Here in the Rail Engineer, there are often articles on successful signalling and resignalling programmes. The reports are full of descriptions of sophisticated electronic kit, LED signal heads and lineside cabinets.

But behind every major signalling project there lurks, hidden in the shadows, a civil engineering one.

Signal bases, foundations for cabinets, cable runs, trackside buildings – they all need civil engineers to come along in advance and sort them out.

However, it is all in response to a requirement from the signal engineers, so a collaborative approach helps to ensure that all ancillary civil engineering works are ready for signalling installation and testing teams when they need them.

Detailed planning

VGC Rail Projects has invested heavily in first-class planning resources so that critical possessions are planned meticulously, often down to the minute. Engineers draw up a timed project plan well in advance of the possession, setting out all the individual elements and identifying key decision points so that pre-planned mitigation measures can be implemented if necessary.

However, the pressure to deliver means that designs are rarely cast in stone at a project outset and have to evolve as the project progresses. Contractors such as VGC often have to adapt programmes to cope.

“Sharing the detailed plans with project partners right from the start makes it much easier to manage re-planning. Close collaboration between the civil engineering, signalling and telecoms disciplines allows real flexibility in project delivery,” said Jaques Kriel, director of VGC Rail Projects. “On a recent signalling project it was necessary to re-schedule our whole delivery because of design delays. By working collaboratively with our client, we jointly reprogrammed the works resulting in little overall impact on the project.”

Meticulous planning and collaborative working mean that as much work as possible is undertaken during possessions, and the railway is handed back into operation on time. The travelling public, who gain from improvements to train services as a result of infrastructure investment, are happiest if they never have to know about the intense work periods when the railway is closed.