Have you ever waited for your train and looked down at where you were standing? You’d see the same thing on most platforms: a narrow concrete or tiled walkway covered in bright yellow tactile paving, stickers warning you to stay behind the line, and lots of commuters rushing about their day.

What you might not notice is the pit lids and covers. These are often carefully blended into their surrounding environment for both aesthetic and safety reasons.

But it’s the blending of these lids that can cause safety issues – especially when they become worn. Metro Trains Melbourne encountered this problem at Parliament Station on the underground loop.

Impressed with Terra Firma’s previous work at Flinders Station, Metro Trains Melbourne requested a proposal to solve a problem made complex by the fact that there couldn’t be any dust or disruption during the installation.

So how was Terra Firma able to deliver?

Cracked paving infill lids that weren’t fit for purpose

The worn paving infill lids at Parliament Station failed to meet modern OH&S standards and compromised the safety of everyone on the platform.

This is because they:

  • Couldn’t be easily lifted – due to weight (up to 250kg) and broken lifting points, they required a mechanical tool to be used
  • Obstructed an already-narrow platform – this risked people being knocked onto the tracks during maintenance works
  • Endangered workers – the weight of the lids and the tools required to lift them meant that workers risked injuries doing so
  • Wasted precious maintenance time – with the amount of time and people it took to simply lift the lids, they ended up eating up most of the maintenance window
  • Had cracked and warped – the lids had worn down over the years with cracked and damaged infills and were very difficult to refit properly after opening – a clear trip hazard

An underground installation posed massive risks

Metro Trains had very specific requirements for the new lids and how to install them due to their location.

With thousands of commuters using the platform daily, Metro Trains couldn’t afford to disrupt regular services in any way – either through extended maintenance periods or safety hazards like dust generated during installation.

Terra Firma faced multiple challenges in finding the right lids and access covers:

  • They had to be fire-proof – rail and underground tunnel environments have very stringent safety protocols and standards when it comes to fire and smoke.
  • They had to withstand heavy weight – with cleaning vehicles and thousands of pedestrians walking over them, these lids had to hold significant amounts of weight without becoming too heavy themselves
  • They had to minimise dust – dust in an underground setting can shut down the platform for a week, if not more. The problem lids and surrounding platform couldn’t be cut into during this project due to generating dust and other particles. Terra Firma would have to manufacture lids to fit perfectly into the existing frames.

Composites up to the challenge for rail and underground works

With these requirements, Terra Firma quickly found a custom solution to fit the bill. One reason why composites are growing in demand is that they’re extremely customisable in regards to shape, colour, and even material composition.

This customisability gave Terra Firma the ability to develop and deliver the Terra Firma C-Class FireShield covers that were:

Quick to install

The Terra Firma team had taken measurements and cut templates to ensure that the lids would fit perfectly before they were constructed. Terra Firma delivered lids size-matched to the millimetre that were able to be slotted in place in minutes, if not seconds, in a single night.

Fire, smoke, and dust-proof

Terra Firma worked with experts to develop FireShield, a material that incorporated Australian-designed fire proofing that exceeds flame spread resistance by 800% and smoke emission performance by 300% (by NCC standards). In case of a fire, these lids would not be putting anyone at risk.

Durable and load bearing

The C-class lids  are ideal for maintenance vehicles because of their 5,000 kilogram safe working load. Heavy foot traffic and maintenance and cleaning vehicles won’t affect the safety or durability of these lids for decades to come.

Safe, easy to access and secure

Terra Firma’s covers weigh just 28kgs, only require one person to lift them, and can’t be lifted or accessed without a special key – thus making installation and inspection faster and safer and reducing any public safety and security risks.

Perfectly blended – without compromising safety

The benefit of customising the lids meant that Terra Firma could colour match the lids to the station platform perfectly. The lids were also non-slip with a P5 rating (the highest available) and their durability means that there’s no risk of cracking or warping to become trip hazards.

Composites engineer the risk out of pit lids and covers for rail and underground

By manufacturing access covers from a variety of composite technologies Terra Firma effectively engineered safety into and manual handling risks out of lifting access covers. You can learn more about this project by watching this video.

Composites are the perfect solution for rail authorities looking to retrofit or install new covers that need a high level of customisation or compliance. Our Australian-made composites are created by infrastructure and civil works experts, and we can develop custom lid and cover solutions for any challenge.

If you’d like to know how composite materials could benefit your next rail or underground project, you can contact us here to discuss it.

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