A factory on rails will slash years off the time it takes to electrify the Great Western main line.
Network Rail is working with German manufacturer, Windhoff, to build a High Output Plant System (HOPS) special train to do the job. With 235 route miles to electrify between Maidenhead and Swansea the new 23-vehicle train will be able to work west, building the railway electrical infrastructure as it goes.
Adjacent lines will remain open to traffic – albeit at reduced speed. HOPS carries enough supplies and equipment to avoid having to bring anything to the trackside on lorries. Staff can be picked up at stations en-route. The train divides into sections or consists. These include pile drivers and vibrators, a concrete mixing unit, equipment that will help raise 30 masts a night and an electrical consist.
The individual portions of the train – the consists – can be detached and set to work in separate sections of the project. Each consist will include two MPVs (multi-purpose vehicles) with full driving cabs, powered by MTU power packs, which can be driven at 60 mph off-site.
On site driving cabs will allow the train to be driven very slowly in possessions, such as when installing contact wire. Around 200 people will work on the HOPS project overall, employed by operator Amey, and recruited from along the route of the line.