UK-first rail milling train ordered for Crossrail

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    London’s Crossrail programme has chosen to maintain the profile of rails in its tunnels using a rail milling train.

    Rail milling uses a large wheel-shaped cutter fitted with tungsten carbide inserts to machine off the top of a damaged rail, restoring the original profile and removing surface flaws such as cracks from rolling contact fatigue.

    A £12 million contract has been placed with Austrian rail-milling specialist Linsinger for a 48-metre long milling train, to be delivered in spring 2018.

    The model MG31 train will be the first of its type in the UK, although the technology is already being used on the continent, and will work at up to three metres per minute, or one kilometre every five-and-a-half hours.

    A typical rail-milling cutter showing the arrangement of the tungsten-carbide inserts.
    A typical rail-milling cutter showing the arrangement of the tungsten-carbide inserts.

    Rail millers are favoured for use in tunnels over traditional rail grinders due to the lack of sparks generated by the process, a hazard in underground systems. A strong suction device removes both the chips from the milling process and also the few sparks from small grinding wheels which are used to perfect the surface finish of the rail head.

    The new rail milling train, which will be powered by a low-emission 1,125 bhp diesel engine, will be housed at the Plumstead infrastructure maintenance depot close to the south-eastern tunnel portal. It will be able to travel at up to 50 mph (80 km/h) and will be fitted with the CBTC signalling system that will be used in the Crossrail tunnels.

    Rail Milling has already been trialled in the UK.  An articulated road-rail vehicle, operated by Strabag and also manufactured by Linsinger, ran trials with both Network Rail and Docklands Light Railway in 2011, and a small machine shaped for London Underground’s tunnels and manufactured by Schweerbau has been used on the Northern and Victoria lines since 2009.  However, Crossrail’s new train will be the first large-scale rail miller to be based in Britain.

    Report by Nigel Wordsworth

    8 COMMENTS

      • I wonder as to whether Crossrail 2 is the right project at the moment. There is no disputing that longer term its needed but the Crossrail 3 project linking Euston and Waterloo would be more beneficial in terms of relieving the congestion on the suburban lines in and out of these two stations freeing up more capacity for longer distance services.

        • Well Crossrail 3 isn’t planned just yet but Crossrail 2 is soon to be built with a new route that will go from Northeast to Southwest and to take over some of SWT Suburban routes in Southwest London,
          A new section of line from
          Dalston to New Southgate and Alexandera Palace and Tottenham Hale with the WAML to have 4 tracks with 2 new slow tracks for Crossrail 2 trains to stop at stations between Tottenham Hale and Broxbourne with Crossrail 2 trains to use the Hertford East branch and 2 fast tracks for Abellio Greater Anglia & Stansted Express trains to pass through the stations once the Crossrail 2 project is completed and finished.

        • Crossrail 3 as you mentioned that will link from Euston to Waterloo with new routes to be added as well may not happen after Crossrail 2 is completed as Crossrail 1 (Elizabeth Line) is to be completed by late 2019.

        • Doesn’t Crossrail 2 and the (proposed) Tring branch of Crossrail 1 mean that Crossrail 3 is essentially duplicating these routes? Where would the tunnel portals and new stations fit in?

          • I believe both Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson have backed the Crossrail 3 proposals which would link Waterloo with Euston. As neither of them are in power (London Mayor elections due) its probably does not have traction at present.

            The idea does have merit though in increasing the throughput on the commuter lines into both stations which would release platform capacity for longer distance trains. It would also provide relief on the Northern Line and other tube lines at Euston. As for tunnel portals not sure what the thinking is but maybe north of Clapham Junction and North of Euston. I think the Crossrail Tring branch is a good idea but wouldn’t it move passengers from a North West direction to the East. ? Crossrail 3 would move people South/South West to North/North West.

            A sensible government would use the skills learnt from Crossrail 1 and the academy funded by it to immediately fast track Crossrail 2 or 3. We don’t have a sensible government though and the skills learnt will wither somewhat akin to the stop start nature of the electrification program in the 80s/90s.

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