Our High Output Ballast Cleaning System in Great Britain

Network Rail's latest acquisition, the HOBCS 5 High Output Ballast Cleaning System no. 5, has been completed:  The USP 6000 ballast profiling machine was the last machine from the package to be delivered to England in December 2016. The tight schedule could be met.

The entire HOBCS 5 is currently being prepared in the "Rail Innovation and Development Centre" RIDC Tuxford (High Marnham) for its first operations in the spring of 2017. The RIDC Tuxford develops and tests rail vehicles, technology and equipment. Except for the USP 6000, all machines of the HOBCS 5 have been approved by the competent authority by 13th December 2016. Now the machines are being commissioned. As soon as the ballast profiling machine has been approved, the system will be put into normal operation.

As of January, the new ballast cleaning system will be stationed gradually in Tauton, close to Bristol. In the first three months, it will be used on conventional tracks to allow the operators to gain experience with the machines. Then, the machine system will head towards its actual destination in the south of London: tracks with power rails. 

The RM 900 ballast cleaning machine is the core of the HOBCS 5 ballast cleaning system, here during testing in Linz. In the background: numerous MFS units and power wagons.

09-3X Dynamic Tamping Express high-capacity tamping machine for finishing the track

The last completed machine of the system: the USP 6000 ballast profiling machine for the production of a standardised ballast profile

In total, 44 MFS units are available for material logistics.

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53 machines in 21 months

In spring 2015, Network Rail opted for the new machine system. Comprising 53 machines, the system based around the powerful RM 900 ballast cleaning machine has been our biggest individual contract so far. Experiences gained from the operation of the existing HOBCS systems in Great Britain were used to improve the operation and maintenance of the new machine system.

Producing 53 machines within the very short delivery schedule of 21 months required precise logistical planning and optimally coordinated production sequences during all stages of manufacture. From the draft and the detail design to the production, construction checks and approval inspections, all phases had to be passed on schedule. Here, our high manufacturing standards and the continuous quality assurance pay off.

Operating a ballast cleaning system on power rails was both one of the greatest innovations and major challenges when designing the HOBCS 5. This insulated third rail lies loosely in consoles and therefore requires careful treatment. This is why certain new developments were required, such as the newly designed work units on the USP 6000 ballast profiling machine. 

Comprehensive approval procedures

Manufacturing the machines, however, is only one part of the challenge. Before they can be put into operation, the British Office of Rail and Road (ORR) must give its approval. Within four weeks from submitting all documents, ORR must grant the "Authorisation into Service". The preparation of the "technical file or dossier", however, already starts when the contract is awarded. Network Rail takes care of the technical operating approval (product authorisation).

Using standards, the European TSI aims at ensuring that vehicles and infrastructure are compatible throughout Europe. Special national infrastructure requirements, such as restrictions due to the British clearance gauge, require Notified National Technical Rules (NNTRs). When it comes to the EMC electro-magnetic compatibility and the clearance gauge, however, it often does not suffice to comply with the NNTRs in order to ensure compatibility.

There are, for instance, sections in the rail network, where the line is open for the very tight clearance gauge W6a, even though there are infringements of the gauge. To ensure compatibility, it is therefore necessary to check the specific form and riding behaviour of every vehicle.

Some of the standards to be met by the HOBCS 5 were entirely new, such as the fire protection standard EN 45 45545 and official requirements regarding the protection of staff.