Innovative tunnel drill to enhance rail operatives safety

overhead tunnel drill, rail operatives,

In association with Amey’s rail team and Foulstone Forge, Network Rail has developed a new overhead line tunnel drill, which improves operational delivery and the safety of operatives working at height

The Overhead Line Electrification Drill (OLED) was created for work undertaken in railway tunnels and can be operated by a team member to control both the base unit and the drilling arm via the remote control.

While removing the risks involved with operatives working at height and using rotary-percussive power tools, the machine also has a comprehensive dust extraction system fitted to eliminate any dust from the drilling.

First tested at the High Marnham Test track, the overhead tunnel drill has the ability to work around tunnel furnishings including cables, utilities and overhead line electrifications.

Delivering more efficient processes

Tom Stewart, project manager at Network Rail, 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.”

This overhead line tunnel drill has quadrupled the outputs making the process more efficient and cost-effective.

Now there is the capacity to drill four holes with precision accuracy due to the inbuild laser guidance features. The machine takes just under two minutes to drill four holes, 450mm deep into concrete using 28mm drill bits.

Having four drill heads enables the machine to use any of the individual drills in isolation in any configuration, allowing differing bold patterns to be installed using the same drilling head.

Andy Joy, sector director for rail at Amey, stated: “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.” 

Amey’s rail team has recently completed the trials, PA and EA certificates with the help of SRS.

The next stage is to use the tunnel drill within the Watford, Shugborough and Birmingham midlife refurbishments of the OLE.


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