SOCOTEC Hosted Railway Environmental Forum 2017 at Tower Bridge and Auchentoshan Distillery

It was just a few weeks ago that SOCOTEC, formerly ESG, hosted another Railway Environmental Forum in both Glasgow and London.

Nicola Atkinson, rail account manager, Environment & Safety Services, discusses this year’s success, the fantastic venues and why such an event is important to the rail industry.

Don’t just take our word for it... Andy Cordwell from GTR, Mark Quirke from GWR and Steve Rooke from SWR, have also kindly given their feedback about the Forum. 

This year, we were blown away by the choice of venues; both the Auchentoshan Distillery in Glasgow and Tower Bridge in London served us perfectly – with the wow factor thrown in for good measure.


While the Railway Environmental Forum has been running for over 20 years, my involvement only extends back to the past four years, where I have been assisting and hosting the event for SOCOTEC.

With my initial foray into the rail industry as part of Scientifics’ environmental field team, this year, I gave a presentation on trade effluent management, and the depot inputs and treatment processes that affect it.

Effluent: Depot Inputs and Treatment

Effluent can be defined as any liquid waste arising from domestic, commercial or industrial purposes which is being discharged from a particular source into the environment. 

Typical depot processes that generate effluent can include carriage washing, cleaning of maintenance sheds and inspection pits as well as servicing and maintaining rolling stock.

Effluent is split into three distinct categories; domestic, trade and surface with trade effluent requiring a Consent to Discharge (CTD).

By looking in detail at some of the processes, I was able to inform delegates about how to avoid problems with effluent quality.

When cleaning, it is fundamental that products are used at the correct strength. By training staff and reminding them about cleaning processes, it’s an easy way to make sure that effluent levels will not exceed the parameters of the CTD – overstrength chemicals can affect pH and chemical oxygen demand, as well as emulsifying oils making them more difficult to separate. Other factors such neutralisers for acidic cleaners, minimising quantities, suitable storage facilities and staff awareness will all aid in ensuring parameters for effluent discharge are met.

Not only did we discuss cleaning processes on rail depots, we also looked in detail at the different interceptors commonly found on the railway:

  • Simple one, two or three chamber underground interceptors
  • Class 1 and Class 2 Klargester/SPEL underground interceptors
  • Above ground Tilted Plate interceptors
  • Settlement chambers

By discussing in detail the typical location of each, and the benefits of using, I was able to give delegates an idea about how best to achieve oil and solid separation from the discharged effluent.

A successful day

My presentation was one of four. Other SOCOTEC experts, including my colleagues Jonathan Harries, national technical manager, David Gilmour, business manager, and David Heuston, environmental field team leader south, all shared their expertise on carriage tanking, consent to discharge and environmental hazards from depot operations. By sharing our best practices, processes and procedures, we’re helping the rail environment to minimise their impact on the environment.

2017’s Railway Environmental Forum was a great success, and we reached full capacity at the Tower Bridge – it made for a really impressive venue and an ideal place to network. As rail account manager, I got to catch up with some of those I see on a regular basis – but this time not wrapped up with PPE!

After lunch, we were taken on a tour of the distillery in Glasgow, and the engine rooms in Tower Bridge. After a morning of professional development, the activity afterwards was a great way to spend the afternoon.

We host the Forum with delegates in mind; it is your event! If you would like us to cover a particular topic at next year’s Forum, or as part of our monthly e-newsletter ‘On the Tracks’, please let us know by emailing



Don’t just take our word for it... Andy Cordwell from GTR, Mark Quirke from GWR and Steve Rooke from SWR, have kindly given their feedback about the Forum:


Andy Cordwell, Fleet Occupation Safety Support Manager, GTR, commented about the REF:

“This is the third time I have attended the Rail Forum and each time I have come away having learned something beneficial. This year, we visited the forum being held at Tower Bridge and were really impressed by the venue – even though the seats were a bit hard!

“The presentations about water hygiene, tanking points and interceptors were very useful, as these resonated with my role. It’s the small things I’ve picked up that make it worthwhile, like learning about maintenance and cleaning of water hoses which I didn’t know about in detail before.

“I was able to talk to other delegates from different companies too, and it’s reassuring to know that others face similar issues. It is a good event for discussing challenges, getting different opinions, and learning the best way to make effective improvements.”


Mark Quirke, Infrastructure Engineer, Great Western Railway, said:

“My first visit to the Rail Forum was a good one. Rail depot interceptors are always a focal point because it’s so important that the consent levels are being met. The Forum gave an insight into the different types of interceptors and how to meet the consent levels.

“From the event, I have a better understanding and awareness regarding the application to consent, especially now there are changes to the water market. With this shared knowledge, I can pass information across to other members of the team as they have to apply for their own consent to discharge.

“I see Noelyn Allen and David Heuston regularly, as SOCOTEC undertake some of our testing. The Forum was a great way to discuss our rail depots with those that really know what they’re doing.”


Steve Rooke, Fleet SQ&E Manager, South Western Railway, fed back with:

“Attending the forum was really useful for me, because all parts of the presentations and talks were relevant to what I do in my role. The topic of interceptors was probably the most interesting part of the day, because it helped me to understand in more detail about our impact on the environment and how to limit that.

“My colleague, Lisa Hagan, was one of four from SWR that attended. With an interest in the environmental side of things, the information at the event was informative, backing up what we knew and filling in any gaps to make sure we were on the right tracks!

“Plus, at the end of it all, we got to tour Tower Bridge engine rooms. It was a great venue with well-chosen topics and delivered by the experts. A very helpful day.”