VolkerFitzpatrick hosts the 2023 Practical Trackwork Challenge

The industry recently came together to take part in the Permanent Way Institution’s (PWI) yearly Practical Trackwork Challenge, to help restore track on the heritage line at Midland Railway-Butterley.

20230323_105114 PWI web.jpg
20230323_105114 PWI web.jpg

VolkerFitzpatrick hosted the two-day event and acted as the principal contractor, with support from VolkerRail, Sunbelt Rentals, Railcare, Swietelsky Babcock Rail and Story Plant, and more.

The Practical Trackwork Challenge is an established learning event that allows people who have little site knowledge to experience a live railway environment, in a safe and controlled manner. The event also gave rail industry suppliers an opportunity to demonstrate their capabilities, equipment, and innovations.

The event was split into four main activity areas. In Area One, visitors were able to see a rail vacuum removing ballast (ballast being a granular material, like shingle, which is laid around tracks), a road rail vehicle laying new sleepers, a ballast distributor replenishing the ballast, and a mainline tamper machine finishing off (packing the ballast and making it level and secure).

In Area Two, participants could view a switch and crossing refurbishment, while Area Three provided another tamping demonstration (to split up the group and ensure everyone had a turn).

In Area Four, guests could take in an exhibit featuring innovations, sustainable products, and new technologies from the suppliers. These included Techno-Crete (shown by Scott Parnell), which is a concrete alternative that uses sustainably grown and recycled vegetable oil. In addition, there were scheduled talks with rail industry experts, such as the Rail Accident Investigation Branch discussing derailments.

Jim Lewis, lead delivery manager – track for VolkerFitzpatrick, said: “Thanks to the PWI and all the suppliers for giving their time and efforts to this event. It’s brilliant that we’ve been able to help Midland Railway-Butterley and restore vital track, while also providing a unique opportunity for people to get up close and see the work that takes place on track. This will provide invaluable insight to those that are more office based, as well as giving the next generation a taste for working in rail.”

Brian Counter, technical director for Permanent Way Institution, said: “It’s been a great event. We’ve been doing these challenges for six years, and I would say this is the best organised event that we’ve had. A big congratulations to VolkerFitzpatrick. A lot of people have learnt a lot, they’ve had a good time and hopefully they’ll go back into the office or into education, having got an understanding about what it’s like to work on site.”

For further information about the Practical Trackwork Challenge, please click here