Sulphur concrete railway sleepers offer glimpse into the future
The development of durable rail track systems and sleepers is an intricate challenge that requires innovative engineering solutions. Family owned Belgian business De Bonte Group recently spoke to RailTech to explain how its concrete solutions are implemented the rail sector.
The firm’s proprietary THIOTRACK solution is an example of this latest evolution in this space, having scooped the ‘Coup de coeur du jury’ prize at the recent European Innovation Competition. Based on a sustainable concrete design, the ThioTrack sleeper is composed of material that can be liquified at 135°C and reused indefinitely without any depreciation in quality or performance.
“Thiotrack, is a future-proof railway system with 100 per cent circular sulphur concrete railway sleepers”, Denis Coppieters, CEO of THIOTRACK at De Bonte Group, tells RailTech. “The sulphur concrete also has a very low impact on both the climate and the environment. We were the first to develop sulphur concrete that is used in our proprietary THIOTUBE, sewer pipes made of sulphur concrete, and THIOTRACK, among others.”
The use of sulphur concrete not only provides an avenue for circular reusability but also significantly reduces CO2 emissions compared to traditional materials such as cement concrete, grès, or plastic. A testament to this is De Bonte Group’s THIOTUBE sewer pipes, which are not only environmentally friendly but also do not leach toxic substances, ensuring the safety of soil and groundwater.
With over 20 years of experience in producing prestressed monobloc sleepers and headquartered in Waasmunster, East Flanders, Belgium, De Bonte Group produces a range of innovative concrete elements for road, sewerage and railway construction. The group also operates multiple manufacturing facilities across Belgium, France, Poland, Thailand, and Turkey.
Coppieters further adds, “As an innovative company, we have been globally innovating with solutions in functional grey concrete for infrastructure works for almost 75 years. Making products with a maximum lifespan and minimum environmental impact is what we aim for. We apply our knowledge and expertise to improve the quality and sustainability of technologies, processes, and products.”
The revolutionary solution has already taken the leap from concept to reality, with the first 12,000 units laid at Jemappes train station in the province of Hainaut, Belgium. These were installed in partnership with Belgian government-owned railway infrastructure operator Infrabel. This marks the beginning of a nationwide operation to lay approximately 200,000 Thiotrack sleepers across the country and Coppieters predicts an exciting future for the technology as it is rolled out more widely for the global railway technology sector.
The group is also developing other systems such as its proprietary PREFARAILS solutions which limit noise pollution via high-quality insulation, preventing noise and stray electrical currents.
Interested in the work that De Bonte Group carries out? Come and meet them on the exhibition floor of RailTech Belgium 2023 on June 7 in Brussels. The exhibition if free of charge, but you do need to register. Want to learn more about the rail infrastructure sector in Belgium? Sign up for our in-depth conferences that day.