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Railtrack to use US track grinding machine

RAILTRACK WILL introduce a US track grinding machine to the rail network by the end of the year, it emerged this week.

So keen is the company to introduce the technique to grind cracks off the surface of the rails, it also plans to pay the £2M cost to ease the machine through its own approval system. The manufacturer would usually foot the approval bill.

Railtrack also hopes to introduce train mounted equipment to detect gauge corner cracking (GCC) within 18 months.

The announcements come as Railtrack strives to improve track conditions in the wake of last October's Hatfield crash in which four people died. GCC was identified as the reason the rail shattered.

A report in January by Arup and US consultant Transportation Technology Center Inc recommended that lubrication and rail grinding be increased.

The grinding machine, manufactured by US firm Loram, is expected in the UK by October and will be able to operate at up to 15mph. This will enable a length of track such as London to Rugby to be ground in a single night time possession.

Technology to detect GCC is being developed by Newt Technology in Portsmouth and has been adapted from systems used in the nuclear and oil industries.

A Health & Safety Executive report into the Hatfield disaster highlighted the inability of ultrasonic equipment to detect GCC.

The new system, called Lizard, uses advanced electromagnetic technology.

At present Lizard is only available in hand held form, and although Railtrack now has seven detectors, inspections are still very time consuming.

But Railtrack chief engineer Andrew McNaughton said that Railtrack hoped to fit the equipment to trains travelling at up to 160km/hr within 18 months.

He added that track monitoring software which tells the operator during the inspection of any changes to condition since the last inspection will be available within 'a couple of months'.

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