ON MAY 8, Railtrack’s Director, Engineering & Production, Brian Mellitt unveiled a multi-purpose infrastructure service vehicle at London’s Waterloo station. Intended to replace a miscellaneous collection of converted equipment, the MPV combines high-pressure railhead cleaning jets to remove leaves from the line, application of Sandite gel to improve adhesion, weedkiller spraying, third rail de-icing and fire-fighting capabilities into a single unit.

The concept vehicle was developed by Geismar (UK) and infrastructure maintenance contractor AMEC Rail at a cost of £1·1m, and was delivered in less than 20 months from the floating of the original idea. The MPV was successfully tested in service on Railtrack’s Southern Zone last winter.

The high-pressure water cannon at the heart of the unit was earlier tested in a wagon-mounted version, which is currently operating on Railtrack’s North Downs line between Reading, Guildford and Redhill. A Volvo Penta power pack drives an Aqua Hydraulics pump to produce 1000bar for the high-pressure jets.

The MPV concept vehicle mounts the pump and tanks on a permanently-coupled pair of diesel-powered four-wheeler maintenance trollies. Water capacity is 13000litres, giving a range of 90 km between fillings. Two 800litre Sandite tanks with separate peristaltic pumps can treat 130 km of rail - in a typical diagram, Sandite is laid on perhaps 5% of the rail cleaned each day.

During the presentation, Mellitt announced that Railtrack had placed an order for a series fleet of 25 MPVs at a cost of £40m. Following an open tender, AMEC Rail has been appointed main contractor for the project. Unlike the concept version, the production MPVs will be bogie vehicles, built by Windhoff AG as a two-car derivative of the German Railway CargoSprinter freight diesel multiple-unit (RG 11.96 p703). Specialist equipment will come from Socofer of Tours, which supplies weedkilling trains to French National Railways. The equipment will be highly modular, and carried in ISO standard containers - potentially enabling the operator to use the MPVs on freight traffic between service work.

AMEC will be responsible for development, project management, and commissioning of the vehicles. Deliveries are expected at two or three per month during the second half of 1999. The build will be used on all zones except the Southern, which expects to place a follow-on order for 20 in 2000-02.

Railtrack is currently drawing up a competitive tender for operation of the MPV fleet, and envisages appointing a single operator to provide the service throughout the network under a ’fairly long-term’ contract. o

CAPTION: The Geismar MPV was put through its paces in Railtrack’s Clapham yard on May 8 (above). The 1 000 bar water jets (right) can clear leaves from a 25 mm wide strip along the railhead when operating at 50 km/h