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Control of water ingress into Balcombe Railway Tunnel using the Oldroyd Xv Water Management System

Built between 1838 and 1841, the Balcombe railway tunnel occupies one of the busiest sections of the London to Brighton mainline.

Victorian tunnels along the permanent way (railway line) present a variety of ongoing management problems, one of the most common being rainwater penetration. Following periods of prolonged rainfall, water percolates through the tunnel structure which, in many cases, results in water dripping onto the third rail. This problem is compounded during severe cold conditions, often resulting in frozen rails. These can result in delays and cancellations to the rail services using the tunnel.

The situation at the Balcombe tunnel typifies such a water penetration problem. Historically metal sheets were fitted to divert the penetrating water. However the variance in air pressure created by the passage of trains sometimes resulted in the metal sheets being torn from the structure, creating a serious hazard to the trains, track and personnel.

The Solution

Railtrack sought to find alternative, less hazardous materials to deal with the water penetration. Following trials carried out by BCM (the appointed maintenance contractor), the Oldroyd Xv Clear water management system was chosen to replace the metal sheeting previously used in the tunnel.

Oldroyd Xv is a polypropylene plastic material (pictured above), secured in position by specially designed yellow Brick Plugs that are sealed using Compression Seals.

The Oldroyd Xv system is also much faster to install than the previous metal sheeting system. This is an important consideration, as when the tunnel is closed, passengers are faced with lengthy diversions or replacement bus services.

The result is an effective, safe and secure system that has proved to be a success without the hazards and safety problems previously experienced.

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