New materials increase railway safety

The development of new materials, for example glass-fibre reinforced plastic (GRP), has set new trends for the infrastructure of railway companies. Materials on the tracks, such as steel and timber, are increasingly being replaced by GRP for grates, walkways, bridge coverings, escape routes and service access ways. GRP makes these elements weather-resistant, slip-proof and thus safer.

Their simple, modular design, but also their low weight and high strength, make GRP profiles increasingly popular with railway operators for entire structures, such as railings, ladders, suspended stairways and work platforms. Another GRP advantage, compared to steel, is the fact that you don’t have to earth the entire structure, as the material is an electrical insulator. It is also resistant to corrosion, which significantly reduces the costs for maintenance.

Deutsche Bahn AG in particular has decided to make greater use of GRP in its infrastructure. This makes DB a trendsetter for Europe, since railway operators in neighbouring countries take cues from the continent’s largest railway industry company.

“This is a trend, because Deutsche Bahn has a complete understanding of this material’s advantages,” says Philipp Wilczek, Junior Partner and Sales Director at CTS Composite Technologie Systeme GmbH – a technology leader in the field of glass-fibre reinforced plastics. Products and structures made of GRP must be bolted together and these bolted joints can be problematic. To overcome this, CTS has decided to use the Nord-Lock X-series bolt-securing system. Maik Hartmann, Technical Director at CTS, explains: “Our material is low-maintenance in principle. However, in order to make the entire structure low-maintenance as well, we needed a solution for securing the bolts, so that we could expand the material’s advantages to the connecting elements as well.”

On or close to the tracks, shaking and vibrations from train traffic must always be expected. An increased loss of preload due to slackening (settlements and/or relaxation) should be considered when using new materials. Nord-Lock X-series washers combine the wedge-locking principle with a spring effect to prevent loosening caused by settlements and relaxation. This way, they enhance the advantages of CTS’s GRP products to offer the railway industry a safe option with many advantages.

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