Railway sleepers to be replaced by recycled plastic

by GreenWire.org.uk. Published Mon 04 May 2009 15:16
Recycled sleepers to cut carbon footprint

Network Rail is to start replacing traditional wooden sleepers with blocks made from robust recycled plastic following successful track trials.

The track operators have already identified three freight lines and work is scheduled to start in August on the big green sleeper switchover.

Network Rail currently replaces 200,000 timber sleepers a year along with environmentally inefficient concrete versions.

The track programme will see the new eco-rated dark grey sleepers, made from a revolutionary recycled composite, being fitted to the track bed to hold the rails.

Halifax-based manufacturing company i-plas developed the futuristic material, which will help reduce maintenance delays, assist sustainability targets and increase environmental benefits.

Following trials conducted on a stretch of private track by researchers at the University of Manchester, the roll-out of the recycled sleeper will extend across the entire rail network.

The new-age track supports are made from 100% recycled heavy duty plastic and have a minimum 30-year life cycle. They are vandal-proof and flame-retardant - and they do not twist or warp, become porous or degrade.

The sleepers are made using a unique blend of waste that otherwise would have been heading for landfill and its developers claim a minimum of 80,000 tonnes of plastic a year will be diverted from rubbish tips to be used on the track upgrade programme. They are also 100% recyclable at the end of their working life.

The new eco-sleepers will reinforce the green credentials of travelling by rail, which is already more environmentally friendly than journeys by car or plane.

A normal suburban train uses, per passenger, about 45-130 grams of CO2 per kilometre, compared to about 330-460 grams CO2 per kilometre for air travel and about 145-260 grams CO2 per kilometre for cars.

A spokesman for Network Rail said the company is aiming to hit a target of using 23% recycled material by 2015.

Every tonne of plastic material diverted away from landfill and into recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 1.66 tonnes. In comparison, producing one tonne of concrete generates almost a tonne of CO2 emissions.

Howard Waghorn, Managing Director of i-plas, said: “Our recycled building material is so adaptable and can be used to replace preformed concrete products, steel or timber for specific applications; in this instance it will replace wooden railway sleepers.

“This is a huge British innovation and one that we are truly proud of. Network Rail is certainly visionary to grasp this new concept and drive it forward.”

Fellow director Keith Hutchison said work had already started on developing the i-plas material to be used as kerbstones to replace the current concrete versions.

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Comments about Railway sleepers to be replaced by recycled plastic

I have heard about this product of PLLEEPERS. I have a contract for 1800 and more KM of Railway line to be made.Contact soon if you can do
Mohan C. Alex, Mumbai. India around 1 year, 7 months ago
I would like to sell this idea to Transnet Freight Rail-Railway of SA. please assist.
Devan Govender, Richards Bay- Kwa-Zulu Natal. South Africa around 3 years, 7 months ago

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