Innovative rail technology making trackwork safer

New trackwork technology developed by one of John Holland’s long-term rail employees is set to make track stripping safer and more efficient.

John Holland’s Peter Baker, together with local supplier Richard Hill, developed the “rail springer” technology, an excavator attachment that makes the traditionally labour-intensive and high-risk process of track stripping much safer and up to five times faster.

The innovation has already proved to have been successful on several of the Victorian Government’s level crossing removal projects, including those located at Camp Road, Campbellfield and Skye Road, Frankston delivered as part of the Level Crossing Removal Project’s (LXRP) North Western Program Alliance – an alliance between LXRP, KBR, Metro Trains Melbourne and John Holland.

The rail springer is currently in use on LXRP’s $232 million Reservoir Level Crossing Removal Project which, when completed, will see the construction of an elevated rail bridge over High Street, Reservoir, in Melbourne’s north.

The ground-breaking equipment releases rail from timber sleepers and because it is fully machine operated, eliminates any risk of injury. In addition to its safety benefits, the rail springer significantly increases production capacity, making the track stripping process up to five times faster.

John Holland’s Executive General Manager – Rail, Steve Butcher, said he is proud the rail team is delivering industry-leading technology that makes work safer for rail employees and more efficient for customers including LXRP.

“Developing solutions to complex challenges is what we at John Holland pride ourselves on. It’s fantastic our rail team is at the forefront with pioneering technology that will transform how our industry works for the better,” Mr Butcher said.

John Holland rail general superintendent Peter Baker, a 30-year veteran of the rail industry and a John Holland employee for 16 years, said the springer attachment was relatively easy to use.

“The springer is designed to attach to an excavator via a quick hitch, the hi-rail excavator then moves along the track typically stopping at three sleeper intervals,” Mr Baker said.

“At each stop, the attachment protrudes down and clamps onto the rail, lifting the rail upwards at a variable height lift of up to 150 millimetres.

“As part of the process, the rail anchors are then readily available to be removed from the rail since they are not constrained within the ballast area.”

The rail springer allows a single operator to complete one kilometre of track stripping per hour, in comparison to the traditional method which has a production rate of around 200 metres per hour.