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Keeping global railway network safety on the right track

Track misalignment remains one of the main causes of train derailment worldwide, engendering human and economic losses. An EU project introduced a sleeper solution that will revolutionise the future of railway transportation.

Transport and Mobility

Aiming to reduce rail track maintenance operations while enhancing the lateral stability of the track grating, the EU-funded DiNTRA project created an upgraded sleeper. Thanks to its stability and improved mechanical characteristics, this innovative solution will significantly reduce track buckle risk. Advantages include reduced associated maintenance costs and speed limitation periods for railway freight and passenger traffic along with a lower derailment risk.

Removing obstructions

The European railway network is highly heterogeneous, a result of the merging of national systems. Integrating reinforcement solutions applicable to all types of railway tracks, the DiNTRA metric gauge sleeper is versatile. The increase in the lateral resistance it offers can be extrapolated to any railway gauge width, which makes it a fully versatile product. Designing a solution to improve railway track performance was challenging. “The most difficult point has been finding viable sites for the implantation of the demonstrators, especially in the international gauge section,” explains project coordinator Francisco J. Fernández Martínez. “We achieved it with the support and collaboration of our project officer and the administrators of the railway infrastructures ETS, the ADIF and the Santander Port Authority where test campaigns were finally developed.” Importantly, the administrator of the metric gauge infrastructure in the Basque Country ETS actively contributed to the selection of an optimal study section and its implementation for test campaigns. This was key to obtaining permits for test implementation on the Iberian and international gauge.

New facts revealed

The research process had in store two surprising results for the researchers. “In the numerous tests carried out on the three-track gauges of our EU project, a new phenomenon was discovered that appears on railway tracks subjected to thermal stress; we have called it ‘reverse centrifugal thrust’,” reveals Fernández Martínez. “This discovery will allow us to publish scientific-technical articles, which will reinforce the disclosure of the benefits of the DiNTRA sleeper”. Likewise, it was observed that an increase in the transverse resistance produced by the DiNTRA sleeper on the track allows the lower layer of the ballast sidewalk to be lowered by about 5 cm below the top layer. This finding can be useful to avoid ballast displacement on high-speed lines, a fact that the project team plans to verify via wind tunnel tests.

Taking the railroads by storm

After its validation by the Spanish Administrator of Railway Infrastructures ADIF, the DiNTRA solution is ready to conquer the Iberian Peninsula. Contracts have already been signed for the supply of DiNTRA sleepers to the railways of the Basque Country, ETS, and Catalonia, FGC. Currently, the team is negotiating the terms of its incorporation in the track renovation projects of the Cabezón-Santander and Santander-Hoz de Anero sections in Cantabria, as well as the Gijón-Laviana section in Asturias. The promotion and intensification of the commercial work started for the product will follow in the rest of the Spanish Railway Administrations, such as the Bilbao subway, the Valencian public railway, FGV, and the Balearic Islands railways. Finally, DiNTRA will utilise the commercial networking connections formed during the project period to implement their product in countries such as Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Denmark, France, Hungary, Italy and the United Kingdom, where a modernisation plan for the rail network is being developed.

Keywords

DINTRA, track, railway, sleeper, gauge, transverse resistance, network, derailment, ballast, lateral, reverse centrifugal thrust

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