Network Rail

Improving trackside maintenance practices

The brief

Network Rail’s ‘Standardised Tasks’ team approached PDG to develop an attachment for a leafblower that would majorly improve the efficiency of an inherently labourious and time-consuming trackside maintenance task.

Measured shovel packing (MSP) is a task that adjusts the level of the rails and sleepers by adding substrate underneath the sleepers to account for ongoing erosion that changes the position of the tracks.


Concept design, Development, Prototyping, Optimisation, Production



We met with the client to see their lo-fi prototypes and discuss the requirements of the product. From this we were able to produce a set of detailed specification criteria and start transforming the idea into a robust, mass-manufacturable product that would balance functionality, ease of use, and production cost-efficiency. Developed prototypes were made and field tested as a proof of principle before moving on to optimisation for manufacture.

Our solution

The feedback from the development and prototyping phases allowed us to ensure that the final product was robust, fit for purpose and met all the requirements of the end user. The product consists of two large injection moulded components that clip together, and a sacrificial acetal wear plate to extend the life of the product.

The manufacturing methods selected gave the user the best balance of durability, accuracy and manufacture cost. The MSP attachment is currently being used by Network Rail and heritage railways across the UK.

Created using Figma

I’m so proud of this bit of kit. The final design looks great and I can’t wait to see the new stone blower across the network later this year. I’ve had a lot of great feedback on the stone blower and even won a Network Rail Grafta Award for Innovation in December 2014.

Neil Young

Track Section Manager, Network Rail

Project credits

Murray Lippiatt

Concept Design, Development

Adam Hiron

Design Management, Optimisation, Production

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