Contractors World

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Contractors World - 2015 Vol 4 No 1

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New High Output
Ballast Cleaner
For Network Rail

Network Rail is expanding its track renewal programme by purchasing a new £50m ballast cleaner and welcoming more than 500 employees, previously contractors, into the company.

Network Rail maintains over 20,000 miles of track, used by over 4.5 million passengers every single day. The ballast the rails and sleepers rest on, support this network, holding the other components securely in place and allowing effective drainage. This enables a safe, smooth and comfortable ride, reducing the need for speed restrictions and travel disruption.


Britain’s railway sees 1.6 billion journeys each year and the wear and tear takes its toll. It is the high output track renewals team’s responsibility to regularly clean the ballast of debris, oil and emissions as well as regularly renewing it so it remains functional and safe.

Code named ‘BCS5,’ the new ballast cleaner will boast the latest technological advancements in track renewals. It will deliver benefits from reduced fuel consumption and emissions and reduce workforce exposure to ballast dust,

In a UK first, the new cleaner will be built for ‘third-rail’ operation, allowing the conductor rail to safely remain in place throughout the cleaning process. Purchased from Plasser & Theurer, the purpose-built kit and associated support plant will become the fifth ballast cleaning system in the fleet and is due to be delivered in 2016.

Additionally, in March (2015) the Network Rail high output track renewals team will complete the reemploying of more than 500 AmeyCOLAS contractor staff, bringing them in-house and marking the largest people transfer into Network Rail since the phased programme of maintenance activities began in 2005.

High output project director Ben Brooks said:

With the purchase of the new ballast cleaner and the insourcing of 500 staff who previously contracted for us, Network Rail is taking more direct control of its high output ballast cleaning and track relaying operations; activities core to its day-to-day business.
      Network Rail is leading the world, completing mechanised track renewals overnight in short duration access and handing back the railway at higher speeds than attainable with conventional methods. The new equipment allows us to add the third rail DC electrified network to our programme so passengers south of London can start to see the benefits of high output track renewals too.

Ballast cleaning system five (BCS5) consists of:

Plus support plant comprising of:


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