A TECHNIQUE pioneered in Newcastle to strengthen old rail and road embankments has scooped two prestigious industry awards.
Newcastle University spin-out Electrokinetic uses a patented technique, called Electrokinetic Geosynthetics, to remove water from fine-grain ground and waste material.
This makes it more solid and less prone to slipping and crumbling. The firm has been working with Network Rail for a number of years to stabilise embankments around rail lines, and has also helped the Highways Agency on sites such as embankments on the A21 near Hildenborough in Kent.
The firm picked up the 2012 Innovation Award in the Institution of Civil Engineers Regional Excellence Awards and within the same week the project was awarded a Green Apple, the internationally-acclaimed gong for sustainability and green endeavour in the built environment.
Highways Agency geotechnical expert Jan Marsden said: “This particular section had many mature trees and it is a rich wildlife habitat. We decided Stocks Green would be a good place to try this new technology out.
“This is the first time in the UK that it has been used on a major road, and I am delighted that its potential benefits have been recognised.”
By applying voltage, the water is driven toward the cathode and drained out through a pipe.
Dr John Lamont-Black, chief executive of Electrokinetic, said: “Simultaneous recognition for both environmental and engineering aspects of our technology reinforces our belief in the wider potential of the process.
“Compared to conventional methods, stabilisation of this embankment produced zero waste and reduced the carbon footprint of the works by 40%.”
According to the Highways Agency, initial indications suggest that Electrokenetic’s technique offers a cost saving of around 30% compared to conventional soil nailing.
A second site, on the M5, is now undergoing treatment and the Highways Agency is assessing the use of this method for other sites.