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New lines needed to ease rail delays, meeting told

NEW RAIL lines are needed if the UK is to achieve faster running times and better reliability on the rail network, Railway Civil Engineers Association deputy chairman David Ventry said this week.

Because the UK's rail system is already at capacity, maintenance and upgrade work on the UK's principal rail lines is causing huge delays to train operators. Without extra capacity routine maintenance work will continue to interfere with timetables and delay journey times, Ventry told RCEA members at the ICE.

Ventry made the comment at a meeting on upgrade work being carried out on the West Coast Main Line (WCML).

'We are stretching the WCML to the limit, ' he said. He emphasised the need for an appropriate maintenance regime, which is becoming ever more difficult as possession times decrease and operators require more line time.

Engineers are racing against the clock to achieve running speeds on the WCML of 200km/h by 2002 and 225km/h by 2005, Mott Macdonald divisional director Tony Walker told the meeting.

Railtrack must meet these deadlines to comply with the terms of its contract with operator Virgin Trains.

'Upgrading the WCML' kicked off with a survey of the track and alignment to determine what work was required, Walker reported.

Track geometry was measured using a combination of aerial surveys and information gathered by high speed track recording train. The surveying methods used were far less labour and time intensive than traditional techniques, Walker said.

A three dimensional computer model was generated from data gathered enabling engineers to assess whether sections of track could be left, whether extended transition curves could be added between straight sections and bends, or whether complete replacement was required.

However, early survey information was inadequate for detailed design purposes, Walker admitted. Data from a survey carried out by the overhead line team was used to develop details of the track upgrade.

To achieve increased speeds on the WCML a number of engineering factors have to be considered, including the radius of curves, cant, forces applied by the tilting train itself, local wind conditions, train speed control systems and safety margins.

Monitoring equipment was installed along the line in an attempt to establish what effect Virgin's new high speed trains will have on existing structures, Walker said. Work will be needed to reduce resonance in several bridges, including fitting dampers and increasing structural members.

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