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NRAs 2016 - Construction Recycler Of The Year

2000 network rail

Winner: Network Rail

Since 2005, Network Rail has been operating a High Output Ballast Cleaning System (HOBCS) to excavate the stone sub-base that forms the track bed on which railway sleepers are laid.

The machine passes excavated material through large vibrating sieves, removing damaged ballast, and returning the larger pieces to the track. The machine also adds fresh ballast to make up for that removed.

Ballast supports the track and aids drainage, but after 20 years on the main line it needs to be renewed. The track itself is designed to last for 40 years, so Network Rail’s High Output team has to regularly clean the ballast without lifting the whole track.

A fantastic and refined solution that responds to an important part of railway maintenance. Network Rail has continued to invest in bespoke machinery which underlines the commitment to recycling

Judges’ view

Due to the high volume and cost of ballast, Network Rail aims to reuse as much as possible. During the course of a year, around 400,000 tonnes of ballast that would otherwise become waste is reused. The HOBCS has allowed the reuse of around 2.6 million tonnes of ballast in the past 10 years.

This year Network Rail is rolling out its fifth ballast cleaning system to deliver ballast cleaning on south-east rail routes (Wessex, Kent and Sussex), which has not been carried out since the 1980s.

Negotiations are also taking place to process and recycle any redundant, rejected material at a new Network Rail facility. Removed material is sorted to create an aggregate product. This is managed by the Network Rail national supply chain and sold for use in the construction and road building industries.

Taking an average per tonne cost of new ballast of £23 means the HOBCS has saved Network Rail £9m in material costs in the past year compared with conventional methods of ballast removal.


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