One of the many initiatives being undertaken by Network Rail as part of their plans to electrify the Great Western Main Line (GWML) is the design and construction of a £35 million high-output train currently being built by the German plant suppliers, Windhoff.
Network Rail also announced in March this year that they have appointed Amey to manage, maintain and operate this new train for the duration of the project.
Amey already has considerable experience in running high-output track renewals trains for Network Rail. Simon Bunn, business director – track, is confident that with this expertise, and with being part of the Ferrovial group, the company is now more than capable as a sole provider for this GWML electrification project.
Jim McDermott, project director, emphasised that the key to success will come from a well prepared, structured, meticulously planned, methodical approach. He described it as a factory process that is underpinned by a concept he calls ‘Lean Working’.
Lean working originated in the manufacturing industry, in organisations such as Toyota and Jaguar. It was described as an easy to understand continuous improvement methodology used to identify and eliminate eight areas of potential waste: transportation, inventory, motion, waiting, over processing, over production, defects and skills.
The reason that Amey has adopted this concept is to maximise the amount of value-adding activities they can provide. As Jim pointed out, things happen at night and the aim is to ensure that every aspect of the production process is planned properly so that high levels of productivity can be managed effectively and consistently.
Heart of operation
A High Output Operation Base (HOOB) is currently under construction at Swindon. It has been designed by Amey and a significant amount of thought and effort has gone into each and every detail. The HOOB will act as the garage for the new High Output Train which will arrive next spring. It will also house all the material and equipment that will be required each night and this is where attention to detail is paramount. The aim is to provide a storage area which can handle at least two weeks supply of materials and equipment.
Once production starts, there is the possibility that every one of the 16,000 piles that need to be installed may vary significantly. This means that every mast and every cantilever might be of a variable size. Although this is highly unlikely, it is difficult to determine just what level of consistency the installation team is likely to come across and they need to know if they are going to achieve the standards they expect and which are expected of them. The design of the OLE system will, however, accommodate much of this variability.
So, to minimise the risk of surprises, all ground surveys are to be completed well in advance of the work. This will ensure that the correct materials and quantities will be loaded onto the train for each night’s work. Also, although flexibility will be incorporated into the gantry designs with telescopic horizontal pieces, knowing exactly what goes where beforehand will enable the trains to be loaded accurately, complying with the principles of a factory production line process.
It soon becomes apparent that the HOOB will become the heartbeat for the day-to-day operation, justifying the effort that has been taken to ensure the design of the HOOB is fit for purpose and providing every opportunity for the production team to deliver a sustained high level of productivity. The cost of the building will be in the order of £4 million, reflecting its importance and value to the project.
Will the train return empty?
Materials will be stacked in regimented order using military precision for the stockpiling of every item. However, one has to be prepared for the unexpected and, try as one might, the railway environment does have the capacity to unleash the totally unexpected. In recognition of this possibility, work is being undertaken to ensure that there is minute-by-minute
communication throughout the night between those in the HOOB and the production team actually installing the new electrification infrastructure. This will ensure that, if any changes to plan on site do occur, the backup team at the HOOB can immediately respond and reconfigure the requirements to ensure that they are correct for the next night.
It is this built-in agility which clearly indicates that the potential risks are understood and that effective mitigating measures are being thought through and put in place. The message is that, if trains do not return empty, the production line will know exactly what to do and it will not create a problem for the next night’s production.
The HOOB is also designed with the environment in mind, so, alongside the production line approach to productivity, there will be efficient processes for recycling materials – minimising waste and pollution.
Amey has appointed SPL Powerlines Austria to assist with OLE procedures and methods. The Powerlines team has gained significant experience over recent years working on a number of prestigious electrification projects across Europe, linking the practical skills required to install the OLE infrastructure with the design skills of Furrer+Frey, the design consultants appointed by Network Rail.
Without doubt, the national electrification programme will place massive demands on the rail sector. In particular, Amey is acutely
aware that an immense volume of design work will have to be delivered with very little notice by the lead design organisation. Just dealing with heritage issues will offer a
unique set of challenges. It is understood that these demands can only be met by adopting a very clear approach to the way work is designed, planned, and delivered. This
will comprise four key steps: planning and scheduling, organising integrated design teams around deliverables, asset management and supply chain collaboration.
Both Jim McDermott and Simon Bunn emphasised that collaborative working throughout the supply chain is vital to a successful project delivery. The principles of collaborative business relationship management, as laid down in BS11000, will be adopted by Network Rail for the project. Amey has also incorporated the eleven Life Saving Rules which have recently been introduced by Network Rail into their safety management systems for the project, to sit alongside their own safety campaign banner “Target Zero”.
The Amey team for the project consists of about 30 people at the moment. Some of those are making timely visits to the Windhoff factory to see firsthand the High Output System being built. Their involvement will increase over the coming months to ensure that they know everything about the train, how it fits together, its servicing regime and how it is operated. Additional people will be needed, so Amey has embarked on a carefully planned strategy to recruit and develop the skills of its own people so that eventually they have a competent team of around 200 trained to deliver their part of the programme for electrification of the GWML.
Opportunities to minimise disruption to the timetable are constantly being reviewed. A study has been undertaken by Birmingham University to consider the impact to workers from trains passing on the adjacent line at speeds higher than 20mph. Unlike the track renewal high output trains, the electrification train is not designed to undermine the adjacent line so there might be opportunities to allow trains to pass on adjacent lines at higher speeds.
To summarise, the high output train will start to arrive in the spring of 2013. This will be followed by a rigorous testing and commissioning process with the intention of starting work in earnest by September. Whilst this is underway, detailed surveys to establish ground conditions, expose buried cables and identify risks will be carried out, creating volumes of essential information for the project data base. The HOOB will be up and running, providing visible evidence of the production line approach that will be adopted. It all makes sense and, given the experience and success that Amey has enjoyed on the current high output contract, there is good reason to be optimistic that it will be a job well done.
Simon Bunn commented that the greatest compliment came recently from a Network Rail route director who stated that, whilst working on his patch, Amey appeared invisible. The GWML electrification team are striving to ensure that this compliment is repeated some time in 2016.