When it comes to rail projects in the rest of the country — that is, anywhere except London — things are handled a little differently. Much of our work for Network Rail and its main contractors, is managed by local Lanes’ depots, particularly when it involves standard Lanes’ services like blockage removals on stations; CCTV surveys of platform and station drainage; or cleaning and CCTV surveys of trackside drains. Sewer or drain rehabilitation, too, is directly undertaken by our specialist Reline Division.
Some specific rail projects are co-ordinated by a team at our Manchester hub, wherever the work is required. This is a rolling programme of rail culvert maintenance and asset condition surveys.
As preferred contractor for Amalgamated Construction (Amco), Lanes cleans and surveys culverts running under the railtracks. This is vital work. For Network Rail, owners of the infrastructure, it’s essential that culverts are maintained: any deterioration would be a risk to the integrity of the track itself. The work is planned, rather than reactive, generally. However since it is often done during works of a wider scope, and for other logistical reasons, lead times may be quite short as Lanes’ particular phase of the work is scheduled. A culvert clean may be a one-off which requires special attention, or part of a series — like the 143 culverts on the new east coast freight line from Peterborough to Doncaster.
Tackling culverts requires a concerted logistical effort. Frequently sited in remote spots, miles from anywhere, these culverts may range in size from 300mm right up to 1.2 metres in diameter. Mostly around 15 metres in length (running straight under a two-line track), they may also be constructed in random masonry, brick-built or formed from concrete box sections. Whatever the structure, Lanes’ role is to rid them of silt, debris and other blockages, before using CCTV camera equipment to provide a full visual survey and report to the client.
Certain features of this work are worth a mention. Firstly, being primarily in rural locations, there may be a need for an eco survey prior to any work being allowed to commence; so an ecologist will attend to establish the presence, or otherwise, of protected species like bats or newts, or invasive plants such as the dreaded Japanese Knotweed, or Giant Hogweed which can burn and irritate the skin.
Secondly, eight out of ten sites are so remote that access with any plant and machinery would be impossible without a temporary trackway being laid. Amco therefore has to scope, plan, source and lay this even before Lanes is able to carry out its phase of the works.
Thirdly, we use recycling tankers precisely because of this remoteness; because our Kaiser Whale units continually recycle the water until it is clean enough to re-use. That means there is no need to leave site to refill: a cost-effective and greener solution all round.
Example 1: First impressions can be deceptive
At Barmby Dun, near Doncaster, a culvert running under the tracks was to be desilted and surveyed to assess its condition. That the culvert was near a decommissioned and partly demolished power station meant both the culvert water and surrounding soil may have been contaminated by arsenic and copper from the former coal storage area, and ash slurry hoppers which had flooded and were discharging through the culvert.
Its remote location also meant that Amco’s enabling works had to include levelling up and laying stone on 150-metres of rutted farm track to provide access, and then a further 100-metres of aluminium trackway to take our vehicles within 20-metres of the culvert.
At the initial site visit, heavy overgrowth had made the outlet only partially visible, so the culvert’s dimensions had been estimated. Once on the job though, it was clear that the culvert was almost twice the anticipated size. Undeterred, Lanes carried out a full structural CCTV survey on completion of the clean up and found the culvert was actually a substantial 1230mm wide by 2250mm high.
As the work was time-critical, Lanes assigned two units to the project: a Kaiser recycling tanker jetted the culvert with high pressure water, whilst a 3000-gallon vacuum tanker removed the sludge to a disposal facility. To facilitate this, Amco cleared all the vegetation and excavated a 2-metre wide, 3-metre long, 1-metre deep sump hole (spoil from this also had to be taken for waste disposal due to the contaminants) to store debris and sludge whilst the tanker was away unloading. In total, almost 40 tonnes of sludge were removed to a waste station.
Example 2: There’s a hole in my track.
When a gaping hole appeared near Edge Hill Station in Liverpool, the line was immediately blocked to all trains as a precaution whilst a Lanes’ crew was mobilised, as matter of urgency, to investigate. On inserting a CCTV camera into the void, the team were surprised to find a manmade tunnel, approximately one-metre wide and two-metres high, which had been blocked off with rubble around five-metres in either direction. Once the mysterious chamber had been filled in with grout, and the line re-opened, the team were eager to know more. They discovered that the passage — and many more like it in the area — had been commissioned by local philanthropist and eccentric, Joseph Williamson (1769—1840). Despite speculation at the time that he was a member of an extremist religious sect, who feared that the world was about to end, it turned out that his incentive for building the tunnels was a noble one: Williamson had insisted that his workers "all received a weekly wage and were thus enabled to enjoy the blessing of charity without the attendant curse of stifled self respect". In other words, he was just creating jobs for the poor.
For more information about our Rail Division’s asset maintenance survey service, call 0800 526488. If your requirement is for Lanes’ station, platform and trackside drainage services, please click here for more information. For rail-related sewer and drain renovation queries, click here.