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SBB measures temperature of tracks, source: SBB

Hot weather not obstacle for European railways

Summer brings to the European railway sector two big challenges: the growth of traffic and hot weather with temperatures over 30 degrees. The first question is solved by adding new train connections. To deal with hot weather is required from the railway companies to do a lot of efforts. Which ones?

The hot weather impacts on both rolling stock and rail infrastructure. As for the passenger trains, the big challenge is to keep a comfortable temperature inside the cars. The air-conditioning systems have become compulsory for the procurements of new rolling stock. If we look through the technical documentation of the railway operators, all of them have an option of equipping the future trains with air-conditioning. At the same time, the existing rolling stock requires the modernisation. For instance, six per cent of the trains operated by the Swiss railway company SBB does not have the air conditioners. By 2020, the operator intends to reduce this figure to 3 per cent by installing the air-conditioning systems in the passenger trains. What about rail infrastructure?

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Railway tracks in Switzerland, source: SBB

Railway tracks in Switzerland, source: SBB.

Infrastructure monitoring

The other important question for the railway sector is the heated rails. During the hot weather, they are able to heat up to 70 degrees. This may cause the track deformation and eventually lead to delays or even cancels of the trains. In order to prevent the track warping, the railway companies monitor the infrastructure and replace the rails. SBB changes from five to fifteen rails per year as a part of the preparations to the summer conditions. The other option to prevent the distortion is to low the train speed on some sections. Moreover, the rail infrastructure managers are replacing the wooden sleepers with the concrete ones. The latter better absorbs the pressure created by the heat-expanding metal of the rails.

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ÖBB white rails in Vorarlberg, source: ÖBB

ÖBB white rails in Vorarlberg, source: ÖBB.

White rails

In 2003 the Rhaetian Railway (RhB) that operates the railway routes in the Swiss canton of Graubünden has tried the water in order to cool down the rails. The water was poured directly on rails. This experiment demonstrated a low effect. Therefore, the railway company decided to refuse it. Last year RhB tested another solution. The company painted the 300-metre track section with white colour. It allowed to cool down the rail for five-seven degrees. This year the rail operator continues the testings.

At the same time, the experiment with white colour is being provided by other railway companies. In mid-July Austrian Federal Railways (ÖBB) has painted the five-kilometre section near Bludenz, state of Vorarlberg. Currently, the operator is studying whether the white rails do really have an impact on the temperature of the rails. To use the ‘white rails’ solution is also being considered by the Swiss largest operator SBB.

Author: Mykola Zasiadko

Mykola Zasiadko is editor of online trade magazines RailTech.com and RailFreight.com.

2 comments op “Hot weather not obstacle for European railways”

William Heijltjes|01.08.19|22:56

Mykola, sometimes your English is just ‘off’ correct. The article is very interesting and readable though.
Thank you.

Mykola Zasiadko|14.08.19|13:39

Dear William, thank you for your remarks!

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