On its stand B130, Schweizer Electronic will be exhibiting at this year’s Railtex at London’s Earls Court on 14-16 June 2011. At the show Schweizer plans to display its new Lookout Operated Warning System (LOWS), permanent Automatic Warning Systems (ATWS), a Train Emergency stop and its level crossing system, Flex.

‘This is the first time we’ve exhibited at Railtex’ said Chris Foreman, General Manager of Schweizer Electronic UK ‘we really wanted to show visitors our product range, developed with the type of safety and track access issues rail maintenance and construction teams are facing at the moment’

From its headquarters in Switzerland, Schweizer Electronic’s new Lookout Operated Warning System (LOWS) has been built to provide a flexible warning device, portable for maintenance patrolling whilst also capable of setting up a temporary semi automatic track warning system in plain line work sites. For maintenance delivery teams where higher safety levels for track workers and 24/7 track access is becoming challenging under a 7 day railway and increasing traffic, Schweizer Electronic are now introducing the permanent installation of Minimel 95 ATWS onto the rail network.

Since adjacent open line working is becoming more of an imperative to prevent passenger disruption, Schweizer Electronic are now working on an Emergency Stop system to prevent the risk of collision between road rail excavators, track machinery and trains. The system which is integrated into the ATWS utilises a mobile TPWS, circuit breakers and temporary red signals.

Also from its stand, Schweizer Electronic plan to exhibit its FLEX railway crossing. This provides a safe and affordable crossing system which is scalable from small rural user worked crossings to complex multi barrier systems. It is made up of familiar, extremely reliable industrial components and equipped with market-leading LED and wheel sensor technology.

Schweizer Electronic UK provides Automatic Track Warning Systems (ATWS) and Lookout Operated Warning Systems (LOWS) which improve safety and access to running rail in a red zone environment. Its track worker protection systems have a minimum SIL3 rating and are only used under approval from Network Rail. Schweizer Electronic supports a group of nationwide partners who offer planning, installation and operation services for ATWS and LOWS.

The number of people travelling by train rose to record new levels in 2010 as the rail industry bounced back strongly from recession, carrying more passengers in a peacetime year than at any time since the 1920s, according to figures published today.

The figures, published by the Association of Train Operating Companies (ATOC), show that 1.32 billion passenger journeys were made by train last year – a rise of 6.9% when compared to 2009 and a rise of 37% when compared to 2000. Passengers travelled a record 33.3bn miles by train.

Growth was highest in the summer months, which saw a year on year rise of 8%. Year on year demand also grew strongly during the final quarter of the year despite two heavy bouts of snow in December that caused disruption across all forms of transport and across the country.

According to official statistics, the number of passenger journeys made in a peacetime year haven’t been higher since the mid 1920s when the railway was roughly twice the size that it is now and the vast majority of the network ran on steam trains.

ATOC says that the growth was partly driven by people taking advantage of cheap tickets.

For example, the sale of cheap Advance tickets rose 12% compared to 2009 and the average price paid for a single journey fell from £5.00 to £4.96. Other contributing factors were:

- A 15% rise in petrol prices over the course of 2010.
- Continued improvements to rail services, including historically high punctuality, more frequent services on many routes and the roll-out of services such as wi-fi.
- The return to growth of the broader economy for much of 2010 and employment holding up better than expected in parts of the country.
- The successful rollout of Oyster Pay as You Go to all national rail services in the capital, which is thought to be a significant factor in growth in London and the South East. The latest figures show two million journeys a week on Pay As You Go on national rail trains in the capital.

Michael Roberts, Chief Executive of ATOC said: “2010 was a year of strong growth in rail journeys, as demand bounced back from the recession and passenger numbers rose to levels not witnessed in peacetime Britain since the 1920s. With well over a billion journeys made last year, the last time rail travel was this popular train crews were shoveling coal into steam engines and many carriages were still lit by gaslight.

“Despite tough times for many people, train companies have been able to attract greater numbers of passengers to the railways with a range of affordable tickets for all types of customers. The average price paid for a single train journey actually fell at a time when the cost of petrol rose significantly, playing a part in encouraging people out of their cars and onto the railways.

“Passenger rail supports thousands of businesses and helps millions of people every day to get to work, meet friends and family or just to get out and about to have fun. The challenge will be to continue this growth during 2011.”

In the 1960’s, engineers from the Schweizer family in Switzerland was so concerned about the lack of a safe and reliable warnings to track workers of approaching trains that they developed an Automatic Track Warning System (ATWS). This system used train detection devices fixed to the track and delivered a warning to workers through a series of lights and sounders.  Over 45 years and several generations of technology later, there can now be as many as 100 ATWS systems in use at the same time on the Swiss rail network, a practice adopted on a similar scale by other countries on the continent.

Now compare this to the UK whose rail network is 10 times the size of the Swiss, where it’s likely that less than 5 ATWS systems are operating at the same time. So why isn’t ATWS more widely used in the UK?

 ‘It’s a lot to do with a lack of awareness, a perception that ATWS is expensive and an inconsistent implementation of RiMini’ commented Chris Foreman, General Manager of Schweizer Electronic Ltd, ‘although ATWS is taught as part of Personal Track Safety (PTS), there’s not enough understanding of what it does and its cost benefits compared to traditional forms of track worker protection’. Is it claimed that after a couple of days an ATWS system can be cheaper than using multiple lookouts.

The high cost of line blockages compared to using an ATWS

Companies that supply ATWS claim that the cost savings can be more dramatic when you compare the true cost of using ATWS compared to blocking a line outside of a white period. White periods are specific times during the week when no trains are scheduled, and track is available for maintenance work. It is widely reported that if Network Rail blocks a line for maintenance work when trains are scheduled it pays fines to the train operating companies for delays or cancellations. These potential costs however rarely seem to be taken into account when comparing the costs of using ATWS as an alternative.

In addition it doesn’t seem to be widely known that an ATWS system together with a fenced green zone allows heavy machinery which could foul an adjacent open line to continue working. Although this method of working facilitates Single Line Working and means a route can be kept open, a complete route block and the associated costs of doing it still seem to be the preferred method. With ever increasing pressure on the train operators to provide a high level of service to its passengers and keep services running during engineering works, surely the revenue the operating companies generate from these fines, which can be excessive for the busiest routes, won’t compensate for the increased passenger satisfaction levels they are striving to achieve.

Short and unreliable possessions reduce productivity

Carrying out maintenance work on the busiest lines under a T2, T3 or T12 is likely to get more difficult as steps taken to implement a 7 day railway continue, particularly when you consider that an extended timetable means more trains with correspondingly more maintenance work, but shorter possession availability to achieve it.  ‘Some delivery units already experience short and unreliable line blockages which impacts on productivity’ said Chris Foreman ‘contractors have told us that although they pay their track workers for a full shift, they may only get a few hours of productive time on the track. What’s frustrating is that the contractor can see the benefits of using an ATWS system but hasn’t the motivation to use it when the cost inefficiencies are passed onto the network’. Surprisingly Network Rail’s own RiMini process, NR/SP/OHS/019, provides the facility to adopt red zone working when the time taken to set up the Green zone takes more than 25% of the total time to carry out the work.

A lookout is likely to make a mistake every 1000 actions

Perhaps more concerning than the wasted productivity opportunities, are instances where ATWS has not been fully evaluated as an option before reverting to lookouts. With more stringent corporate manslaughter legislation, you would expect delivery units to be more conscious of proving that appropriate steps have been taken to minimise risks. ‘ATWS providers still come across instances where ATWS could have provided a cost effective form of work protection, taking less than 25% of the total project time to install it ’, continued Chris Foreman ‘but for whatever reason an ATWS system was not even considered. An ATWS system rated at SIL3 (Safety Integrity Level 3) theoretically only fails once every 10,000 years, or practically never, whereas a conventional lookout rated at SIL0 is likely to make a mistake every 1000 actions’.

With such compelling reasons to use it, how can ATWS providers help the rail industry increase the usage of ATWS and benefit from its safety and productivity improvements? ‘It’s probably just as simple as giving an ATWS provider a chance to quote’ claimed Chris Foreman ‘we do believe that most delivery units that trial ATWS will not want to revert back to the traditional ways of warning track workers. At the moment, most use of ATWS in the UK is concentrated to localised areas of the rail network that tried it and now adopt it for much of their works. With rail maintenance budgets under continued pressure ATWS could help make significant savings, while on the other hand maintain high levels of safety’.

By any measure, a new main line railway station is a rare commodity. There has been only a handful over the past 20 years, some linked to regional airports. But the south-east has its own, congestion-easing rail-air interchange at Southend Airport - the work of infrastructure engineers Stobart Rail. Situated just a few minutes up the line from Southend Victoria, the new station will play a key part in the airport’s evolution from a sleepy general aviation base into a busy east-of-London terminal, ready to exploit the influx of visitors expected for the 2012 Olympics.
 
The vision to develop Southend Airport came from the Stobart Group itself - better known as Britain’s most recognised truck operator but, in reality, a diversified transport company with a well-established rail division, Stobart Rail. “We’ve been working with Network Rail and other rail engineering clients for some years” says the firm’s managing director Kirk Taylor, “but Southend Airport Station is our biggest project yet - a complete design and build from the ground up, with very intricate working conditions on a busy commuter line into London.”
 
A 40-minute train ride from Stratford’s Olympic Stadium on the line into Liverpool Street, Southend Airport is expected to be handling one million passengers a year soon after opening in 2012, with that figure doubling by 2020. Hence the need for a new station to cope with the one in five passengers expected to take the train into the capital and the Games’ venues, making the station an integral function of the airport.
 
Planning navigation
Stobart Group took control of Southend Airport in the December of 2008, immediately developing ambitious expansion plans including the new rail station and car park, terminal building, air traffic control tower and a 300m runway extension. It has delivered rail infrastructure works through its Stobart Rail division since 1998, completing dozens of major schemes. Typical projects delivered have been bridge reconstructions and refurbishments including track-off, track-on p-way works, track slab installations of both Rheda 2000 and Pandrol Vipa systems which reduce tolerance on the track construction, enabling lines to accommodate larger gauge rolling stock. These and many other projects are precision engineered and have been carried out on major routes throughout the United Kingdom.
 
“Stobart Rail specialises in time-critical works where minimising disruption to services and delivering a high quality job are vital” says Kirk Taylor. The Southend Airport interchange falls into this category. “This project has enabled us to demonstrate Stobart Rail at its best, delivering a multi-disciplined scheme utilising in-house resource across a broad spectrum of activities.” Speed has certainly characterised the project, with designs commissioned by Atkins Global, smoothed through the planning process and built in just 23 months, all for £12.5 million.
 
The company plunged into the planning process with the local council as soon as it took control of the airport, knowing that seamlessly integrating the air and rail operations was vital. Hand luggage-only plane passengers should be on the station platform just 15 minutes after touchdown. A high quality design was agreed, featuring metal-clad buildings with an enclosed high-level walkway to link the west and eastbound platforms. “It’s a quality design that pleased the planners and we’ve carried that quality through into the build,” says Taylor.
 
Stobart consulted with the Southend line’s operator National Express to ensure the finished station would meet with the operational requirements of all the other stations along the route. Additionally the company met with the Office of Rail Regulation as it was the intention to apply for a licence to operate a main line station. The Group Board decided it would prefer to operate the station in-house as it would give greater opportunity to control customer care and satisfaction.
 
To the casual observer, the bridge and platforms are the obvious signs that Southend Airport has a new station. But the invisible ground works and construction preparations absorbed a great deal of time, resources and planning.
 
Getting underway
All that started in January 2009 with multiple regulatory site surveys, including unexploded ordnance (none unearthed), archaeology (Iron Age fire pits logged and recorded) and wildlife (150 slow-worms, lizards and rare spiders found and relocated). “The whole of the site footprint had to be fenced off so that specialist contractors could check the wildlife over a three-week period at the start of the build in early 2009,” says project manager Stephen Harker.
 
Then, before construction of the twin 250m platforms could begin, Stobart had to straighten and level the tracks to ensure the carriages and platforms lined-up correctly, and the platform surfaces were perfectly level to meet Network Rail standards. “It sounds like a simple job but one of our most complex engineering tasks was to realign the tracks to ensure they were co-planar,” recalls Harker.
 
Procurement of the tamper to align the track could not be made until after the platforms were constructed which differs from normal procedure. Inevitably this would have meant either a two month delay or laser profiling to de-risk the chance of being out of tolerance. Given the tight project timeline, the company couldn’t afford any mistakes so they brought in a laser-levelling machine to perform a gauging analysis and check the kinematic envelope of trains as they passed through the station. “Expensive but essential if we wanted to stay on schedule” insists Harker. To get parallel and co-planar tracks involved Stobart carrying out slews of 125mm and lifts of 75mm.
 
Time pressures
Built to Network Rail’s latest standards and containing 6,000 building blocks, the coping stones were laid to an accuracy of +5mm and -15mm. All the platform foundations, blockwork, oversailers and brickwork were constructed while trains were running at their usual 20-minute intervals, although much of the key work was scheduled for overnight periods when services stopped and possessions could be taken.
 
Construction gangs worked a 12-hour day shift, with safety enhanced by an Automatic Track Warning System which gave a 30-second warning of an approaching train. The night shift was shorter at eight hours, but was uninterrupted by the passenger service. “The platform build is traditional but the pressure on time when only limited windows of opportunity are given always presents a challenge” says Harker.
 
Speedy action was needed on both the realignment and platform build because Stobart’s timetable had no slack in it for booking service disruptions with Network Rail and the line’s operator National Express. “If we’d booked disruptive possessions, the lead time would probably have pushed the project back 12 months and affected the whole redevelopment plan for the airport,” asserts Taylor. So Stobart piggy-backed on other contractors’ possessions which required steely discipline to finish tasks on time. Even the replacement of overhead line equipment (OLE) was completed without booking a disruptive possession. “It piled on the pressure but we got it done” Harker recollects.
 
As well as these precision activities, there was much earth-moving to be done, with new embankments constructed for each platform requiring 10,000 tonnes of hardcore and earth. Around half of that material came from waste concrete already on site - this was reused to keep local truck movements to a minimum. “Hardly any material has gone off site” says Taylor proudly. “We’ve really minimised waste to landfill.”
 
When the track was realigned, the OLE also had to be repositioned to match the track and fit around the platforms. Sensibly Stobart retained the existing catenary wiring where possible but installed seven new steel portal structures, complete with concrete foundations, stove pipes, contact and catenary supports with associated wiring and registration equipment. As part of the works, nine existing structures were removed. Among the technical challenges was the electrification equipment’s unusual configuration which is unique to the Southend-Liverpool Street line - a legacy of being one of the first in the UK to be electrified.
 
Uplifting experience
Once the platforms, track and OLE hardware were in place, Stobart turned its attention to the station, installing the overhead walkway linking the eastbound platform to the entrance and concourse on the other side of the railway. To simplify the task, all the services to and from the platform were routed under the tracks. That kept the footbridge free of electrical wiring and plumbing etc, therefore there was no reliance on any service feeds should the bridge installation fail. The bridge superstructure was 90% clad before installation so there was no need for contractors to work above the line and therefore no safety-related service disruptions to slow down the construction process.
 
Steelwork for the walkway was supplied by a British firm and trucked to site as a kit of assemblies to be bolted into a finished structure. Once again, the installation programme left no room for mistakes or serious snags. “There was no Plan B for craning the footbridge into place” grimaces Taylor. “We had a six-hour possession window and no chance for anything to go wrong.” The next available opportunity would be at a minimum of 12 weeks later - a delay that once again would have put a major spanner in the redevelopment works for the airport. To minimise the risk Stobart booked a 500-tonne lifting crane, twice the capacity required for the installation.
 
Steelwork arrived on site at the beginning of March. The footbridge slotted smoothly into position in the allotted time window and, in doing so, completed the major construction phases of Southend Airport Station. By the end of May, the bridge was fully-clad and waterproofed, with work moving onto the final fit-out.
 
Expertise demonstrated
But there were still dozens of other tasks to be completed including connecting the station to the line’s signalling system. As well as commissioning the driver only operation (DOO) equipment, 12 monitor banks containing up to six flat-screen TFT displays were installed at the 4, 8, and 12-car stops bi-directionally - convenient to see from the driver’s cab - and a communications room festooned with wiring such as broadband links into the BT network. To minimise installation time, all the cables were pre-cut off-site to a plan based on the station’s layout drawings.
 
“Stobart Rail is all about delivering solutions” says a justifiably satisfied Taylor. “People have come to us for our expertise and this new station project is a clear demonstration of that. We’ve proven we can deliver a complete major project. Now we’re expecting more people to come to us in future for similar schemes.”

Running a seven day railway benefits rail travellers, freight forwarders, infrastructure contractors, the economy and the environment - everyone wins. By increasing the frequency of trains and reducing disruption of train services by engineering works, hopefully confidence in the railway and with it passenger numbers will rise. Certainly for many travellers, less coach services and fewer interrupted journeys will be very welcome. The challenge for the industry though is a difficult one. More trains, means more maintenance, which in turn means more track possessions, which in itself disrupts services.

On the ground, one effect of this phenomenon is the difficulty in obtaining a T2 on time, and then having it taken off you prematurely.

‘We are seeing increasing numbers of clients with this type of problem’ says Chris Foreman, General Manager of Schweizer Electronic UK. ‘Clients are under increasing pressure to bring jobs in on budget, but are finding it very difficult when time is wasted in this way.’

Schweizer Electronic provides automated warning systems specifically targeted at protecting people and equipment on operated rail tracks. Formed in Switzerland in 1964, Schweizer’s core technology is its MINIMEL95 system, a combination of rail-based sensors, cables, a central data processor and a series of audio and visual signalling devices, which offer highly reliable automated protection to work sites.

In October 2007, Network Rail’s business plan for the supporting the 7 day railway, spoke about quick wins. Under Rimini ATWS is the first choice for Red Zone working, and can provide an economic and safe solution to possession issues. ‘Because work is only interrupted by train movements and warnings, ATWS provides more productive time on the track,’ argues Chris Foreman. ‘It provides one of the answers to the problem of maintaining the railway with ever increasing traffic, while at the same time ensuring safety.’