INTRO: The Channel Tunnel Rail Link will need maintenance standards ’an order of magnitude higher’ than on the rest of the UK network. Chris Jago, Managing Director of Union Railways South, briefs Murray Hughes on plans to maintain Britain’s first 300 km/h railway

’IF THE NAKED EYE can see an irregularity with the track, you’ve not got a problem, you’ve got a crisis.’ Chris Jago, Managing Director of Union Railways South, was speaking as his construction team was putting the finishing touches to the UK’s first 300 km/h line. Practically all work is finished on the 70 km Section 1 of the 109 km route, and efforts are now concentrated on installing and testing the TVM430 cab signalling.

If all goes well, May 5 should see the signalling go live at the junction with Eurotunnel and Network Rail at Cheriton, paving the way for high speed trials between Cheriton and Fawkham Junction during June. Also planned for next month is a demonstration run with a Eurostar train that looks certain to set a British speed record of around 330 km/h.

URS expects to hand over the line to Eurostar (UK) Ltd on July 1, giving the operator three clear months for its own trials and training ahead of the opening to commercial traffic on September 28. Long before then, the maintenance regime will need to be in place, and the tests planned during the coming weeks will provide a once-only opportunity to check that all procedures and programmes work well before commercial services begin.

The first live test with a Eurostar over the whole of Section 1 was planned for April 13, with the train being used purely to check the overhead line equipment. On April 23 track inspection will take place using a SNCF Mauzin recording car. The full commissioning programme was due to get underway on April 26.

Contractor-client relations

Back in 2000, Jago had been asked by the Railtrack board to report on the derailment at Hatfield in October that year, and it was at once clear to him that there had been ’weaknesses in the relationship between the client and the contractor’. It was essential that the arrangements for maintaining a 300 km/h railway excluded any possibility of such a breakdown, and Jago decided that the boundary of responsibility between client and contractor had to be moved. As a result, the 10-year contract worth £92m signed last September with Carillion Rail provides for URS to inspect the line, with Carillion working to instructions from URS.

The inspection procedures for CTRL are based on standards written specifically for the new line based on experience with the TGV network in France - in technical terms the line is effectively an extension of the French network on English territory, with many engineering components identical to those used in France. For example, twin-block sleepers are used throughout Section 1.


Jago says that the CTRL standards have been designed to meet the requirements of the Secretary of State for Transport - the government is funding around 60% of the £5·2bn cost and is effectively the owner of the line. This meant that Union Railways had to give around 650 assurances and undertakings during the Parliamentary process in the 1990s.

With Network Rail succeeding Railtrack at the end of 2002, the complex arrangements governing ownership and operation of the line have changed. Under the deal, Network Rail paid Railtrack £375m for CTRL Section 1. Network Rail is now to pay London & Continental Railways a one-off fee of £80m for the right to operate the line for the duration of LCR’s lease, which lasts until 2086. In return, Network Rail will receive an annual fee of £4m a year and costs from LCR, plus any benefits it may earn from the agreed performance regime.

To operate the line, Network Rail has set up a subsidiary called Network Rail (CTRL Ltd), and Union Railways staff will transfer to this organisation when the line is handed over for commercial use; at the moment they are effectively on secondment from Network Rail to URS.

Inspection regime

URS, and later Network Rail (CTRLLtd), will run a track inspection and diagnostics train over the line at two-week intervals, and Eurailscout GB will deploy its recently-delivered UM160 vehicle (RG 11.02 p675). This can take a full suite of measurements at 160 km/h, and the resulting data will be used to instruct Carillion for a programme of maintenance work. Signalling checks will be made using a SMART-3 vehicle owned by Eurotunnel, which uses it to check the signal strength of the TVM430 equipment in the Channel Tunnel. The overhead line equipment will be inspected with a road-rail vehicle or on-track unit.

In determining what work needs to be done, URS will specify standards that are significantly higher than those considered ’acceptable’ by Network Rail, and Jago believes that this will in fact be cheaper in the long term.

Apart from 300 km/h Eurostars, the line has been designed for use by domestic commuter trains from outer Kent running at 200to 230 km/h; the design brief also required provision for freight services to use the line - although rolling stock will have to be built to passenger train standards with relatively low axleloads. So far there have been no applications by freight operators, but Jago points out that the slower domestic trains will increase wear on the lower rail in curves. Surprisingly, the line has few straight sections and less than 1 km of level alignment; steepest grade is 2·5%.

Work programme

URS has no right to close the line at weekends, and at night the contractor must work strictly within a 6h possession. With crossovers available approximately every 15 km, the intention is to work in no more than two adjoining sections, and in each case on only one track. This will ensure that the other track remains open for possible overnight services, which will be able to pass the worksites at a reduced speed of around 80 km/h thanks to rail-attached fencing between the two tracks. Jago says the aim is to work on the Up track on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and on the Down track on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays.

Taking a possession will be a simple process. An engineer will connect a laptop at the Ashford signalling control centre and enter the required details. The signalling will then automatically configure for the possession.

None of the maintenance vehicles will be fitted with TVM430, so special rules will be used to allow them to travel between junctions with the existing network and worksites, with the affected section of the line shut down while the movement takes place.

Towards reliability modelling

The whole maintenance policy is geared to a proactive approach. Should a points failure occur, for example, URS will be able to check the history of all the affected components. The intention is to move towards reliability modelling so that ’issues can be addressed when they crop up rather than simply being reactive’. Jago adds that he will be able ’to identify when any link in the chain starts to weaken’.

The intensity of maintenance is expected to be low in the early years as there will initially be just four trains/h on each track, although the line is in fact designed for 16 trains/h each way. Nonetheless, consideration is being given to major works such as changing turnouts. This will be a difficult operation as each turnout in the crossovers is 300m long. Jago says a spare left-hand and right-hand turnout will be kept available, but transporting it to the installation site ’may be a problem’.

CAPTION: Completed tracks on the approach to the junction with Eurotunnel at Cheriton; signalling on this critical section is due to go live on May 5

All Photos: Rail Link Engineering

CAPTION: Completed track in the 3·2 km double-track North Downs tunnel has deep ballast laid in troughs with a low central wall between the tracks

CAPTION: Right: Installation of 25 kV 50Hz overhead line near Singlewell. Maintenance of the OLE will be carried out using Windhoff MPVs and road-rail vehicles normally stabled in the freight loops at Singlewell and Lenham

CAPTION: Less than 1 km of Section 1 is on the level, and even the Medway viaduct is on a gradient

Une politique active d’entretien appliquée à la CTRL

Le mois prochain verra le démarrage des essais à grande vitesse sur la Section 1 de la ligne Londres - Tunnel (Channel Tunnel Rail Link, CTRL), puis la ligne de 70 km sera remise à Eurostar (UK) le 1er juillet. Comme il s’agit de la première ligne autorisée à 300 km/h construite au Royaume Uni, elle aura besoin de normes d’entretien ’d’un niveau élevé d’ampleur’, selon Chris Jago, directeur exécutif de Union Railways South, en comparaison avec le reste du réseau. URS inspectera l’infrastructure et donnera l’ordre à son entrepreneur Carillion de mener à bien des travaux spécifiques, selon les termes d’un contrat de dix ans signé l’an dernierProaktive Wartungsvorschriften für CTRL

Im nächsten Monat werden erste Hochgeschwindigkeitsversuche auf dem Segment 1 der Kanaltunnel-Anbindung (Channel Tunnel Rail Link, CTRL) stattfinden, und die Strecke wird Eurostar (UK) Ltd am 1 Juli übergeben. Als erste für 300 km/h ausgelegte Strecke in Grossbritannien wird sie gemäss Chris Jago, Leiter von Union Railways South, einen Unterhalt-Standard aufweisen, welcher ’eine Gr