The last piece in the jigsaw

Regular readers will be familiar with the many different individual engineering projects forming the integrated plan to totally transform the station and surrounding railway infrastructure in the Reading area. Writes Colin Carr

This £895 million project, which started in 2008, is now approaching completion. There are various bits and pieces of work still underway in the station itself, but the one significant project that will complete the aims and objectives of the scheme is the construction of a 2km railway flyover at the west end of the station.

However, let’s start by reviewing the current situation at Reading and the anticipated benefits that will be realised from the successful completion of the overall scheme. At present, more than 50,000 people use Reading Station every day and every day more than 700 trains pass through it. Passenger numbers are increasing and it is estimated that they could be double by 2030.

In addition, freight business has increased by 60% with rail freight traffic from Southampton and other ports passing through Reading and having to cross the main lines in the process. These trains can be up to 750 metres in length. As a consequence, Reading is becoming one of the busiest and most important locations in the country. It is also a train operator’s nightmare.

Improved travel experience

The Reading project can now boast a nearly- completed station that is not only designed to accommodate the anticipated increase in passengers but now also provides easy access into the station from both north and south sides of the town, thus achieving an ambition that the local community has aspired to for some time. Also, at the London end of the station, a formerly-redundant tunnel has been totally refurbished and new tracks installed – thus enabling trains to pass from the north to the south side of the station, without crossing any lines, to link up with the route to Gatwick and beyond. This is dramatically improving the travel experience for passengers travelling from the west to the southeast.Reading Elevated Railway 2 [online]

In addition, a new train depot has been built on the northwest side of the station. The depot complex is more than 2km in length and includes all the latest facilities. It was built because the existing train depot needed to be demolished to make way for the aforementioned viaduct but, before focussing on that, mention must be made of the major bridge reconstruction just west of the station as well as two new railway bridges, built to dramatically improve road facilities in the area.

So, back to the new viaduct. This will be completed in the summer although the infrastructure will be commissioned in December 2014 with trains using the main viaduct from January 2015. It will carry high speed trains (HSTs), that run on the Great Western main line (GWML), over the freight lines and straight into the station. It will also carry Cross Country trains over the freight lines independently of the HSTs, so the different train operators will be able to manoeuvre in and out of the Reading area freely and without impeding each other. This is an operating achievement that has not been addressed since Brunel built the first layout in the 1840s.

Viaduct construction

Clement Kwegyir-Afful is Network Rail’s project manager for civils work on the site. He has been connected with the construction of the viaduct from the beginning, when Network Rail appointed Atkins to design this new structure. Clement was involved with the tendering process and, in November 2012, the letting of the ICE 7th Edition construct-only contract to Balfour Beatty (the contract was later changed to an ICC Target Cost contract). The value of the work was approximately £45 million and the site start date was originally set at 7 January. However, Balfour Beatty could only start in certain areas in April after the completion of stage F, track and S&T removal. William Smith is Balfour Beatty’s Project Director.

The first requirement for building the viaduct was to stabilise the ground ready for the construction of bridge piers, box structures and culverts. Extensive lengths of sheet piling were installed to support the existing running lines and to cater for the varying levels encountered on the site. More than 1008 Continuous Flight Auger (CFA) piles, varying in diameter from 900mm to 1050mm, were also placed, some of which were adjacent to running lines. A careful programme, designed and reviewed hour-by- hour, was introduced to maximise efficiency and avoid any disruption to the railway timetable.

This worked well and the ground work was completed successfully, although there were periods of terrible weather and site flooding. Clement explained that, during these periods, it was important to inspire the entire workforce to focus on the end goal and the belief that all targets are achievable when they work together as a team, regardless of conditions.

Various innovative methods were introduced and, on occasions, the piling had to be carried out within two-metre-diameter tubes which kept the groundwater from gushing up to destabilise the piling mat.

As well as the CFA piling, an additional 1851 Vibro concrete column (VCC) piles, each six metres long and 600mm in diameter, were installed at each end of the viaduct to support the reinforced earth ramps. In total there are now 21.5km of CFA piles and 10.5km of VCC piles in the ground supporting the structure of the new viaduct.

Piers fixed and free

Atkins designed two types of bridge pier, one a fixed pier two metres wide and the other a free pier 1.2 metres wide. The fixed piers are supported on a 16 pile configuration and the free piers are supported by eight piles. The reinforced concrete fixed and free piers alternate and they are positioned 25 metres apart, ready to support seven precast concrete beams. The design requires these precast concrete beams to be fixed together longitudinally with interlocking reinforced concrete over the fixed piers, thus allowing bending moment forces to be transferred into the columns and for the beams to be freely supported on the free piers with a 60mm gap between the beams.

The beams were fabricated and supplied by Shay Murtagh and had to be transported across the Irish sea to Liverpool and then on to site by road. It was important that the beams arrived on time and facing in the right direction given the fixed and free ends involved. Whenever possible, the beams were tandem lifted into position using 200 tonne and 160 tonne crawler cranes provided by Weldex. Where tandem lifting was not possible, a 500 tonne mobile crane was used to position the beams. This operation was logistically very complex and required considerable effort and skill from the supplier to ensure that all worked well, which it did.

Under/over boxes

Whilst the beams were being delivered and positioned, three concrete box structures were being built to accommodate the locations where one track was to pass under another. The Reading west box, where the existing freight line passes under the viaduct travelling toward Didcot, had to be constructed when possessions were made available because the freight line was still in use during construction.

The second box is located at the other end of the viaduct where the new freight line passes under the viaduct toward the station and the third box transfers the Cross Country route off the Festival Line viaduct which runs alongside and then underneath the main viaduct. These three box locations are significant structures in their own right with 900mm diameter piles running longitudinally, supporting the box walls.

An insitu concrete deck was then constructed over the precast concrete deck beams and finally insitu cantilevered walkways constructed over the deck edge beams ready to receive the ballast and track.

Clement was keen to point out that, wherever possible, material excavated from site was being recycled and the demolished material from the old train depot and ancillary buildings was being crushed and regraded. The material was then being used to provide fill for the reinforced earth ramps at either end of the viaduct.

The area close to the demolished depot and the new freight line was a wetland area and, to compensate for the loss of this land, Network Rail agreed with the Environmental Agency that they would construct a reception pond with flood relief culverts constructed underneath the new freight line.

Network Rail estimates that, by using combinations of imported fills from 100% recycled sources as well as the reuse of pile- arising materials from the works, they will achieve over 90% diversion from landfill. This is, without doubt, a significant achievement.

Reading Elevated Railway 3 [online]Time challenge

Throughout the project there has been a determined effort to complete the work ahead of schedule. Already, the Reading project team has shaved off a total of twelve months off the original timetable which, as Clement pointed out, is mainly down to time saved revamping the civils work. As part of this on-going effort, Clement explained that there is a concrete laboratory on the viaduct site and a technique called ‘Match Curing’ is used to determine the strength of concrete.

Normally, sample cubes taken from a batch of concrete are crushed to determine its strength. However, the concrete cube does not necessarily reflect the true strength of the insitu concrete which has the capacity to generate considerable heat and therefore additional strength. So, using the ‘Match Curing’ technique, electrodes are inserted into the insitu concrete to measure the temperature and the sample cubes are kept in a bath of water maintained at the same temperature. As a consequence, it has been possible to determine accurately the higher strength of the insitu concrete compared to the cube and therefore commence the next phase of work in advance of the programme. This simple initiative has enabled the team to make some significant savings in time.

All deadlines met

Clement was keen to reveal that the team has not missed a deadline yet on this project. He believes that, by working alongside the many different groups of skilled people involved in this project, including Balfour Beatty staff, reinforcement fixers, carpenters and scaffolders from SWORD, URS environmental advisors and crane operators from Weldex, they will continue to deliver on time. At any one time there are more than 400 personnel on site and they all appear to share Clement’s determination to meet the deadlines.

The viaduct will be completed by the end of July this year ready for track installation by Network Rail. The Festival Line viaduct and Freight Line will be completed by mid January 2015.

So, it looks like the final piece of the Reading project jigsaw will be in place well ahead of time. This is great news and there will be a worthy railway asset in place for generations to come. The layout will also be equipped with the necessary infrastructure required for the next phase of development, the electrification of the GWML.

As a footnote, once the tracks are in use over the viaduct, Network Rail will be able to complete the widening of Cow Lane from one lane to two. It will also be lowered by about two metres which will then allow buses to use this route for the first time. Cow Lane is a notorious bottleneck, so motorists as well as rail passengers will be able to appreciate the full benefit of this fascinating project.

Big reveal at Nottingham station

A freshly-refurbished Nottingham station has been re-opened to passengers as the countdown continues to the completion of a multi-million pound rail investment programme in the city.

The Grade 2-listed station’s restored booking hall and porte-cochere (taxi rank) returned to service on March 31, along with a new ticket office on Carrington Street.

Work to upgrade the station is now nearing completion, with the southern concourse expected to open in the next six to eight weeks and the new tram stop to be completed by the end of the year. Once open, the southern concourse will connect the station with the new multi-storey car park and the tram stop.

Project partners Network Rail, East Midlands Trains, Taylor Woodrow and Nottingham City Council have delivered the redevelopment as part of the £150 million Nottingham Hub project. Around £50 million has been invested in the station building, with the remainder used to carry out major resignalling works and track renewals around the station.

As well as featuring carefully restored period architecture, the new booking hall includes new ticket machines and passenger information screens.

The taxi rank at the front of the station has also been removed and pedestrianised.

Network Rail area director Justin Page said: “It’s really been about retaining as much of the old character but bringing in new materials to reflect and enhance what was there.”

East Midlands Trains’ managing director, David Horne, said the project was a “really good example of how this type of project can be done”.

Nottingham railway station, known as Nottingham Midland station, was opened in May 1839.

Sydney light rail extension opened

A $176 million extension of Sydney’s light rail system has opened between Lilyfield and Dulwich Hill.

The Inner West Light Rail project has added an extra nine stations to the network, which connects Sydney’s Inner West with the city centre.

The new 5.6-kilometre line runs along the former Rozelle freight rail corridor and provides 11 trains an hour during peak times.

Australasian Railway Association (ARA) chief executive Bryan Nye said: “As Sydney continues to expand, traffic congestion will become an increasingly challenging problem.

“Investing in light rail provides a proven long term solution that will contribute to a more seamless public transport system for the city of Sydney.”

Network Rail publishes £38bn investment plan

Network Rail is preparing to begin its new five-year funding period – a £38 billion investment programme for the continued operation and improvement of Britain’s railways.

Britain’s infrastructure manager has outlined its targets for Control Period 5 (CP5); these include creating the extra capacity for 170,000 additional peak time commuter seats and electrifying more than 850 miles of railway.

Over the course of the next five years, Network Rail plans to renew 7,000 kilometres of track, replace 300,000m2 of platforms and invest in new technologies, such as the ETCS overlay on the Great Western main line.

The investment is designed to meet a growing demand for rail services. Over the next decade that demand is to increase by a further 30 per cent, according to Network Rail.

The five-year plan includes the ambitious target of reducing the cost of running Britain’s railway by 20 per cent.

Mark Carne, chief executive of Network Rail, said: “Millions of passengers and freight users will benefit enormously from the plans we set out today to wisely spend and invest £38 billion in transforming some of the busiest parts of our railway network.

“Dawlish has shown us at our best when we work in a planned, disciplined and innovative way. Our aim is to emulate that approach and embed it in our organisation so that we are continuously improving the service for our customers.

“Passenger, public and workforce safety will be at the core of our plans. Good safety performance and good train and business performance go hand-in-hand and in both, we must strive for, and deliver, continuous improvement day by day.

“Britain’s railways are a vital part of our national infrastructure. They connect homes and workplaces, businesses with markets, they create jobs, stimulate trade and support the growth of a balanced economy.

“We are good at delivering projects both great and small and at providing a safe and reliable railway but want to do even more for the people that rely on our railway network. This investment responds to the growth and demands being placed upon us by delivering bigger, better stations, more trains and seats, reopened railway lines and fewer level crossings.

“We all want an improving, safer, successful and better value railway for everyone, and that is what we will do.”

Scotland to invest £170m on Aberdeen-Inverness line

Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond has announced a plan to invest £170 million to improve the Aberdeen-Inverness line.

Projects will include redoubling the track between Aberdeen and Inverurie, platform extensions to accommodate six-car trains at Insch and Elgin, signalling improvements at Elgin, a new relocated station at Forres and a loop extension of the track at Forres.

The work will be completed over the next five years, supporting an hourly service between the cities with average journey times of around two hours.

Salmond also confirmed that ScotRail had been given the green light to launch a new timetable in May which will include a new hourly Sunday Aberdeen/Glasgow service, more weekday services between Inverurie and Aberdeen and a new early-morning peak service from Huntly to Aberdeen.

The First Minister said: “I am determined that we continue to seek improvements to Scotland’s train infrastructure, ensuring that we have an efficient, reliable and comfortable service for passengers in communities across the country.

“That is why today’s announcement is so important – a huge £170 million investment on the Aberdeen-Inverness line that will make journeys shorter, more frequent and more comfortable for those who use this important line regularly.

“These improvements – which will increase the number of trains, improve signalling and lay the infrastructure necessary for new stations, will be welcomed by passengers, who will also be pleased to hear of the service enhancements that will see their timetable improve in the coming weeks.

“This investment is all part of our programme to ensure Scotland has a railway fit for the future and our £5 billion commitment to rail infrastructure and services is addressing decades of neglect on the railways throughout Scotland.”

Steve Montgomery, managing director of ScotRail, said: “We are seeing strong demand for Sunday services between Aberdeen and Glasgow. Adding four express trains in each direction will give people many more journey opportunities throughout the day.”

David Dickson, Network Rail acting route managing director for Scotland, said: “Increasing capacity across the network and offering passengers a wider range of services is a key priority for Network Rail and we look forward to working with the Scottish Government to deliver this much-needed enhancement of the line.”

Austria referred to European court over rail safety concerns

Austria has been referred to the European Court of Justice for failing to bring its national rail safety standards into line with EU legislation.

The European Commission said that the country was “denying the safety authority the right to revise safety certificates or authorisations following changes to the regulatory framework” and “failing to ensure proper investigation of accidents and incidents – specifically those which under slightly different conditions might have led to serious accidents”.

The EU originally set a deadline of April 30, 2006, to implement a new directive requiring all member states to “establish a safety authority, to establish accident and incident investigation bodies, and to define common principles for the management, regulation and supervision of railway safety”.

In June 2013, the Commission told Austria it needed to take action to comply with the new rules.

Commission Vice-President Siim Kallas, responsible for transport, said: “One of the EU’s key roles is to ensure equal safety standards for the well-being of rail passengers in all Member States. These standards also ensure fair competition within the internal market among all railway undertakings.”

North West Rail Link TBMs to arrive early

North West Rail Link tunnel boring machines (TBM) will be in the ground from the end of October this year, officials have said.

The first TBM will be ready to begin tunnelling works on the $8.3 billion project ahead of schedule, according to NSW Premier and Minister for Western Sydney Barry O’Farrell and Minister for Transport Gladys Berejiklian.

A joint venture of Thiess, John Holland and Dragados (TJHD) was awarded a $1.15 billion contract last year to construct 15 kilometres of twin-bored tunnels and excavate five underground stations.

O’Farrell said: “I am pleased to announce we will deliver on our commitment to get the tunnel boring machine in the ground ahead of schedule. Instead of the end of year, the first tunnel boring machine will be in operation here at Bella Vista by October, after a detailed assembly process on site.

“We’re getting on with the job of building the biggest public transport project in the country and a critical piece of infrastructure that will change the way of life for the people of Sydney’s North West.

“The $8.3 billion North West Rail Link is on budget and moving forward rapidly.”

A further three TBMs will follow delivery of the first in October.

Trenitalia recieves first Jazz

Trenitalia has been presented with the first of a new fleet of Coradia Meridian regional trains, nicknamed ‘Jazz’, in Rome.

Alstom is manufacturing 70 new trains for the Italian operator after agreeing a €440 million order in November 2012.

The new trains will be delivered in four different configurations; metropolitan, regional, regional express and airport.

Pierre-Louis Bertina, president and managing director of Alstom Ferroviaria, said: “The delivery of the train as scheduled bears witness to the commitment of the entire company to this project.

“On the basis of this commission, Alstom has hired 300 employees thus contributing to the growth of the Italian railway industry.

“Our hope is that the train will open up new opportunities for our Italian factories and the sub-contractors that are equally committed to confronting this challenge.”

Coradia Meridian trains are designed and produced at facilities in Savigliano (Cuneo), Bologna and Sesto San Giovanni (Milan).

Northern franchise extended to 2016

The Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that Northern Rail will continue to operate rail services in the north of England until February 2016.

The Direct Award will see Serco and Abellio hang on to the franchise until a long-term strategy can be drawn up.

Following negotiations with the Government, Northern has committed to improving ticket purchase facilities and passenger information systems as part of the two-year extension.

The operator will also engage in talks with the DfT to discuss proposals to deliver a new fleet of electric trains to replace the current diesel stock.

Alex Hynes, managing director of Northern Rail, said: “The next 22 months is about being more efficient and more effective, seeking and delivering new ways of working. That doesn’t mean taking short cuts or risks. It’s about achieving a balance: delivering a safe and improved service in a new way: doing more with less.

“We’re already delivering enhancements across our network; our services are more punctual and reliable, and the commitment is there to drive further efficiency with our partners.

Hynes added: “Crucially today’s announcement gives us the opportunity to start consulting with all our stakeholders on the requirements for creating a step change in rail services for the North under the next long term franchise.”

Crossrail to run to Reading

Crossrail has extended its route west, with services now set to call at Twyford and Reading from 2019.

Rather than terminating at Maidenhead, Crossrail will run two services an hour from Reading, allowing passengers to travel into Central London without changing at Paddington.

A total of 40 stations will now be served by the route, which will be opened in phases from 2017 to 2019.

Transport for London (TfL)T said: “The extension will also help to meet increases in passenger numbers by providing greater capacity than the previous plans.”

The additional services will also mean purchasing an extra train on top of the 65 already on order.

Rail Minister Stephen Hammond said: “Crossrail reaching Reading is further proof of our commitment to deliver a transport network fit for the 21st century. It will improve connectivity and deliver greater choice and convenience for passengers travelling into London. It will also make better use of the already congested Great Western Main Line, freeing up capacity for further improvements including potential direct services from Reading to Heathrow as part of the Western Access Scheme.”

There will be no change to the planned Great Western services from Reading to London with twice hourly semi-fast services and fast mainline services continuing to operate and call at the same stations as today.