Lafarge granite to keep Britain’s trains rolling

Granite from Lafarge will be keeping the country’s railways on the right track for the next five years, after the company secured a prestigious multi-million pound contract. Network Rail, which owns and operates most of Britain’s rail infrastructure, has awarded a framework contract to Lafarge Aggregates & Concrete UK to provide ballast and other crushed rock material from Mountsorrel Quarry, near Loughborough.

The contract is worth, potentially, £35 million over the next five years with Lafarge hoping to supply more than a million tonnes of product a year, a fifth of Mountsorrel’s annual output. It will ensure investment of £2million in new machinery at Mountsorrel Quarry, one of the largest granite quarries in Europe and will help secure the future of the 100 plus workforce.

John Bradshaw, national key account manger (Network Rail) for Lafarge, said:

“We are absolutely delighted to see our long-standing relationship with Network Rail continue for a further five years. This contract award gives us the opportunity to provide, potentially, similar quantities as we’ve done previously, and ensure Mountsorrel Quarry benefits from an investment of £2 million in processing equipment.
“The potential value of the contract to Lafarge over the next five years is worth somewhere in the region of £35 million.
“We are immensely proud of our link with Network Rail and of the contribution we make to the nation’s transport infrastructure.
“There is a good chance anyone who has ever been on a train and looked down at the track will have seen Mountsorrel granite, as historically, Lafarge have supplied something like 50 per cent of the ballast used by Network Rail.”

The ballast – a 50 mm crushed rock – forms the track bed on which railway sleepers are laid, keeping the track stable and ensuring trains can travel smoothly. It is compacted between, below, and around the sleepers to distribute their load, facilitate drainage of water and keep down vegetation that might interfere with the track structure. The contract continues a 20-year partnership with Network Rail, during which volumes in excess of one million tonnes of ballast have been supplied annually from Mountsorrel.

Around 95% of the new ballast being supplied will itself be transported by rail, so reducing road traffic, vehicle movements and consequent carbon emissions. The amount of rail ballast already provided by Lafarge Aggregates & Concrete UK since 1991 is staggering, equalling the weight of 20 of the two former Twin Towers in New York, more than 54 Empire State Buildings and more than 434 Titanic ships and 200,000 Boeing 757s.

John added:

“As with any contract it was not a foregone conclusion that we would secure this bid with Network Rail, everyone has worked very hard to ensure its success.
“Our own internal Network Rail team demonstrated how we could continue to meet their requirements, offering efficiency, reliability and security of supply, providing innovative solutions should challenges occur, and proving that logistically we are a perfect fit to feed their networks.”

Other aggregates included in the tender include sands, gravels, civil grade stone and specialised Stoneblower Aggregate.


Lafarge is extremely proud to be able to supply Stoneblower Aggregates to Network Rail as it is produced to a very exacting specification. Stoneblower Aggregate is small grade ballast used in maintaining the track and keeping it level, so prolonging the life of the track and reducing the frequency of major renewal. As the name suggests it is blown out underneath the sleepers by a specialist rail maintenance machine.

The machine travels along the track, automatically lifting and packing the sleepers with the Stoneblower Aggregate. Totally self contained, the machine can cover long stretches of track without the need to bring in gangs of workmen, so saving time and manpower.

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