Co-ordinating efforts to deliver best practice: The Staffordshire Alliance

The Staffordshire Alliance – a partnership between Network Rail, Atkins, Laing O’Rourke and Volker Rail has embarked upon a re-signalling project for the West Coast mainline.

The Stafford Area Improvements Programme is a £250 million scheme to remove a major bottleneck on the busy West Coast mainline.

The project comprised of three significant areas; line speed improvements between Crewe and Stafford (completed March 2014), the complete re-signalling of Stafford station and the surrounding area, and the construction of a new flyover and six miles of track at Norton Bridge.

This project faced a number of challenges as the task not only focused on Stafford railway station, but encompassed track up to 10 miles away, as well as various construction and civil engineering projects at Stafford depot.

There were also unique challenges encountered during the work, including the Norton Bridge Project being subject to a Development Consent Order (granted in early 2014), which imposed several restrictions and emphasised the need to open up a dialogue with the local community to help manage the impact of the project.

The Alliance has been awarded a Merit in the British Safety Council awards 2015.

Here are some examples of best practice initiatives carried out by the Staffordshire Alliance:

  • To reduce the impact of the works on the local community, parking at the depot was well signed and clear areas identified for off-loading of materials.
  • Strong links were forged with the local community through consistent communication, including public consultation events.
  • A new road from the A449 was created, which will remain a legacy item for the client and will greatly benefit residents, whose road was previously used by the site.
  • The team constructed a building within Unipart Rail’s premises at Crewe to fabricate Overhead Line Equipment (OLE), and this not only created jobs and training opportunities, but ensured quality, safety, security and environmental benefits.
  • Enlisted apprentices were all trained to OLEC (Overhead Line Equipment Competency) standards, with all of those operatives engaged in factory fabrications installing the finished items, to enable them to see their work in place.
  • The site redesigned the drainage layout for the proposed legacy building to avoid disturbing a local badger sett.
  • The site used the remote Critical Rail Temperature (CRT) monitoring system, enabling the track temperature to be gauged remotely, eliminating the need for a worker to physically place the thermometer against a live rail.
  • To reduce hazards on site a lightweight signal was pioneered, which could be carried and erected by hand. The signal used a traffic light warning system. This eliminated hazards such as working at heights and the dangers of overhead, live electricity cables.
  • To ensure that the workforce were aware of the key community challenges in the area, the alliance’s collaborative management framework helped to minimise the impact of their work.
  • Regular information about improving safety, environmental practice and community relations were published in their monthly team briefing documents for all staff to see.

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