Essex manufacturer minds the gap for train platforms

An Essex manufacturer is hoping for a business boom after launching a new style of platform in conjunction with Network Rail.

Dura Composites, which employs 35 people at its Clacton-on-Sea premises, is an innovator in composite production and was chosen to come up with a fibreglass station platform that allows railway stations to remain operational, whilst helping to address potentially dangerous stepping distances.

The product was designed in conjunction with feedback from installation partners and Network Rail. The new Dura Platform features a height adjustable sub-structure and the new material will not suffer from compaction issues. It is also fully usable for disabled patrons, and complies with the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) – one of the most common criticisms of train platforms –  and reduces the likelihood of slips and falls.

“Our business has been heavily involved in supplying innovative fibreglass flooring and structures such as structural walkways, heavy duty trench covers and marine pontoon decking to name but a few,” explained Stuart Burns, Dura director.

“Once this [Dura platform] system is adopted by the first few stations, we expect the cost savings and reduction in passenger disruption will mean we will be manufacturing thousands of platforms every year.”

In April a full prototype of the platform was produced for exhibition at Infrarail 2014 in May, where it received huge interest from UK rail contractors and Network Rail platform experts.

“The innovation does not stop there. Working with Advisor Victoria Tsoi, we are now in the process of bringing a further variant of the Dura Platform to fruition,” added Stuart.

“The initial model was designed as a platform extension system, which could be massive when you consider the huge rail infrastructure projects currently being discussed in the UK to add more passenger capacity.

“The second model, which is already on the drawing board, has been conceived to offer a repair and refurbishment solution for situations where the gap between the platforms and the train step has increased out of gauge due to subsidence.”

Victoria Tsoi has been working with Dura Composites since 2013 and in that short time has already seen a huge amount of progress and applications for two patents.

She added: “The company has always been at the forefront of composite technology, but until recently has not maximised its impact in the rail sector.”

The company, which has been supported by the Manufacturing Advisory Service (MAS), has already successfully trialled the solution, with interest now coming from all over the UK. Dura Composites expects an almost £10m bump in turnover thanks to the product.

Dura Composites is planning to create up to 20 jobs in the next three years, taking the workforce to 55 people.