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Urban rail infrastructure

Final Report Summary - URBAN TRACK (Urban rail infrastructure)

The general objectives of URBAN TRACK fully comply with the objectives stated for 'Development of cost-effective infrastructure for light rail systems', Call 3B:

'The strategic aim is to support separate projects for light and heavy rail which consider the cost-effective introduction of new high performance track infrastructure products and techniques as positive drivers in modular and interoperable rail systems. The ambition is to develop and build an integrated family of 'maintenance-free' modular track infrastructure solutions which can be adapted to specific circumstances and have the benefit of standardised components. Based on real and verifiable figures of today's life cycle costs that comprise track construction / renewal costs, maintenance and monitoring expenditure, the target should lead to a substantial reduction in track infrastructure costs, with a significant increase of the availability of track infrastructure (for both heavy and light rail applications). This must be demonstrated as a result of the implementation of the projects' findings.'

The URBAN TRACK project focused exclusively on urban track infrastructure for light rail (LRT), tram and metro.

The general objective of the project was to deliver an integrated series of modular track infrastructure solutions at low cost, with no or little maintenance, high availability, constant comfort and ensuring great punctuality, all this in an environmentally friendly and safe manner. In order to reach these objectives, quality and attractiveness of the tracks have to be increased and new technologies and standardisation (harmonisation) have to be introduced in the process.

The project aimed at developing five innovative new products in the urban track sector:

1. Prefabricated track modules [product / solution 1]
2. Green LRT / tram tracks [product / solution 2]
3. Embedded metro tracks [product / solution 3]
4. Alternative low cost tracks for floating slab in tunnel and at grade [product / solution 4]
5. Maintenance free interface between rail and street pavement for embedded tracks [product / solution 5] as well as six innovative analysis methods:

1. Innovative track installation methods (new tracks) [method 1]
2. Automated track installation [method 2]
3. Fast renewal and refurbishment methods (LRT / tram) [method 3]
4. Cost / benefit analysis method for urban rail infra works (LRT / tram) [method 4]
5. Preventive and predictive maintenance for metro tracks [method 5]
6. Techniques for reducing wear in curves and turnouts (LRT / tram) [method 6] and three innovative reference documents:
1. Harmonised standard for 'rail transit track inspection and maintenance' (metro) [standard 1]
2. Harmonised LCC calculation method [standard 2]
3. Harmonised functional performance specifications [standard 3].

The project was organised into the following subprojects (SP):
SP1 - Low cost modular new track systems and fast installation methods [new lines]
SP2 - Cost effective track maintenance, renewal and refurbishment methods [existing lines]
SP3 - Design and implementation of solutions at test sites
SP4 - Life Cycle Cost (LCC) calculation
SP5 - Functional requirements
SP6 - Consolidation and dissemination.

Through the many discussions with the LCC calculators, it was shown that very few calculators disposed of detailed maintenance costs. For the most part, assumptions regarding these costs had to be made or general costs for overall activities were used as input in the LCC software. This LCC tool is an expert-oriented tool. For the proper use of this tool and for carrying out both 'qualitative and quantitative' LCC analysis, it is very important to have the correct cost element information at the right information level.

Developing the methodology and applying it on validation sites made clear that socio-economic aspects do play an important role in installation and maintenance activities of urban rail systems. A very important factor for the lower socio-economic costs is the reduction of time, which has an immediate effect on the different impact categories. The share of turnover on the total socio-economic costs depends very much on the amount of neighbours and businesses along the construction site. The main costs or gains during operation are caused by the noise level during operation and the maintenance costs. The socio-economic costs for maintenance are similar to those for construction works as they consist of the same impacts. The estimated gain due to less noise is directly related to the amount of neighbours and businesses within the impact area of the noise. A fast installation time and expected long term quality of the system are advantages that are especially interesting in areas with a lot of businesses, a high traffic volume and a heavily used public transport: the shorter the disturbance, the lower the socio-economic costs.

Throughout this research, it was noticed that in many networks, the real knowledge of the tracks' conditions is being held by a reduced number of personnel (track conditions and development). When the personnel leaves the network (retirement, change of work) this 'precious knowledge' leaves with them, because the network does not have a tool of knowledge of maintenance. Therefore, it is very important to register in specific software the tracks' history, its aging and its development.

The closer the relationship between the maintenance and the construction departments, the better it is for implementing accurate maintenance plans and for producing more efficient track designs and to make improvements to the system. Throughout the interviews carried out, it was noticed that in the cases where this link was strong, the results in terms of maintenance cost reductions were significant.

The way of conceiving public transport services varies considerably according to the organisational scheme chosen. For each scheme, different human, technical and financial resources are required. Each scheme has its advantages and disadvantages and this should be taken into account when organising urban rail bound public transport schemes.

The contracting authority should, at all times, have enough information regarding all current contracts (construction, operation and maintenance) in order to manage the different contracts and must have always full control over the important assets and procedures (from the procurement to the operation contract). 'Putting out an activity' does not necessarily mean less work for the contracting authority. It means finding ways of keeping a balance in the control of the different contracts (keep in control of general strategies) and the necessary amount of resources of personnel needed for this.

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