James Bond and ground engineering are not natural bedfellows, but site investigation specialist Lankelma claims to have revolutionised rail earthworks monitoring with an invention that could grace any 007 fi lm set.
UK12, or the Rail Truck as it is more affectionately known, is a road to rail vehicle with a difference. Beneath the truck is a bogey with a turntable mechanism, which lifts the whole rig in the air and allows it to be spun through 360°, so it can get onto the raillway at almost any conceivable access point.
The truck can park across the rails with its front and back wheels on either side. It then aligns the rail bogey above the track before lowering it.
With the bogey engaged, the truck body is then jacked up so its road wheels are clear of the ground.
Once converted into a railway vehicle, the truck can move along the line to wherever the track bed needs to be tested, using its cone penetration testing (CPT) unit. CPT uses a cylindrical cone, pushed vertically from the rig into the ground at a constant rate of penetration of 20mm per second. During penetration, cone resistance and skin friction are measured.
'You get an increased quality of site investigations on the railways, ' says Lankelma rail manager and Rail Truck coinventor Darren Ward.
CPT gives a high definition of soil behaviour as readings are taken at 20mm intervals as the machine goes into the ground.
This enables individual strata to be identified. CPT also creates minimal ground disturbance. It is possible to do this on the railway without the Rail Truck, but it is more time consuming and costly, says Ward, because it means hiring three pieces of equipment rather than one.
'We originally started with a CPT rig on a trailer, pulled by a road railer excavator, ' he says.
'It would take us 40 minutes to an hour to get the CPT rig on to the trailer ready to do the work. This would mean doing one or two fewer tests during the possession [than you can with the Rail Truck].' Such lengthy set-up times inspired Ward and Lankelma operations manager Dan McGee to work up the Rail Truck concept.
Lankelma managing director Eric Zon says: 'The key thing with the Rail Truck is that you can mobilise and start testing immediately. This means you can get a lot more testing done, and therefore more information. The more information the consultant has, the more precise they can be with their predictions.' The truck's speed is also helped by the fact that the rig is hydrostatically driven by its rail wheels so it can go as fast backwards as it can forwards. It also has a rear driving position to allow it to be driven backwards.
Since Lankelma launched the truck in June it has been constantly employed on weekend rail possessions.