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Installation speed is project's key

Commuters waiting for their Monday morning train into work are unlikely to spend much time wondering about the construction of the platform on which they are standing.

East Midlands Parkway: Rail corridor package
Client: Network Rail
Contract value: £5 million
Contractor: Birse Rail
Platform supplier: Access Design and Engineering

Doubtless the only time it gets even the briefest thought is when it is being stamped on in a bid to stave off the chill of a winter morning.

But the scant disregard of a passenger belies the innovation and dedication that has gone into building them, particularly at a key commuter station in the East Midlands.

In a £5 million deal, Birse Rail has been busy completing platforms at the newly built East Midlands Parkway station in Nottinghamshire.

Built to serve commuters to and from London, as well as those for East Midlands Airport and Nottingham, Leicester and Derby, the station has four platforms. Two serve the station’s ‘fast’ lines and measure 260 m in length while the two remaining serve the slower lines and are 120 m long.

All of them feature an innovative glass-reinforced plastic platform construction that can help shave valuable installation time from project programmes, as well as cut maintenance costs.

Birse Rail’s Midlands regional manager Karsten Schöler says: “That lack of a maintenance regime was an
be installed quickly without the need for so many possessions, so it cuts out any disruption.”

The system installed at East Midlands Parkway features fully finished GRP platform sections supported at 4.4 m centres by a twin GRP I-beam section.

This section is, in turn, fixed to three GRP columns using zinc-coated connection plates to form a three-legged trestle.

These trestles are fixed to precast concrete block foundations which are lifted into position during a weekend possession.

Ready surfaced

Designed and supplied by Telford-based specialist Access Design and Engineering, the GRP platform boasts another time-saving feature: it arrives on site ready surfaced after being processed at ADE’s base. Even the deck plank centres are designed around a multiple of the dimensions of the tactile paving units that are fixed to the platform deck.

“The GRP is imported from the US and then the trestle legs are prefabricated at Telford, while the platform deck units have the tactile pavers fixed to them and anti-skid surfacing and lines painted on them,” says Mr Schöler.

What cannot be hurried is the fabrication of the planks themselves. Because the station is sited on a bend, each plank has to be individually cut to the radius of that bend. “It is generally accepted that these types of platforms are quick to install, but because these are made in the US, there is a 10-week lead time,” he says.

But when the finished planks arrive on site, the speed of instal lation is impressive. The leading edge plank is fixed to the front of the platform trestle at the correct offset and level to the track using a track gauge.

The rest of the planks then slot in behind the leading edge, and are locked in place by bolts through the flange of the trestle beam.

New systems are often tested on smaller projects before being let loose on a larger scheme but, here, the 3,000 sq m installation is a first for the industry.

“The installation time is the real bonus when using this system,” says Mr Schöler. “It is expensive, but savings made thanks to the speed of installation bring it back up to be competitive with other systems.”

These are benefits for both Birse Rail and client Network Rail. Thanks to the GRP system, the project team was able to make up for lost time and hand the platforms over in December, before the station’s official opening in January.

The station

Billed as one of the most environmentally friendly train stations ever built, East Midlands Parkway is a £25 million station serving East Midlands Airport, as well as commuters into Nottingham, Leicester, Derby and London.

It features the latest technology designed to minimise its impact on the local environment, with locally sourced and recycled materials used during its construction. It also features a ground source heat pump system.

Construction of the station’s access road from the nearby A453, a new junction and bridge over the railway, as well as the construction of its 850-space car park, was carried out by Birse Civils in a separate package of work.

Keeping on top of orders

The GRP used for the platforms is supplied to Access Design and Engineering through a manufacturer in the US. This increases lead-in time for the systems, but if this is factored into the build programme, it is an easily surmountable problem, Mr Schöler claims.

The platform pieces take around two-and-a-half months to reach the UK before they are treated, drilled and cut at ADE’s Telford base. This can mean a further four weeks before the platform sections are finally ready for installation on site.

It is a lengthy lead time that Mr Schöler is prepared to accept because the pace of installationmore than compensates for it.

“We didn’t get the final sections until early December, but we were still able to complete and hand over the platforms on time,” he says.