The ballast, a 50mm 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 the load of the sleepers, 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 1 million tonnes of ballast have been supplied annually from Mountsorrel.
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 £2million [approximately €2.3million] in processing equipment.
“The potential value of the contract to Lafarge over the next five years is worth somewhere in the region of £35million [€40.5million].
“Historically, Lafarge has supplied something like 50% of the ballast used by Network Rail.”
Around 95% of the new ballast being supplied will itself be transported by rail, so reducing road traffic, vehicle movements and consequent carbon emissions.
Other aggregates included in the tender include sands, gravels, civil grade stone and specialised Stoneblower Aggregate, a small grade ballast used in maintaining the track and keeping the it level. It is blown out underneath the sleepers by a specialist rail maintenance machine.