Second life for concrete sleepers in Switzerland
Is it possible for railways to reduce CO2 emissions with the help of concrete sleepers? Swiss producer Vigier Rail has an innovative answer to this question. It has started to recycle the old sleepers using them as a raw material for the new ones.
Trying to meet the targets of the European Green Deal, the rail sector is constantly looking for new environmentally-friendly solutions. Usually, railway operators, both passenger and freight, are launching many activities in this regard. However, the rail suppliers are also aiming at accompanying them. One of the latest attempts was made by Vigier Rail, a high-end producer of railway concrete sleepers in Switzerland. Together with SBB, it has implemented new technology in manufacturing its products.
First of all, Vigier Rail crushes old concrete sleepers into concrete granules, which are used for the further production of the new sleepers. Concrete is a mixture of cement, gravel, sand and water. During the production of cement clinker, CO2 is emitted in a chemical reaction. By recycling the old sleepers, the Swiss company expects to replace up to 40 per cent of the gravel.
This will result in reducing the gravel consumption by up to 8,000 tonnes and CO2 emissions by 570 tonnes annually. SBB, the Swiss national railway holding that is the key purchaser of sleepers in the country, calculated that this amount corresponds to around 1,500 return flights to London. It is worth to note that the mentioned figures were quantified on the basis of SBB’s annual demand for concrete sleepers that is around 150,000 units.