements, our multi-million pound fleet investment programme, our focus on safe practices and our development of PRE-EMPT underline our efforts and will help drive our business forward.

“We believe that these important relationships are key to delivering value on the infrastructure and are a pre-requisite for the modern-day supply chain.”