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Slabtrack The Commercial Case

Executive Summary

This report summarises the findings of a scoping exercise for a slab track commercial case carried out by Ove Arup and Partners on behalf of Britpave (the British In-situ Concrete Paving Association). The commission for this scoping exercise was awarded in May 2003 to facilitate the development of a slab track business case.

The objectives of the ‘Slab Track Commercial Case Scoping Study’ were to:

  1. Identify existing and ongoing research into the commercial case for slab track, as compared to ballasted track;
  2. Assess whether developing a commercial case for the installation of slab track in the UK will further Britpave’s promotion of slab track;
  3. Recommend how the commercial case could be developed.

From the papers reviewed, it is generally accepted that slab track offers a cost-effective alternative to ballasted track if the two systems are compared in Life Cycle Cost terms. However, there is very little supporting evidence to substantiate such a claim. It is therefore considered that the development of a commercial case for slab track will probably further Britpave’s promotion of slab track. In addition the development of whole life costs models for the slab track compared with conventional ballasted track is desirable if Britpave wants to create a robust commercial case for slab track.

From the literature search it has also become apparent that it is considered that slab track has performance benefits over conventional ballasted track. This may prove to be a key point in the promotion of slab track but does require further research.

Several markets have been identified for the initial promotion of slab track. These are: all new build projects, tunnels, viaducts and major upgrades carried out in blockades. Essentially the business case can be progressed as either:

  • A speculative business case where slab track is considered broadly against ballast track at several locations (in which case only a preliminary assessment can be made); or
  • A project-specific business case where a chosen slab track system is identified and a larger appraisal of the two systems under consideration is carried out.

The format of the business case is dependent on the audience (which is defined by what market the business case is aimed at and at what level). The Strategic Rail Authority is a prime member of this audience and has a methodology for the development of a business case. For this reason this report has focused on the detail of a business case for the Strategic Rail Authority although the broad components identified below would also be applicable to any other member of the audience such as Network Rail:

  • Strategic case;
  • Economic case;
  • Financial case;
  • Delivery;
  • Environmental case;
  • Safety case.

The six broad components outlined above would form the basis of the business case and each would be developed to include both the benefits and disadvantages of slab track as outlined in section 6.3 of this report.