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cablex was involved in modernising the railways at the Swiss Rhine Ports Basel-Kleinhüningen, Birsfelden and Muttenz Auhafen from 2017 to 2020. The Infrastructure Business Unit layed the electrical and data cabling of the safety systems as a subcontractor of Siemens AG. In addition, diverse distribution systems and junction boxes were installed along the tracks. Another bid was won from Hafenbahn Schweiz AG in September 2019 to replace the rail yard lighting in Kleinhüningen.
As a subcontractor of Siemens AG, cablex was responsible for laying the electrical and data cables for the track safety systems and installing the junction boxes. Picture: ©Patrik Walde
Thousands of tonnes of goods are trabshipped in the Swiss Rhine Ports every day. That’s because it's the last navigable port on the Rhine. Hafenbahn Schweiz AG is a 100% subsidiary of Swiss Rhine Ports and operates a 50-km railway network between the Rhine ports. As the electro-mechanical signal box of the port railway dates back to 1942 and the demands on railway technology have grown, it was replaced with an electronic signal box from Siemens.
Before the modernisation, all of the port railways’ safety systems were operated locally, that is on site. Now all controls and monitoring have been automated and run through the central control centre in Kleinhüningen. The entire safety system is thus remotely operated from Kleinhüningen, which meant electrical and data cables had to be installed.
The Infrastructure Business Unit took on the laying of the electrical and data cabling for the safety installations along the tracks and installation of the junction boxes as a subcontractor of Siemens AG. Cable was layed over distances of up to 2 kilometres, but also included very short sections of only 20 to 30 metres. In total, 40 to 50 kilometres of various types of cables were laid.
In response to the question in which area cablex is particularly convincing, Project Manager Assuero Camporesi highlights experience with the varied work in the rail yard: "Strict attention was paid to observing safety measures. This also entails restrictions in the work areas," explains Assuero, adding the following example: "Seven-hundred metres of cable have to be laid. The installation supervisor, two of his employees and the cable laying team first discuss the situation on site. They define the track section where the cable is to be laid and which material is required.
Through the experience with work along active railways, the team knows that they are only allowed on the track with a safety warden – this is a regulation but also an additional expense. The safety warden knows the train schedule and warns the installation workers on the track with a horn when a train approaches. Even when the trains pass the construction area at walking speed, the distance between the workers and machines is sometimes only a metre.
Work has to be interrupted whenever a train passes, and may only be continued after it’s gone. These interruptions must be considered during the planning. It's important to establish eye contact with the train drivers to indicate that we have seen each other," Assuero explains. "Mobile phones are strictly forbidden during work on the railways – this is clear to everyone and a matter of course just like wearing protective kit and footwear. Our teams know how to cross tracks, that you are never allowed to stay between two trains and that you may only cross the tracks behind a train at a distance of at least 5 metres behind the last wagon. The reason for this is that a wagon can be coupled to the train, causing the train to jerk back quickly."
A further challenge when working on railways is logistics, as one cannot simply store the material there. Assuero explains: "The material is transported by a railcar. This has to be unloaded every time so that the track isn’t blocked. The alternative is to close the track section for the duration of the work. This isn’t always possible and is only done for larger cable laying operations.
The closures are then requested via the head of security and have to be announced in advance. That’s why planning, job preparation as well as perfectly coordinated, efficient communication is essential here."
The order to replace the electrical cabling for the port lighting was awarded to cablex by Hafenbahn Schweiz AG in addition to the replacement of the signal box. The port lighting is hung on masts where the overhead lines are also mounted. The cabling of the existing lighting was already 30 to 40 years old and was made of paper-lead cable, which filled with tar or oil. When laying the new cables, the workers had to ensure that the existing lighting continued to operate until the new lighting was fully installed and functional.
INFO: Over 120,000 containers with up to 6,000,000 tonnes of goods are transshiped in the three port sections of Basel-Kleinhüningen, Birsfelden and Muttenz Auhafen every year. This constitutes 10% of all imports to Switzerland. Every fourth container in Switzerland is transported by boat, transshipped in one of the three Rhine ports and forwarded by lorry or train.