VolkerRail's welding division acted as a sub-contractor to MPT, the joint venture currently completing the Manchester Metrolink programme, to undertake approximately 5,000 flashbutt welds on the Oldham Rochdale and South Manchester Routes as part of the larger Manchester Metrolink Phase 3a project.
Close liaison with MPT and Transport for Greater Manchester was imperative to jointly plan the works and ensure maximum productivity of the mobile flash butt welder (MFBW) with minimal disruption to other track construction works ,as all welding works were carried out during blockade conditions
Once set up and operational on a clear site, the MFBW would achieve from four to six welds per hour. The track construction process employed on site did not allow for the welds to be inspected and ground to their final position, but the process did allow for the rail to be welded within the sleeper housings. A team of trackmen continually fed the rail to the MFBW team, by unclipping, jacking and re-clipping the rail once the weld was completed.
The final grinding and inspection process was undertaken when the top ballast was laid and the track was tamped to final alignment. All welds were installed and inspected in line with Network Rail standards. As an additional quality check, the welds were also ultrasonically tested and results passed to the client.
The flashbutt welder achieved peak production on this project of 60 welds in just one shift. This was made even more impressive due to the specific site planning and machine movement management required, due to the steep gradients experienced on site during construction.