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Vortok Safety Barrier (VSR)

Safer working, higher track speeds, lower possession times


The challenge

Working on track required costly possession of the line and adjacent lines.  The safety system was inadequate, involving hammering metal spikes/poles into the ground and attaching a barrier of nylon netting. The system caused many problems:

  • High costs of possession times
  • A time-consuming (and often inaccurate) services scan to ensure the poles did not penetrate underground cables etc.
  • Lengthy installation time
  • Hazardous for workers when traffic was running
  • Train running speeds had to be reduced on adjacent open track
  • The netting was a tripping hazard
  • Workers could easily fall through the netting
  • High winds detached the netting blowing it across open track
  • Poor design and easily loosened netting required ongoing maintenance


Our solution

The design team focussed on maximising safety while minimising possession times. They came up with a rigid safety barrier providing sufficient protection in the worst-case scenario; a worker falling heavily towards the track when a train is approaching. The method of erection is safe and quick; no penetration of ballast is required and there is no risk of damage to underground cables and services.

In 1999 we began work on what has become the UK standard for worker protection in proximity to running traffic. By the end of 2000 we were supplying safety barriers for extensive field trials and by the end of 2001 we had received the first approval.


Value to client

  • Removed the need for a services scan prior to installation
  • Achieved significant cost savings: the rigid nature of the safety barrier allows for higher train running speeds
  • Removed the need for tools
  • Removed the possibility of safety barrier blowing loose in high wind
  • Fully insulated for use in third rail areas
  • A worker caught the wrong side of the safety barrier can easily re-enter the safe zone


Fact file

  • 2002: won the Alstom Award for Innovation in Safety
  • The Vortok Safety Barrier is used all over the world including Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, USA, South Africa and Australia
  • 2003: Amey Seco reported that the safety barrier had potentially saved a life (Great Western Project)
  • 2003: Network Rail and Amey Seco reported that the safety barrier had saved in the region of £1m during the Great Western Project


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Safety Barrier