Rockfall Mitigation: Railways And The UK Economy

The UK rail system is an integral part of the economy, helping to sustain national and international trade. Government reports suggest a 91.6 percent annual punctuality rate that UK shipper and receivers have come to take for granted. The UK rail system is a staple of the economy, and maintenance of the system is essential to consistent performance.

In developed economies like the UK, there are four main ways to import or export products; rail, road, air and sea. Developed economies thrive because of these transport systems, and if they are in good working order year-round, trade is not hampered.

Many of the UK’s railway lines are threatened by steep slopes that are prone to erosion. Protecting against erosion and rockfall that can interfere with this form of transport is critical to the economy and to the industry. Railways are investing heavily in new technology that is designed to deter erosion and upgrade retaining wall defences along the country’s rail lines.

Rail transport of goods is efficient, cost-effective and allows for long-distance hauling with unparalleled ease. Furthermore, UK rail freight emits only about 33 percent of the carbon emission that a similar trip by road would emit into the environment.

Users of rail transport have come to acknowledge that rail systems have a very low accident / incident rate, with minimal risk of delay. As a trusted shipping solution, operators have continued to make significant economic and environmental inroads into the UK transport system.

Rail freight compares favourably to road transport in terms of price and efficiency. Trains burn less fuel per tonne than road vehicles and average about 30 wagons per driver – another significant saving. Furthermore, as we drive around the UK, we can see that the more cargo that is shipped by rail, the less congested the nation’s road system is. 

Protecting Rail with Retaining Structures

In the UK, engineers are always on the lookout for ways to protect the rail service. Modular retaining walls are an excellent means to ensure an efficient rail system. The most effective rail retaining systems are reinforced soil systems that are BBA Roads and Bridges Certified.

MacWall – This system allows for the aesthetic appeal of masonry wall systems with all the advantages of engineered reinforced soil systems. The MacWall system is a cost-effective solution that is incredibly versatile. The MacWall blocks are significantly smaller than normal concrete systems, so heavy equipment and specialist labour are not required. Fine construction details like curves, corners and steps are easily achieved due to this versitility.

Steelgrid Mesh Systems – Steel grid mesh systems use high tensile steel cables with mesh to provide biaxial or uni-axial high strength drapery systems. When it comes to stabilising slopes, Steelgrid boosted by soil nails provides extra strength and is the perfect solution to protect rail lines with steep inclines alongside the rail.

Another alternative for retaining wall protection for rail line are High Energy Absorption (HEA) rock barriers.  These barriers offer certified protection catch fences for sites that are threatened by rock fall.

Pre-fill, Lift Gabions and Reno Mattresses – When time is of the essence and erosion protection is needed quickly, gabions and mattresses that are pre-filled can provide immediate relief from erosion. These solutions work while more sophisticated solutions are designed and put in place.

3D Erosion Control Matting – Sophisticated 3D erosion control matting with integral woven steel mesh form added strength is also deployed for rail service embankments. This matting is supplemented with soil nailed slope reinforcement.

Protecting the UK’s sophisticated rail lines is serious work. Technology, engineering and installation of products like these ensure delivery of the country’s imports and exports and goods used across the nation.

The economy is on the mend, so it more important than ever to increase the investment in protecting our rail system. These solutions are innovative and reliable, and continue to make the UK a viable place to do business.