Setting hire standards
Network Rail’s sole supplier in the small plant hire domain, Torrent Trackside is the only specialist portable rail plant provider in the UK and is continuously expanding its product catalogue to retain its majority share in the market
In the nine years of meeting all of Network Rail’s small plant requirements during the last two Control Periods, Torrent Trackside has achieved a staggering 98 per cent reliability performance as measured by Network Rail’s Possession Planning System (PPS). This being a clear indicator of the company’s capabilities, it is no wonder that the small plant hire and associated services provider has the lion’s share of the market, which currently sits at about 70 per cent. “Our status of a reliable company stems from the quality of work we deliver to the numerous high-profile customers we have had a long-standing relationship with. Torrent Trackside has a unique understanding of the needs and challenges of the rail industry, and our Service Delivery Teams comprise of rail professionals who use their in-depth knowledge of our products and services to plan and advise the most suitable and cost effective equipment for customer projects. In addition, we are very versatile, as we operate nine strategically-located depots across the UK employing over 250 people, which gives us a good coverage of the country and enables us to deliver and maintain equipment where it is needed when it is needed. Combining these factors explains why we are the number one provider in our sector,” Carl Abraitis, Operations Director at Torrent Trackside, begins.
One of the depots in question – that in Bristol, was moved to larger, 14,000 square foot premises in the summer of 2017, effectively doubling in size. Carl comments: “We took this step in order to future-proof our business in the region. There is an increased demand we are dealing with in the South West, as work for the Great Western Railways and on some Welsh valley railway lines is piling up. We are extremely happy to have developed the site, which is now working really well and is turning over about £500,000 a month, owing to its increased capacity.”
As an industry leader, Torrent Trackside has an unspoken responsibility to develop the equipment range available in the market and stay ahead of the competition, which is why the company has spent a significant amount of money on bringing new tools to the marketplaces in the last couple of years. “Rail projects are becoming ever more demanding and they are increasingly reliant on cutting edge equipment, so we work hand in hand with customers and suppliers to develop and deliver innovative products to meet these new demands. To give you an example, we have introduced a variety of new clipping machines and we are currently in the process of developing an intelligent triple wacker system,” Carl reveals.
Discussing the company’s most sought-after products, he refers to an internal top ten list of items that are proving especially popular with customers. “The list includes tools, such as rail saws, impact wrenches, Cobra tampers, and Cembre clipping machines. We are achieving 85-90 per cent utilisation with all these products, the high rate attesting to their efficiency.
“Furthermore, it merits mentioning that we have introduced LED technology in our lighting systems, meaning that we can now have a lot more luminosity with a lot less power consumption,” Carl adds. “It is a sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective solution – everything the customers are looking for, presently many of the new lights are battery or hydrogen powered making them noiseless and emission free. We aim to improve our products constantly, because with that comes a steady reduction of costs for clients. We are also very close to having a worksite that is totally free of carbon-based fuel – a move that will advance our environmental credentials further.”
Recently, Torrent Trackside invested over £6 million in a new fleet of mobile elevation work platforms(MEWPs), adding a total of 36 vehicles, including 21 ART-17TH roadrail access platforms and 15 Neotec Skyrailer 400-RR platforms. “The purchase of these large machines enabled us to establish our own roadrail remotely operated vehicles (ROV) offering that is overseen by an in-house team of experienced managers and engineers who supply the platforms to a wide range of customers up and down the country, taking part in some of the most prestigious projects around the UK,” Carl explains. The MEWPs are industry-leading machines and feature four wheel drive, steering and braking, a three-man, easy access basket and a host of safety features.
A recent example of a landmark programme Torrent Trackside has worked on, is the £198 million project for the remodelling and re-signalling of the Derby station area, which was completed in early October 2018. “This was a 79-day blockade that involved an unprecedented amount of track renewal work,” Carl details. “We had people onsite from four weeks before until well after the blockade to make sure that the project was delivered to the highest possible standard. It is with complete satisfaction that I can report that we never had any issues throughout the duration of the project and we have received some very positive reviews from our customers who thanked us for our professionalism and high-quality performance,” he praises his team’s efforts.
In May last year, Torrent Trackside played a role in another major blockade at Oxford Station, engaging in a similar type of work, while currently, the plant hire provider is working on the Filton Bank section of the Bristol to Birmingham line in Bristol, where a blockade has been going on for more than three weeks at the time of writing.
From a short-term perspective, Torrent Trackside’s main area of interest for 2019 will be to strengthen its long-standing relationship with Network Rail. At the moment, the company is tendering for a number of contracts that will be awarded prior to the start of CP6. Carl continues: “We want to remain the reliable and consistent supplier we have been for so many years. Therefore, we are now upskilling our workforce, utilising our extensive apprentice programme and investing significantly in products that will be required for CP6’s multimillion-pound projects.
“We have been growing at a ten per cent rate year-on-year in the past few years and we are motivated to keep pace with this growth in the long-run. Our financial performance is very strong and so is our parent company’s – Vp Group. This is a very acquisitionhungry business, whose turnover for 2018 is projected to be just shy of £400 million and we would very much like to be part of its success story and grow alongside it,” he concludes, laying out the company’s long-term intentions.