Emergency removal of cement from derailed freight wagons at Sheffield station

Emergency mobilisation of vacuum excavators

LMD Vacuum Excavation mobilised five vacuum excavators to Sheffield railway station within two hours of an initial on-site assessment following the derailment of sixteen freight wagons carrying cement.

The freight train, pulling 34 wagons, was travelling from Hope in Derbyshire to Dewsbury in West Yorkshire. At 02.45am on Wednesday 11th November, 16 of the wagons derailed whilst the train was travelling at slow speed through Sheffield station. The incident occurred at the north end of the station where the railway runs alongside the A61 (Sheaf Street). Due to the slow speed, most of the wagons remained upright, but one wagon came to rest on its side.

Removal of cement from derailed freight wagons

Sheffield is one of the busiest stations outside London with an estimated 10 million passengers per annum. Immediately after the incident only three of its eight platforms were in use leading to huge disruption to passenger services. To minimise this disruption, Network Rail on the advice of contractor, Construction Marine Ltd, called in LMD Vacuum Excavation. LMD was tasked with removing the cement from the derailed wagons to enable a crane to remove them from the scene.

Flexibility and size of LMD vacuum excavation fleet

Simon Adams, Sales Manager, was first on scene for LMD:

‘I received a call from Construction Marine at 4.30pm on Thursday (12 November). The LMD head office and operations hub is located in Chesterfield so I was on site within the hour.

After discussing the project with Paul Raftery, Construction Marine’s Plant Manager, we pulled out all the stops and mobilised five vacuum excavators to site by 8pm. This is a testament to the flexibility and size of our fleet, our commitment to the service and maintenance of our vacuum excavators, and the skills and dedication of our workforce.’

Ten operators and two fitters on site day and night

The project ran continuously from Thursday evening through to late afternoon on Saturday (14 November). LMD had ten operators on site at all times, supported by two fitters on site day and night:

‘Anyone who uses Sheffield station will recognise that access isn’t straightforward at the best of times. We located four of our excavators on Sheaf Street and passed the vacuum hoses over the station’s brick wall. To reach some of the derailed wagons we had to fit extension pieces up to 8m in length.

City Safe vacuum excavator able to access platform alongside wagons

A fifth compact machine, the LMD City Safe, was used to gain access to the far side of the platform. LMD was the first UK vacuum excavation company to invest in the City Safe vacuum excavator.

Our primary task was to suck out the cement from nine of the wagons. We accessed the cement via the top hatch of the wagon silos. As the weather deteriorated, we also removed materials via the bottom hatch.’

120t of cement removed from the freight wagons

In total, LMD removed around 120 tonnes of cement from the wagons. The cement was removed from site and initially sent to a controlled recycling centre about 2km from the station. As the vacuum excavators were able to remove the cement directly into their onboard stainless steel skips without contamination, it is likely that it can continue to be used for its original purpose.

‘Proactive commitment from the whole LMD team’

Paul Raftery of Construction Marine Ltd had identified that vacuum excavation could solve Network Rail’s challenge:

‘Initial attempts to remove the concrete using waste tankers had proved unsuccessful. The heat of the concrete was damaging the rubber hoses which were too narrow to deal with the material being removed.

I contacted LMD and spoke to Simon. There was immediate proactive commitment from the whole LMD team, including the Managing Director. They ensured Network Rail was able to remove the wagons as quickly as possible and reopen the station.’

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