New overhead line fabrication facility opens in Crewe

An innovative approach to overhead line fabrication has led to the opening of a third fabrication facility, developed by VolkerRail and Unipart Rail, in Crewe, today (4 April).

Officially opened by Network Rail’s major programme director, Chris Montgomery, the new facility will pre-assemble all overhead line material for Network Rail’s North West Electrification Programme - phase 3 (NWEP3) project.

The new facility is the culmination of three years’ work by VolkerRail and Unipart Rail and has proven to be crucial in the delivery of fully-fabricated assemblies. The first facility was developed for VolkerRail for the Stafford Area Improvement Programme and the second for the Rail Electrification Alliance - Power Supply Upgrade Project.

This new way of precision prefabrication provides just-in-time delivery and a high degree of traceability and material control to site.  When compared to conventional methods, the system has proven to significantly reduce waste, material rework and procurement lead times.

Commenting on the opening, Chris said: “This is a fantastic example of our supply chain working together to help deliver electrification more efficiently. I am delighted to open the new facility in Crewe which will play a vital role in the success of the Great North Rail Project, delivering better journeys for passengers between Preston and Blackpool.”

Stuart Birch, major projects director of VolkerRail said: “Our strong, collaborative relationship with Unipart Rail has enabled us to develop this forward thinking approach to overhead line fabrication.

“NWEP3 necessitated a step change in our approach to prefabrication and delivery methods for overhead line electrification. With the help of Unipart Rail, we have been able to create a co-located facility, which provides time, quality and cost benefits to our client and the industry.”

This facility is also the first of its kind to use Unipart Rail’s Uni-TracePlus software. This bespoke, industry leading software provides live status information of materials both in the facility and out on site for components and assemblies; resulting in minimal to zero reworks, as well as asset tracking for Network Rail upon project completion.

Graham Jackson, Unipart Rail’s managing director, Manufacturing said:  “We are pleased that our collaboration with VolkerRail continues to help find new ways to assist Network Rail in delivering major improvements to the railway in the most efficient way.”  

This investment, by both companies, has also secured jobs in Crewe, including apprentice roles.