Kent railway reopens following cutting stabilisation closure

Work on the slopes

Camberley, 17 August 2021 - BAM Nuttall, working on behalf of Network Rail, has completed a nine-day blockade in Bearsted to prevent rock fall onto the track.

The narrow section of track between Maidstone and Hollingbourne has recorded several instances of falling rocks in recent years, posing a serious hazard to the railway line.

Over 7,700 metres of soil nails and anchors were drilled into the slopes on either side of the railway line. Now that this has been completed, steel mesh will be installed and cabling will also be connected and tensioned to hold everything in place.  The intensive work over a nine-day period was the most extensive earthwork stabilisation carried out using this method in the UK.

The proximity of the slopes to the railway in Bearsted means that the line is extremely narrow, which meant that a full blockade possession was required to ensure the safety of all workers on the track. With a large amount of equipment required to carry out the work, the line closure was also required to provide enough time to complete the drilling.

Adam Aspinall, site agent, BAM Nuttall, said: ‘The greatest challenge has been the logistical planning as we have had so much plant and equipment on track, and we have needed to work to incredibly short time frames and deadlines. Normally a blockade like this would take a couple of years to plan but we only had five months, so that gives an idea of the planning and organisation undertaken to make sure that these works were completed safely and on time.’

There were eight drilling rigs operating full time on the slope, seven of which were rail plant and one a long-reach rig, drilling from the top of the slope. Throughout the entire nine-day period there was 24/7 hour working operating in three shifts. In total this led to 20 hours of non-stop drilling every single day with 70 people working in each shift. There was a total of 17,000 working hours completed during the blockade, all accident free.

Fiona Taylor, Kent Route Director, said: ‘The site and job were both well managed and it was really good to hear that there have been no safety issues.’

Gareth White, Framework Lead, BAM Nuttall said: ‘The whole planning of this blockade was another great example of our collaborative approach, with the Rail South team working very closely with BAM Ritchies for a successful delivery. We would also like to recognise the E&P HV cable feeder works undertaken successfully by us in the adjacent worksite. Everyone involved in the projects worked together to achieve such an impressive milestone and we have really felt the support of our subcontractors and our client, Network Rail, in helping us to deliver these necessary works. We would also like to thank the residents in the vicinity for their understanding and patience during this time. We have further blockades in Horsham during August and in the Wadhurst area in October, which I am confident will be planned and delivered to the equally high standard shown at Bearsted.’