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A 2013 VINCI Innovation Award went to the “pusher” wagon, an ETF innovation that streamlines the laying of continuous welded rail. Basically, rail works begin with laying sleepers, then track, and then ballast to give the rail line shape and stability. Previously, temporary track was laid for use by trains carrying permanent track.
Using its work trains, ETF experimented with a new method of laying permanent track straightaway. Sleepers were brought by road (26 lorries a day were used in our deployment area, the northern section), then unloaded along the bed in batches. One machine laid the sleepers every 60 centimetres. The following day, another machine laid the continuous welded rail 432 metres long; these are stored on a wagon placed in front of the machine so they can simply be pushed ahead over the previously laid sleepers. ETF had never produced such a high output before, that is, 1,300 linear metres every day.
In addition to saving time, this method also has saves cost. Once the track is laid, the site is clean and there is no need to bring surplus material and waste back to the work base. This makes it easier to meet deadlines because the site is subject to fewer hazards.
Since mid-2016, the first trial runs were carried out with a peak speed of 352 kilometres an hour. The line will be operational in July 2017, a month ahead of schedule.