The old saying about necessity being the mother of invention is proving true as engineering experts on Melbourne’s level crossing removal program find new and innovative ways to keep one of the biggest infrastructure programs in Victoria’s history on track.
Unlike some of its predecessors, the Level Crossing Removal Project is in a unique position to challenge the norm in the rail and construction industries.
With eight years and more than 50 individual projects in the scope, LXRA can learn lessons from each experience and foster continual improvement as projects progress, supporting contractors to build on existing standards and designs.
One of these eye-catching examples of innovation is an automated rail springer used on the Camp Road level crossing removal – altered machinery which illustrates how often-simple interventions can help deliver projects more safely and efficiently.
An industry-first tool, the rail springer is a custom-built machine which automates the usually manually laborious, injury-prone process of removing the unwieldy steel dog spikes pinning the tracks to the wooden sleepers.
“The springer idea came out of trying to get a faster and safer process, which eliminates people working machines,” says Ben Ryan, general manager for the North West Program Alliance.
“It has broader application across the rail industry, in Victoria, Australia and internationally.”
The springer can remove a kilometre’s worth of dog spikes – or 1,500 sleepers – in just an hour, whereas the traditional, manual method would take around 50 hours.
By mechanising the process, the machine saves time and money while reducing the potential for injuries.
So practical was this innovation, that it helped the project team complete the Camp Road level crossing a month ahead of schedule.
“A lot of ideas come out of relatively benign conversations people might be having,” Ben says. “‘Why don’t we try this?’ and someone gets a head of steam and takes ownership of the idea.
“This sort of stuff often comes from the shop floor, so to speak, but needs support from the management team. It works when you’ve got it going both ways.”
This piece of machinery is just one of around 40 continuous improvements and innovations overseen by LXRA, that have saved tens of millions of dollars and addressed program pain points along the way.