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Innovative freight connections in Scotland

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Innovative freight connections in Scotland

Unread postby Roger Bell » Sun May 15, 2016 4:37 pm

I have recently read that a Glasgow based company has developed a simpler and lower cost method of connecting freight sidings to a main line called " Non Intrusive Crossover System " - hopefully to encourage new traffic such as timber and construction materials onto rail. Can anyone expand on this please and also how this might interface with existing signalling?
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Re: Innovative freight connections in Scotland

Unread postby StevieG » Sun May 15, 2016 6:26 pm

Can't say I've ever been aware of any proposed use for freight siding connections Roger, though I'm no longer 'on the inside'.

But I do recall that 'someone' (a major infrastructure engineering contractor? - possibly one that began with a J) demonstrated a system called NICS (as you say, Non Intrusive Crossover System) to NR (West Coast Route Modernisation, and no doubt others) some 10 or so years ago.
But it was intended (then) to enable the very low speed crossing of engineering vehicles, on-track plant, etc. (not sure if designed to be suitable for large on-track machines or locomotives) between running lines (and possibly other very adjacent tracks I suppose) which were fully within an engineering possession, presumably where such a crossing facility would be very effective in allowing use of equipment in possessions on more than one track in turn (perhaps for a series of possessions in the same area on different dates) for fairly major works, but where no permanent crossover existed.

As to the form of NICS, I've an idea that it needed temporary (possibly pre-)installation (perhaps to only some sort of 'lightweight' standards) of those fixed rail elements of a crossover in the six-foot (and possibly both four-foots), necessary to part-form such a connection, but without fouling/intersecting/interrupting the normal 'straight' running rails and their flangeways.
The NICS crossover was I think then completed when required for use, once both tracks were under possession, by laying sections of heavy-duty platework on top of the 'straight' rails, to connect the temporary rails by equating to a normal crossover's switch rails and crossings, enabling the intended movement to cross by causing its weight to be borne by its wheel flanges while rolling, and raising it to pass above the permanent 'straight' rails.

Of course as part of relinquishing a possession and declaring the lines 'clear and safe to run on' for normal working, those in charge of the possession and its relevant worksite(s) would have had to ensure that the 'platework' had been completely removed : Any residual temporary rails which may still have been in place could be removed at any subsequent time when this could be safely done.

I seem to recall that at the time, 'the grapevine' word was that there were some doubts in NR as to the acceptability of the system, and I never heard of it again.
Last edited by StevieG on Sun May 15, 2016 9:47 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Innovative freight connections in Scotland

Unread postby JRB » Sun May 15, 2016 8:54 pm

It's a 19th century system originally known as 'contractors' points'. The additional track fits on top of the permanent lines and is ramped to lift the flanges above the existing track. It was condemned for railway use in this country over 100 years ago (ban forgotten?). It is very common for engineering work on tramways, especially in mainland Europe and may have been seen in Manchester recently. It is usually secured to the permanent track by a small weld, subsequently ground off. I think it has appeared on this site before (title? date?).
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Re: Innovative freight connections in Scotland

Unread postby Richard Lemon » Mon May 16, 2016 6:52 am

I've seen these in use in Belgium (if my memory is correct) for trams in passenger service to get round road works with temporary single - line working. Appeared quite safe - at very low speed.

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Re: Innovative freight connections in Scotland

Unread postby Mike Hodgson » Mon May 16, 2016 8:42 am

Coming back to Roger's original question, how "non-intrusive" is it with regard to existing signalling?
Google easily throws up this website http://nicsrail.com/overview/ which claims "Has no impact on signalling systems"

I hope that is an oversimplified claim. Could it be laid quickly/easily by unauthorised parties? I would hope it at least interferes with existing track circuits; I can't imagine one could easily avoid doing so, but if it were possible it would raise some horrendous possibilities. Axle counter sections would be another matter though.

We have had more than enough problems with incidents involving on-track plant joining/leaving the line, this sounds like another place where contractors could get it wrong. Tramcars driven on sight anyway are one thing, but I fell very uneasy about the idea of heavy rail using this.
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Re: Innovative freight connections in Scotland

Unread postby StevieG » Mon May 16, 2016 10:26 am

Many thanks for that link Mike. That looks as if it must be the NICS that I was trying to recall reading about.
I see my recollection of info. at the time was not good on a few points ( ouch ! Sorry) -
- movements seem not run on the wheel flanges
- heavy vehicles and locos can cross
- the NICS's 'fixed' rails seem to also be on temporary mountings
- the switch and crossing elements can be lift/swung aside without compete removal
- I wasn't aware that NICS had been put to use in any engineering works
- NICS is/(was?) also proposed for siding connections, albeit temporary sidings
- I didn't know that NICS conforms to RSSB requirements, according to a statement on the webpage's front page.

Although the emphasis seems to be on engineering work use, the idea of using NICS to work service trains round an obstructed line is positively included, which I'd have thought would be a very different issue of safety, not least in (I presume) NICS's lack of interface with signalling systems.
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Re: Innovative freight connections in Scotland

Unread postby Roger Bell » Mon May 16, 2016 2:21 pm

Thanks for the replies and Mike's link - an interesting concept. If it did prove feasible for freight, I suppose it could probably be used under the right supervision with RETB in the Highlands given long gaps between trains especially if for example a timber train only ran once or twice a week. As Mike says, anywhere with track circuits would seem impractical.
I read of this in the Friends of the West Highland Lines magazine and will watch with interest to see if anything further comes of the idea.
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Re: Innovative freight connections in Scotland

Unread postby JRB » Mon May 16, 2016 4:53 pm

Being able to add a temporary turnout without affecting the signalling is NOT acceptable. A timber siding would justify permanent points. Informal proceedings during engineering works were what caused the Board of Trade to ban them - permanently I hope.
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Re: Innovative freight connections in Scotland

Unread postby Railwayman » Wed May 18, 2016 10:33 pm

The NICSystem is alive and well. It has been successfully used on several occasions, notably Trent Valley Four Tracking project in three separate locations.
More recently on the Tyne & Wear metro system near Percy Main in July 2012 and more recently at Cullercoats earlier this year.

Its use on the Tyne & Wear metro system has allowed a much more efficient engineering operation and also allowed the length of line under possession to be shortened, trains do not have to travel much further to find a crossover. This allows more stations to remain open, less disruption to the travelling public, less loss of revenue and less replacement bus services. LUL and NR approval processes are on-going.

LUL are particularly interested in its use on the surface lines. It is specifically designed to not interfere with the signalling system. It is a 'contractors tool' for use in possessions or blockades. It has the potential to be used for timber traffic. Scotland has huge timber reserves and maturing forests in both the south west and the highlands. It is almost impossible to remove the volume of timber by road, the damage and pollution issues are big. The nature of the timber traffic, constantly moving the reclamation site / forest, precludes the use of a 'fixed siding' arrangement. The NICSystem can potentially provide a transient solution. To install a turnout and trap end fully signalled is time and cost prohibitive for this type of reclamation operation. not to mention its subsequent removal.

The NICSystem web site has pictures etc.

The section below will help to describe the system.

The Non-Intrusive Crossover System has been developed to provide a simple, robust, cost effective solution to providing a temporary crossover, without the need to cut into the existing track.
The NICSystem simply lifts the train up by 50mm, supports the train weight whilst turning it out from the parent track, crossing it onto the other track, guiding it back to the correct alignment, before lowering it down onto the other track.

The NICSystem may be used in a number of ways, for example to reduce the length of single line working (SLW) encountered during engineering works or to provide an initial temporary connection to a new freight facility or even a connection for transient sites e.g. forestry.

The NICSystem, when used in connection with engineering works, can provide a crossover (where none existed) for the engineers use, allowing more efficient use of engineers trains and plant.
A connection to temporary sidings, where engineers trains may be stored or replenished, close to where they are required is also possible.

The NICSystem is available with left hand or right hand turnouts that can be used in either facing or trailing situations.

Both types utilise the same components.
Ramps to lift up the train.
Switch plates to turnout the train from the existing railway.
Gut rails (standard rail between the switch plates and crossing plates) which continue to turn the train away from the existing line.
Crossing plates which allow the train to cross the existing line onto the other line.
A second set of Gut rails which turn the train towards the other line.
More Switch plates that finally re-align the train with the other line.
Lastly another pair of Ramps lower the train back down on to the other track.
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Re: Innovative freight connections in Scotland

Unread postby JRB » Wed May 18, 2016 10:50 pm

To be safe, they MUST interfere with the signalling. I trust T&W do make a temporary signalling alteration. Similarly, I would not like to meet one on a remote single line in Scotland without the RETB being adjusted and suitable temporary fixed signals displayed. As for the rest of NR and LUL, I hope similar considerations would be applied and that the Board of Trade's ruling would be excavated from the 19th Century archives.
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Re: Innovative freight connections in Scotland

Unread postby Danny252 » Thu May 19, 2016 8:23 am

JRB wrote:without the RETB being adjusted and suitable temporary fixed signals displayed.


Is RETB able to handle a train leaving a section at a location other than the ends of the section? I suspect your mention of it implies not, as I would hope! If it is, then you have to question why you'd bother with a temporary non-intrusive siding at all - if the system would still consider the train to be on the main line, you may as well load it there...
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Re: Innovative freight connections in Scotland

Unread postby JRB » Thu May 19, 2016 10:33 am

I think that if a train is issued with an engineers' possession token, it can give up the possession at an intermediate point and road-railers do this frequently. This involves no obstruction of the track with portable pointwork. Any pointwork would, however temporary, need proper protection (including FPLs!).
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Re: Innovative freight connections in Scotland

Unread postby StevieG » Thu May 19, 2016 10:02 pm

The NICS website's pictures show that the system's 'pointwork' equivalent parts of the elements that matter (in respect of safe, normal, 'straight' running) - i.e. switch rails and crossings - can be lifted off and away or pivoted away from the rail. If that is achievable and carried out in some assured and secure way, then no FPL would be needed (there would be nothing to which an FPL could be fitted).
But its correct use would need to be stringently executed, as any inadequate use process, human error in application of process, or unauthorised/external interference with any of those NICS elements on site but unattended/insecure could result in a 'traffic hours' derailment at some speed (And it can be imagined that a lo-speed TSR or ESR in place as a precaution might not be welcomed by train operators' reliability/punctuality performance concerns).

As to specific use of NICS in Single Line Working, I see no practicable application of an FPL, as we know it, when the NICS 'switches' and 'crossings' are in use on a running line, as the NICS components in place for a crossover movement effectively create a temporary slew from one track to the other as there would be no equivalent to the toes of conventional facing point switch rails or stretchers.
However there would need to be rigorous control on site to ensure that all parts of NICS are correctly in place for a crossing running movement, and off-rail for a 'straight' running movement, else, again, the outcome could be catastrophic.
It would also seem that, if used during the normal SLW, i.e. trains being passed along 'the Single Line' in both directions, the frequent placing and removal of the necessary NICS elements could be rather onerous, which might well raise the risk of NICS's site staff error in doing so.
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Re: Innovative freight connections in Scotland

Unread postby JRB » Thu May 19, 2016 10:19 pm

A turnout on top of a straight rail would require an FPL. A fixed diversion on top of the existing rail would not, but the uses for that would be very limited. On tramways (no FPL needed though) the usual use is for a temporary double/single connection incorporating a turnout. Most applications would require a facing turnout. The idea of fitting & removing parts instead of switching points seems to be inherently insecure and just not on for running lines.
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Re: Innovative freight connections in Scotland

Unread postby Railwayman » Thu May 19, 2016 11:00 pm

The NICSystem is not a set of points. There are no blades or indeed a crossing. The system uses hinged plates with a railhead welded on.

The ramp and the three plates, forming one leg of the turnout weigh almost one tonne, but can be operated by hand as can be seen in the picture in the link below.

http://railwayman.org/nicsystem.htm

The picture shows the NICsystem at Regents Centre, T&W Metro last year. the complete system is almost ready for use, only the last plate remains to be lowered into position.

The 'scrap train', on the right hand track is waiting to use the crossover to return to the depot RRAP for unloading.
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