The great potential of voestalpine’s tracks and turnouts in terms of sustainability 3 minutes spent reading

The great potential of voestalpine’s tracks and turnouts in terms of sustainability

Volkmar Held
As a freelance writer, Volkmar Held reports for voestalpine on topics that move people. The content of his stories ranges from archaeometallurgy to future technologies.

Solely rail elements that can be used sustainably help to ensure a positive ecological footprint of railways as a mode of transport—thanks as well to voestalpine’s cutting-edge know-how worldwide.

Tracks and turnouts may stay in place for a long time—provided they possess the required durability, an intelligent design, and a forward-looking maintenance system. This is because any intervention in a given railway network that entails speed slowdowns, closings, and detours costs time and money besides generating large amounts of additional greenhouse gases.

Durable and long-lasting

voestalpine Railway Systems, the new voestalpine system house for the rail track, has developed the HSH® technology which ensures that tracks are particularly resistant to wear and tear. voestalpine’s heat-treated premium and super-premium track grades are based on a metallurgical approach that is optimized to maximize utility and use. As a result, these tracks are much better capable of withstanding both mechanical stresses and material fatigue, thus enabling longer maintenance and reinvestment cycles. Additional ecological benefits are gained from the small amount of alloying elements.
The tracks belonging to the 400 UHC® HSH® brand family already evidence their excellent ability to ensure sustainable railway operations by offering

  • twice the operational service life (compared to the heat-treated R350HT track grade),
  • one half of the maintenance costs, and
  • performance that is six times better than that of non-heat-treated standard grades.

So viel Nachhaltigkeit steckt in den Schienen und Weichen der voestalpine

Robust turnouts

Nowadays a turnout has an average useful life of about 30 years. Yet it need not be melted down even after this length of time: the re-processing of turnout components and their utilization in areas of the network exposed to less stress is another aspect of the sustainability of rail transport. In Austria, this affects some 15% of the turnouts—yet another advantage in terms of sustainability. New material is saved and CO2 emissions are lowered.

"Our R&D work as well as our know-how as a market leader guarantee products whose longevity corresponds perfectly to the idea that rail transportation should be sustainable."
Heinz Ossberger, Senior Vice President Turnout Technology, voestalpine VAE GmbH

Among other things, the durability of the turnouts arises from

  • the fact that they belong to the 400 UHC® brand family;
  • the R&D work in materials, e.g. long-life cores made of hard manganese steel;
  • the digitalization specific to the components, e.g. in the case of the iSwitch, an intelligent forward-looking turnout that ensures efficient maintenance; and
  • the expanded research collaboration regarding the elastic storage of turnouts, for example, since 2018 between voestalpine VAE and Getzner Werkstoffe, the leading company in this field that is domiciled in Bürs, Austria.

Determining sustainability

So far, there is no 100% method for determining the sustainability effects. Yet applications such as voestalpine’s life cycle costs (LCC) tool offer valuable planning and decision-making aids, especially in the rail segment. They enable railway operators to evaluate various procurement and maintenance strategies, also factoring in CO2 emissions.

"Worldwide, the railways are fulfilling a socially relevant task in the overall mobility scenario. They evidence their sustainability not just through their function as the most environmentally friendly means of mass transportation, but also through their ecological footprint based on infrastructure construction and maintenance. voestalpine Railway Systems helps network operators worldwide fulfill this task by providing them with intelligent systems solutions and premium products."
Martin Platzer, Strategic Marketing Rail Technology


The most economical turnouts

A profitability analysis tool—and thus also a basis for determining sustainability effects—will be available in the near future for turnouts. “For our customers, using their funds meaningfully is a key requirement in the procurement of products and systems. This tool enables customers to carry out not just an assessment based on life cycle costs but also an initial estimate of the ecological effects,” says the CTO of voestalpine Railway Systems, Jochen Holzfeind. The new app will offer railway operators an important decision-making tool regarding the optimal use of turnouts.

State-of-the-art turnout technologies respond to assessment criteria and requirements regarding technology, costs, and the environment.

State-of-the-art turnout technologies respond to assessment criteria and requirements regarding technology, costs, and the environment.

Volkmar Held