Ryan McKeever has over 12 years of experience in assisting with the specification of Concrete Canvas (CC) Geosynthetic Cementitious Composite Mats (GCCMs) in North America, the UK 0& Ireland. Ryan works closely with regional consultants, civil contractors and clients, including Network Rail, Translink NI Railways, Transport Scotland and local authorities.

What is your role within Concrete Canvas?
I’m part of the Technical Sales team here in the UK for Concrete Canvas and been with the company for over 6 years covering the Scottish & Irish regions. We have local representation throughout the UK to support our client base with my colleagues Gavin, Laurie and Blake covering the rest of the UK.

How long has your company been in business?
Concrete Canvas Ltd began commercial volume production of Concrete Canvas GCCMs (Geosynthetic Cementitious Composite Mats) in 2009 from our factory in south Wales. Since then, we have experienced rapid expansion into international markets and over 85% of the materials produced are exported to over 80 countries worldwide. In 2021, we moved to a new 86’000sqft facility, allowing the company to quadruple manufacturing capacity, incorporate state-of-the-art R&D laboratories and feature a demonstration and testing park.

What types of products and services do you offer?
Concrete Canvas supply an erosion control and weed suppression solution in the rail sector called Concrete Canvas GCCM. Concrete Canvas is a concrete filled geosynthetic, that hardens on hydration to form a durable, fibre reinforced concrete layer. It combines the robustness of a precast or poured concrete option, with the ease of installation and impermeability of a plastic geomembrane. Essentially, it’s concrete on a roll and allows you to put down a concrete surface approximately ten times quicker than traditional concrete methods. The speed and ease of installing CC means it is well suited to time-critical track-side work, reducing line possession and improving safety.

How have the products and services you offer developed over the years?
From the very start, innovation has been embedded in the heart of Concrete Canvas Ltd and today, over 20 per cent of annual turnover is funnelled into ongoing investment in Research & Development. Our most recent, exciting development has been the launch of our T-series product line which is aligned with ASTM D8364 – the Specification Standard for GCCMs. The new product range has been developed to have a significantly reduced environmental footprint than standard CC, whilst delivering even higher performance for our clients. The new T-series has 33 per cent less embodied carbon than standard CC, providing more than 63% savings when used to replace conventional poured concrete for erosion control applications. The new material also has 25 per cent higher abrasion resistance providing longer-lasting protection in erosion control applications.

What are some standout projects you’ve been involved in over the years?
Since 2009 we have been fortunate to be involved on over 600 Network Rail schemes across the UK over three different control periods. Some recent standout projects include the installation of Concrete Canvas for the rapid lining of crest drainage channels across several Network Rail routes including work at Slochd, Charfield and Bath Road Cutting. It was also specified over ST4 poured concrete to line crest perimeter drainage channels on different compounds at HS2. The lining of crest drainage is typically required to prevent saturation of embankments and potential slip onto a track below as a result. For all these projects, the ease and speed of installation allowed contractors to increase health & safety by minimising the time on site, reducing line possession during the works and providing a lower carbon alternative to conventional concrete lining methods.

What types of companies do you collaborate on projects with?
As a supply chain partner with Network Rail since 2009, we have worked and collaborated with the majority of Tier 1 and Tier 2 consultants and contractors in the rail sector in the UK. As a manufacturer, we are able to provide support at all project stages, right through from pre-design through to completion, with regional technical sales support, specification and installation guidance.

What new developments/strategies do you have?
We are working hard to reduce our environmental footprint and are proud that by replacing conventional concrete solutions, CC products sold to date are estimated to have saved over 3000T of CO2 emissions globally. The T-series product line mentioned previously, which has 33 per cent less embodied carbon than standard CC, will build on this legacy at an accelerated pace.

The introduction of T series has already seen a number of its key benefits used by clients in the Rail Sector and beyond to help them deliver of their KPIs and objectives to reduce embodied carbon on projects. For example, our CCT2 material was recently installed on a multi-agency scheme that was headed by the Environment Agency with collaboration with National Highways and Network Rail to provide an erosion protection solution to a Network Rail embankment as part of an overall flood alleviation scheme in Birmingham.

By using Concrete Canvas to provide the hard armoured erosion protection to the embankment, not only were we able to provide an easier to install and more rapidly deployable material than conventional concrete, the GWP saving on this scheme compared to ST4 poured concrete were a massive 66 per cent.

What are some of the biggest challenges this sector currently faces?
In recent years the railway network has been significantly affected by extreme weather conditions and I think this will be one of the biggest challenges moving forward. Long term trends show changing weather patterns with a period of increasing average and maximum daily temperatures with drier summers, wetter winters and an increase in the frequency of extreme storms. This will increase the risk of weather-related events such as floods and landslips which can cause delays, raise operating costs and increase safety risks along the network.

What are some potential solutions?
There has been increased investment in CP6 and a focus on weather resilience which has led to long term improvements to asset resilience and a reduction in the number of assets susceptible to adverse weather. Drainage management has also been enhanced which has focused on the importance of water management around rail infrastructure to prevent saturation of slopes and minimise the risk of landslips. Moving forward, there appears to be a long-term commitment to further investment to reduce the effects of extreme weather on railway infrastructure and earthwork assets. I believe this continued investment will allow the rail sector to meet this challenge and minimise the risks associated with increasingly unpredictable weather in the region. Visit us at Railtex!