Repairing Old Dalby test track
Published 3 May 2024 | Average read time
3 min read
Stories Industry-leading Living by the railway

Our Old Dalby test track is a valuable innovation hub. So how better to repair a landslip here than by trialling new tech that will benefit you, our neighbours and the environment?

The Old Dalby test track – or Melton Rail Innovation and Development Centre as it is now known – sits in the village of Old Dalby in Leicestershire.

A landslip in December caused serious damage here. In that time we’ve explored repairs that are kinder to our neighbours and the environment surrounding it.

A rich history

The 13-mile route runs between Melton Mowbray in Leicestershire and Edwalton in Nottinghamshire, and was originally used as an operational railway in 1879.

The track was converted into a test site in 1966 when it became part of the wider Rail Innovation and Development Centre in Melton (RIDC Melton). The RIDC Melton has been purpose-built to support high and low speed testing of vehicles and infrastructure. The site represents the operational railway so it includes many characteristics found across our national network. This makes it a safe and reliable testing environment for the railway of the future.

We’ve since used it to test new trains and tech ahead of their use on the operational railway. Virtual reality headsets, drones and even independently powered – or battery-operated – trains have all been tested here.

Automatically operated trains passing at a station
Automatically operated trains

Our teams have also trialled new and modified trains here, including the new Crossrail trains used on the Elizabeth Line and the five-carriage Bombardier trains used by train operator Greater Anglia.

Greener, considered repairs

We try to reduce any disturbances to our passengers and neighbours during our work when we can. So we’ve planned to carry out the repairs during the day wherever possible. We’ll also use a remotely controlled, solar-powered generator to power the site which will reduce noise and save energy.

Engineers repairing the landslip.

Our teams have already started removing 17,000 tonnes of soil and other vegetation from the site. We’ll then use 19,500 tonnes of material to rebuild the entire embankment.

We’ll also install a 370-metre drainage system to help prevent future landslips, new overhead line equipment to power electric trains and replace 265 metres of track.

Our research, development and innovation strategy

The Old Dalby test track forms an important part of our research, development and innovation strategy.

We’re working with the wider UK rail industry through the Rail Technical Strategy (RTS) to agree on, deliver and deploy new technology that will advance our railway. The strategy seeks to improve areas like environmental sustainability, affordability, reliability and safety.

We’re proud to be world leaders in the rail industry and are always looking at ways to further modernise and innovate our railway for you. Test centres like the Old Dalby test track are vital for this work.

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