Manco

An elevated solution

Working collaboratively with a customer, Manco have been able to design and deliver a bespoke solution customised for the rail projects of today.

In Australia and New Zealand, perhaps the most distinctive feature of the major rail infrastructure projects is that on the whole, they are hidden from view. Whether it be the Cross River Rail project in Brisbane, the new Sydney Metro lines, the Melbourne Metro Tunnel, or in Auckland, the City Rail Link, the major elements of the new rail lines are deep underground.

Installing track, wiring, and associated systems many metres below ground level requires new thinking when it comes to the equipment and plant needed to build the new rail lines.

Steven Waugh, power systems manager – transport and technology at UGL Limited is more aware than most of the intricacies involved in some of these projects. UGL is working on both the Line-wide works for the Sydney Metro as part of the Systems Connect joint venture and the rail integration and systems contract as part of the UNITY Alliance joint venture on Cross River Rail. In these projects innovative equipment is required to respond to current needs.

At the time of writing, Waugh is just a week away from receiving delivery of a new combined scissor lift platform and wire manipulator from Manco Rail. The bespoke piece of equipment was designed in partnership between UGL and Manco specifically for the requirements of modern rail projects, the first being the need to limit exhaust fumes when working in confined tunnels.

“Instead of retrofitting old plant, we went with a new truck that has the best emissions controls available,” said Waugh.

More significantly, however, Waugh is just about to complete the process of working with Manco to develop a unique platform that will be put to use on projects such as Sydney Metro and Cross River Rail.

“The combined scissor platform and wire manipulator is going to be ideal for wire runs or traction wiring runs. We will be able to do wire retrievals and install new catenary and contact wire.”

Bringing together what would normally be two separate pieces of equipment will enable Waugh to tackle the complexities of current projects.

“The wire manipulator is for when you’re running wires so you can get your staggers right as you run the wire out, but then a scissor platform can do things like install sections, insulator switches, and doing bigger jobs all at once with a number of people on a platform.”

The platform mounted onto the back of a hi-rail truck is extendable, to allow for more people to work on the platform at one time.

“The platform is designed to be quite large so that we have a number of people on it at once and safely do all the things we need to do,” said Waugh.

To meet UGL’s specifications, Manco designed a platform which, when raised can expand horizontally.

“This enables us to work safely in tunnels and to install equipment on the side of the tunnels. This is quite a bespoke unit that Manco did for us, to our specifications, so that we can have it as a multipurpose unit.”

Unlike standard catenary wires, electric trains running through tunnels draw their power from beams mounted into the ceiling of the tunnel and it’s here that the large platform comes in handy.

“In the tunnel it’s a rigid bar conductor so the length of that platform allows us to have two people on each end of the bar, installing it into the roof. That would be very impractical with a normal elevated work platform (EWP),” said Waugh.

Being a “multipurpose unit” has other efficiencies, particularly when getting equipment in and out of tunnels is easier said than done.

“It takes time to bring machines in and out, because these things on rail only move at 15km/h. Doing one thing with one machine then bringing another machine in takes a significant amount of time.”

For example, even in surface-level wire installation, Waugh has seen rail authorities which have one machine with a pantograph for mounting the overhead wire, and a second EWP for measurement.

“They’ve got two machines doing the same job that we can do with one machine, so that’s where I think we can start to get efficiencies because of the multiple things we can do at once.”

Another advantage of the unit that Manco have designed is its flexibility. The equipment can be reconfigured by an operator for the job at hand.

“It’s modular too,” said Waugh. “I could get a forklift, take that whole scissor platform off and, because it sits on container-type pins, put a flat tray on it and use it as a hi-rail truck, then I can transport materials. That’s the beauty of it, I could drop on another module on it, even a concrete agitator, or another module that is a smaller, Manco EWP.”

THE OUTCOME OF COLLABORATION
The flexibility, multipurpose nature, and instant applicability of the platform is a result, in part, of the close and collaborative relationship that UGL and Manco had throughout the design and build process.

“The process and collaboration were great, they listened to what we wanted and then worked through that,” said Waugh.

An OEM based in New Zealand with branches in Australia, Manco was able to quickly respond to the needs of UGL and come up with a solution that met their requirements.

“They’ve been doing this for a long time, and they were able to listen, which was the key piece.”

In addition, Manco knew the environment that UGL was operating in, and was able to suit the design of the platform to fit the safety requirements of various rail access regimes in Australia.

“There are some challenges that come with a thing like this, where you’ve got moving platforms and multiple uses,” said Waugh. “One particular one area was ensuring the safety railing will met the legislation and all the requirements in terms of safety and testing that. With Manco, that was just something that we worked through, it didn’t take very long and they came up with the designs.”

When the project neared completion, Waugh and a colleague visited the Manco workshop in New Zealand in person to finalise all details so that the equipment would be ready for delivery. The ease of being able to connect further simplified the process.

“Obviously it’s better to be geographically closer but there’s a couple of other advantages; there’s the collaboration on the engineering, and then being able to get out of us what we want and turn that into what it is,” said Waugh. “Then there’s also the testing and engineering part and the certification part and that’s been a bigger part than even I expected. Having local people that can do that testing, that are familiar with all the different rail networks, and assist with getting that certification done has been helpful.”

Manco was able to work with independent certifiers to ensure that the unique solution met all of UGL’s requirements to work on rail networks around Australia.

“These engineers know what the requirements are, and they ensure that the machines are tested correctly and can provide the test results to meet those requirements.”

Ultimately, Waugh said that the new platform will be an asset to UGL’s fleet. “It was designed for the work UGL is involved in and so we can see how it will benefit those major projects because of its multifaceted capabilities. We see it as something that will be an asset to the project and give us some great productivities,” he said.

Going in deep

Utilising its extensive in-house expertise, Manco Rail was able to provide a unique solution to a challenging project.

Meeting the challenge of increasing rail services in cities where space is at a premium has led to more projects extending the capabilities of what is possible in major rail construction projects.

In Sydney, this has led to projects going underground, with the massive Sydney Metro project, Australia’s largest public transport infrastructure project, being built largely below the city.

According to Bryan Black, managing director of Manco Rail, this presents an opportunity for businesses such as his.

“With the degree of rail infrastructure projects occurring throughout the Southern Hemisphere, there is a real opportunity for rail equipment engineering companies to make a considerable investment in both time and capital with innovative, efficiency enhancing plant, that enables contractors to improve productivity and performance by changing from traditional rail construction methodologies.”

While construction-related headlines have been dominated by the movements of the five tunnel boring machines above and below Sydney harbour, constructing a metro line largely underground has required suppliers and subcontractors to transform the delivery of systems to the project.

For Manco Rail, a project such as this fits into the company’s DNA as an OEM with the ability to innovate. Based in New Zealand, the company has been providing custom-built plant and equipment for over 40 years.

In the case of Sydney Metro City and Southwest, it was these qualities that led the line-wide contractor, Systems Connect to select Manco. A joint venture between CPB Contractors and UGL, Systems Connect will deliver the laying of track, power, communications, and signalling equipment to the project between Chatswood and Bankstown. The project involves delivering rail and track on twin 15.5km tunnels between Chatswood, under Sydney Harbour, below the Sydney CBD, and on to Sydenham. It is here that Manco’s equipment comes into its own.

“Over the years, our equipment has ended up operating in rail tunnels by the very nature that most tunnels interface with a tunnel network of some sorts, whether it be due to terrain or underground stations to accommodate CBD or high density areas,” said Black.

Compounding the standard complexities of installing new track, the project is constrained by having only three major access points for equipment and materials along 31km of tunnels. In addition, gradients in the tunnels are steep, at 4.5 per cent, said Paul Ryan, senior project manager at Systems Connect.

“Construction within this tunnel environment is inherently complex. Access is limited, spaces are confined and grades are steeper. We worked with Manco Rail to custom design equipment that overcomes these challenges,” he said.

The particular equipment that Manco has provided for the Sydney Metro CBD and South West project are rail transfer equipment and sleeper-laying trailers.

The rail transfer equipment consists of two specially converted wheeled excavators equipped with material handling booms, automatic rail threading units, and rail carrying dollies.

The sleeper-laying trailers are equipped with a sleeper grab straddle, rail threader trailer, tug units, sonar detection systems, and a track guidance system fitted to the equipment.

Developed over 14 months, the custom- designed equipment lays the rail, spreads it out, places the sleepers, and then pulls the rail back over the top. The process of developing this one-of-a-kind equipment took a blank slate approach, said Black.

“The design and interface of each plant item has involved hundreds and hundreds of design hours. Utilising a highly competent team of young mechanical engineers tasked with starting with a ‘clean piece of paper, and fresh ideas’, brain storming meetings were held on a regular basis, where even the most radical concepts where discussed,” said Black.

“Ultimately, rational thinking prevailed, which – however – incorporated some of the vast array of available technologies, in electronics, motive power, hydraulics, fabrication materials and ergonomics.”

The entire process is radio remote controlled, crucially limiting the number of people in high-risk areas.

The Manco equipment will be used in two stages. First, it will lay the track components. Then the track form will be concreted, and mechanical and electrical systems and signalling equipment will be installed.

Afterwards, the Manco track-laying equipment will return, including wheel excavators, trailers, and tugs, to assist with concreting activities, and electrical and mechanical installations.

The confined nature of the working environment demands a sequential process, and Manco’s familiarity with working in railway tunnels led to the company being selected by Systems Connect for the complex project. Past work not only in Australia, but New Zealand, Hong Kong, Thailand, and Malaysia, enabled Manco to be selected as the subcontractor.

What was key in the relationship between Manco and Systems Connect was the New Zealand company’s ability to modify and custom design equipment for the particular project. The team collaborated to automate processes wherever possible and combine innovation with safety.

“Ensuring safety and optimising project delivery are priorities for Systems Connect,” said Ryan.

Manco’s extensive experience in rail construction was also important as Systems Connect required rail network certification. A higher level of testing and compliance requirements were applied to the project, particularly due to the steel gradients in the tunnels. Manco’s previously experience in rail certification across Australia, as well as their ability to supply fully certified equipment prior to construction, led to the company being selected by Systems Connect. Manco’s knowledge of the rail sector enabled this requirement to be met.

“All equipment manufactured is designed around specific and well known standards. Some standards are unique to rail and some to elevating personnel, suspended loads, and general operational safety,” said Black.

“Manco Rail has dedicated compliance officers that are specialists in their particular fields, be it, engineering quality, through to safety and the working environment approved emissions.”

A combination of innovation, safety, and proven capacity has seen Manco rail deliver on this major infrastructure project.