Say hello to the Plug and Play railway

Benoit Binet Benoit Binet Oct 7, 2019

Say Hello to the Plug and Play Railway

How do you speed up the construction of new railways?

Getting big projects delivered on time and on budget is a mammoth task. Railways are a special challenge because of the large number of disciplines involved. Everything is interdependent – even a minor holdup can bring construction to a standstill.

So how can projects be kept on track?

Off-site construction (OSC) could hold the key. This means prefabricating components in factories instead of making them on site. OSC is already used in some areas of railway construction. Examples include tunnels (precast concrete linings) and stations (prefabricated platforms). The prize is faster, safer delivery – with optimum precision.

The benefits are measurable. On London’s Crossrail project, for instance, manufacturing platform components off-site reduced construction time by 11 weeks in the case of one major station – a 25% time saving.

Prefabrication, however, is still far from universal. Electrical fit-out, for example, still depends heavily on preparing cables in situ. Yet Nexans’ experience shows that factory preparation of cables can cut installation time by up to 50%.

Lessons from the ocean

Shipbuilding provides a practical example of how cable prefabrication is already being used successfully to revolutionise fit-out.

Chantiers de l’Atlantique – one of the world’s biggest shipyards – highlights what can be achieved. Modern ships require huge amounts of cabling and when Chantiers de l’Atlantique needed to double production, it worked with Nexans on an innovative way to boost output.

The solution is to deliver cables in kit form. It’s a bit like Ikea: Nexans prepares kits that contain all the cable the customer needs for a specific part of the ship. It’s designed to make installation as easy as possible. Above all, it offers flexibility to match the customer’s workflow.

Cable is selected, cut, labelled and sorted at Nexans’ Nanterre Logistics & Solutions Centre – ready for just-in time dispatch to the shipyard at Saint-Nazaire.

Solutions like this hinge on collaboration between suppliers and customers – and a willingness to share risks and responsibilities. Could the same approach transform railway construction?

Nexans believes it could. Cable kits have already proved their worth with customers in the shipbuilding and aerospace sectors. Railway construction – which faces similar demands in terms of cost, quality and deadlines – is ideally positioned to benefit from this approach as well.

The plug-and-play railway could be closer than you think.

Coming up: the chip that builds railways faster.


About the author

Benoit Binet

Benoit Binet

Benoît Binet began his career at Nexans in Paris in 2008 before leaving for Qatar where he was sent to start the new local Nexans plant. He then moved to Australia, where he was in charge of cable purchases in Asia. Since January 2018, he has been in charge of the Grand Paris for Nexans and the management of the Nanterre site.

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