Traditionally rail is a fast-paced sector that has stood apart from the rest; this makes it the perfect platform for innovation and the development of positive working practices that can bring significant benefits to the industry as a whole.
It is dominated by tight deadlines, logistical constraints on site and, of course, the need to minimise the level of disruption to the millions of people that rely on the UK’s rail network every day.
Offsite construction, for example, has brought considerable benefits that range from increased health and safety to greater quality control, improved accuracy of installation and quicker construction programmes.
“The success of the Farringdon Station contract fed directly into the development of the new platform canopies at Reading Station”
Offsite techniques are essential when working on live stations that remain operational throughout, as work can only safely be done out of hours.
In reality, this means you may have only around three hours of productive working time each night.
Offsite gains in practice
By forging a positive collaborative relationship with specialist steel contractor Bourne Steel, Lakesmere was able to demonstrate that significant cost and time savings could be gained through offsite construction in the creation of Farringdon Station’s new train shed roof canopy.
The success of the Farringdon contract fed directly into the development of the new platform canopies at Reading Station.
“Although offsite construction techniques may not be appropriate for all rail contracts, there are very few that don’t require an innovative approach”
Here, Lakesmere identified that the structural steel and roofing packages could be combined by creating fully integrated roofing modules that were manufactured offsite and ahead of the construction programme.
Although offsite construction techniques may not be appropriate for all rail contracts, there are very few that don’t require an innovative approach, particularly in the design and engineering stage.
Lakesmere’s ongoing work with Crossrail has proven that every project presents a unique challenge and in many ways, this is what makes work in this sector so interesting.
Deliveries by barge
The company is on site at the new Canary Wharf Crossrail Station, which is located on the north dock of West India Quay and is completely surrounded by water.
With deliveries to site transported by barge along the River Thames, the logistical planning has been a challenge, but a great learning curve.
“Construction in this area is far from prescriptive and it is vital that contractors are flexible in their approach”
Environmental factors are just one consideration, however. This new generation of rail infrastructure projects, many of which incorporate large mixed-use elements, are also often extremely complex in their designs.
Because the buttress cladding Lakesmere is installing at Canary Wharf isn’t a flat façade, its complicated geometry and integration of several different materials has required a great deal of design innovation.
This has meant using the latest 3D software to create detailed models and relying on close collaboration with the manufacturer.
Despite the strict regulations and requirements that govern the rail sector, construction in this area is far from prescriptive and it is vital that contractors are flexible in their approach.
Alan Painter is senior design manager at the Lakesmere Group