Construction News

Sat October 16 2021

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Amey mechanises soffit drilling

3 days Network Rail has worked with Amey’s rail team to develop a drilling machine that improves overhead line installation work in tunnels.

The new tunnel drill rig undergoes a trial in Primrose Hill
The new tunnel drill rig undergoes a trial in Primrose Hill

The Overhead Line Electrification Drill (OLED) machine is mounted on a flat bed of a road rail vehicle and is remote controlled. It has shown itself to be safer and more cost-effective than using traditional manual power tools.

Usually, tunnel maintenance work involves drilling into the soffit of tunnels by hand – two operatives working at height in full personal protective equipment, holding a drill above their heads. Risks include hand arm vibration injuries, noise, inaccuracies and dust contamination.

Working with Barnsley-based Foulstone Forge, and with Network kRail backing, Amey created a drilling rig machine specifically for working inside railway tunnels.

The OLED can be operated by one person who controls both the base unit and the drilling arm via the remote control. It removes the risks involved with working at height and using rotary-percussive power tools.  The machine also has a dust extraction system.

Having a four-head drill capacity built into the drill makes the process more efficient and cost effective. Usually, operatives can only drill one hole at a time; now there is the capacity to drill four holes with precision accuracy thanks to laser guidance.

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OLED takes just under two minutes to drill four holes, 450mm deep into concrete using 28mm drill bits.

The machine was first tested at High Marnham test track on a section of brick tunnel works. Due to the mechanical control of the arm, the drill can work around tunnel furnishings including cables, utilities and overhead line electrifications.

The drilling rig is set to be used on midlife refurbishments of the overhead line electrification within Watford, Shugborough and Birmingham tunnels.                

Network Rail project manager Tom Stewart said: “Working on the CP6 tunnel the team noticed improvements that could be made to the process, not only to enhance the safety operations for the operatives but to make the process more efficient, enabling us to deliver the service more effectively for our customers.” 

Amey sector director Andy Joy said: “I’m incredibly proud of the ingenuity of the teams, to not only identify a process improvement but to work in collaboration with Network Rail and Foulstone Forge to bring the changes to fruition, which has improved operational delivery and most importantly further enhanced the safety of our rail operatives. I’m looking forward to seeing this new drill used across all our contracts where appropriate to help us to effectively deliver the service for our clients and customers.”

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