Information published on 28 October 2021 in the UIC electronic newsletter "UIC eNews" Nr eNews.

Europe: Infrabel installs Europe’s first ‘green’ sleepers

  • Europe
  • CO2 Emissions
  • European Year of Rail
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An innovation in the world of rail and a minor revolution for the environment

Infrabel is the first European rail infrastructure manager to make its network’s sleepers ‘green’. Cement, from which sleepers are traditionally made, is gradually giving way to a revolutionary concrete based on sulphur. The first new sleepers were laid between Puurs and Antwerp earlier this year.

CO2 emissions reduced by up to 40%

The new ‘green’ sleepers are no longer made from cement, but use sulphur as a binding agent. The difference in production? A temperature of 1,400°C is needed to make cement. With sulphur concrete, 140°C is enough to shape the sleeper. Besides that, making cement releases a great deal of CO2. With the new production process, CO2 emissions come to 40% less in total. This means a decrease from 75kg to 45kg of CO2 per sleeper in practice. On a yearly basis, this difference amounts to the equivalent of the annual CO2 production of no less than 100 households.

Recycled and recyclable

Sulphur concrete also happens to be fully recyclable, in contrast to the ‘historical’ concrete wooden sleepers. Sleepers made from sulphur concrete that have reached the end of their lifespan or are damaged over time can be melted down into new sleepers. Moreover, this material makes it possible to recycle sulphur, a waste product from the oil industry.

No compromise on quality

Anyone who thinks these sleepers would have a shorter lifespan is mistaken. On the contrary: a range of tests have shown that sulphur concrete is just as capable of withstanding the high dynamic load from the trains as traditional concrete. Finally, sulphur concrete is also less sensitive to infiltration (by water, for example) than traditional concrete. This also makes it more resistant to chemical corrosion and wear.

In short, this new type of sleeper is not only more durable, but also a great example of innovation. A great many European rail infrastructure managers have already shown an interest in this innovative technology, but Infrabel is the first to use it on a large scale.

(Source: Infrabel)