Project Detail

The £680m Birmingham Gateway project included a major overhaul of the station, platform refurbishments, a new atrium roof, a bigger concourse, a new Moor Street station link and a flagship John Lewis store.

It was a mammoth task. As a major transport hub on the mainline network, the station had to remain open and operational throughout the programme, making it business critical to maximise time on the lines while ensuring that the work was delivered on schedule.

To achieve this, the main contractor Mace enlisted the help of MECX to carry out electrical isolation of overhead lines and provide safety critical staff, to enable work teams to complete work safely.

Extensive Isolations

The station had four lines coming into it at one side and a further four leaving it at the other. For phase 1 of the project, work needed to be carried out on 12 platforms, the majority of it during the night to minimise disruption.

Even during the dark hours, however, a major transport hub like Birmingham New Street still needed to remain open to trains and passengers so, starting each Monday for four consecutive nights, MECX were required to isolate the line at just three platforms, including a mile of line at either end of each one, between the hours of 00.30 – 05.00, while leaving the remaining nine platforms fully operational.

Birmingham New Street
Birmingham New Street
Birmingham New Street

Client :                 Mace

Location :           Birmingham New Street

Finished On :     1st Sept 2015

Value :                  Not Disclosed

Remarks :           A major overhaul of the station & extensive platform refurbishments whilst ensuring that the right sections of train line were isolated, earthed and tested. 

Extensive Isolations Continued…

The Birmingham New Street Project Manager at MECX said: “Keeping the trains running during the week was business critical but ensuring that the work teams were safe was equally important. It required specialist expertise to ensure that the right sections of line were isolated, earthed and tested.  We worked very closely with Mace to ensure that lines were isolated efficiently each evening to maximise available man hours, switching them back on promptly in the mornings to prevent any delays.”

The MECX team were responsible for identifying the right switches and applying the earth to ensure that up to 3,000 volts of residual current was made safe.  All lines were tested using an overhead line live tester.

At weekends, MECX had been isolating all lines from 00.30 on Saturday night until 08.05 on Sunday morning, for a mile south and north of all platforms, working with the team in the electrical control room to confirm full isolation before testing and earthing the lines.

Due to the design of the overhead lines, the MECX team had also had to modify the lines to enable larger sections to be isolated.

Safety First

While working on most of the platforms had to take place during the night, the programme included contractor possession of one platform for a 12-week period at all times during the works.

MECX had been supplying the Protection Controller for this aspect of the works throughout the programme, with a four-man team fulfilling this important safety role in shifts on a 24/7 basis.

The role included ensuring that only authorised members of the team were allowed onto the out-of-use platform and briefing them on the areas where it was safe to work and where was not. The Protection Controller was also responsible for ensuring that ‘stop’ boards were positioned at each end of the platform and that detonators were placed in the right location.

The Protection Controller was also responsible for managing the safety of the weekly movement of carriages in and out of the out of use platform to bring in materials and take out plant and debris. In addition to the Protection Controllers, MECX also provided safety critical personnel for those subcontractors that did not possess the required expertise within their existing team. These experienced Controller of Site Safety (COSS) operatives compiled the site-specific documentation and Safe System of Work (SSOW) packs and carried out safety briefings.

Diverse Services

In addition to earthing the isolated overhead lines, MECX were also responsible for earthing any temporary steelwork and scaffolding being used on site. MECX connected these potential electrical hazards to permanent earthed structures, such as footbridges, to provide a temporary bond and to ensure they do not conduct current.

MECX adds “The size and diversity of our remit at Birmingham New Street demonstrated the breadth of services we offer. “This was a landmark scheme for the UK rail network and MECX were instrumental in ensuring that it was delivered safely.”

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