The final report of the “EuropeTrain” test campaign managed by UIC in collaboration with almost 30 member railways and several industry partners and aimed at operationally testing the behaviour of “silent” “LL” composite brake blocks for freight wagons, was presented on Tuesday 28 May at UIC Headquarters in Paris with the participation of Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director General, Dr Johannes Gräber from Deutsche Bahn Systemtechnik, Project Manager of the UIC EuropeTrain Project, and Libor Lochman, Executive Director of the Community of European Railway and Infrastructure Companies (CER). The “LL” composite brake blocks for freight wagons – 1:1 exchangeable with conventional cast iron brake blocks – are designed to smoothen the wheel surface and will significantly contribute to reducing railway noise during train travel. The “EuropeTrain” test campaign involving a two-year testing programme with over 200,000 km of test runs across 13 European countries in very diverse climatic conditions.
The UIC “EuropeTrain” Project is based on the consideration that noise reduction has become an essential challenge for the rail freight business in some countries. Rail noise is currently one of the topics of interest to the European Union. Noise reduction at the source (wheel-rail contact) has the best cost/benefit ratio and avoids high investments in noise barriers for protecting populations. In order to achieve a considerable noise reduction in rail freight traffic, retrofitting large existing wagon fleets would be necessary, but this large-scale retrofitting programme must not jeopardise the intermodal competitiveness of rail freight. This supposes that ways of sufficient financing can be implemented.
Several basic parameters were at the origin of the decision to test the “LL” block composite brake block via this wide-range experimentation campaign:
- The basic principle for noise reduction at the source is based on the principle “smooth wheels on smooth rails”,
- With the use of composite brake blocks on test tracks with “rails smooth enough” railway by-pass noise can be reduced by approx. 10 dB (A),
- “K” composite brake blocks offer a proven and fully homologated technology for new wagons but are not economically feasible for retrofitting the existing wagon fleet due to cost,
- The expectation for a quick and affordable retrofitting with “LL” brake blocks has not yet been fulfilled.
In this respect, a number of requirements related to safety also justified the need to undertake additional tests, in particular relating to:
- Compatibility with side track signalling,
- Simulation of brake incidents,
- Braking under extreme weather conditions,
- Running on high gradients.
In June 2009 everybody was aware that solving the technical problem of “equivalent conicity” was essential for cost-effective noise reduction of freight wagons. Tests on a larger scale with various user profiles were to be conducted to solve the issue of “equivalent conicity” and to better estimate the Life Cycle Cost of the system. This led in September 2009 to the signature of a joint resolution for “EuropeTrain” by 24 railway CEOs and the sector organisations UIC, CER and EIM, the objective being “to speed up and approve “LL” brake block testing in operations.” The clear target is “cost-effective noise reduction at the source.”
The UIC “EuropeTrain” Project
The UIC “EuropeTrain” Project was managed on behalf of UIC and its members with the help of Deutsche Bahn, the appointed Project Manager being Dr Johannes Gräber from Deutsche Bahn, DB Systemtechnik. The project involved 27 member railways together with 8 industry partners. The main characteristics of the international testing campaign were as follows:
- A test freight train made of 30 representative freight wagons from a number of European rail freight undertakings and other keepers, which travelled across Europe for the sole purpose of testing the “LL” brake blocks,
- Testing in all climatic conditions,
- A mileage of at least 200,000 km with an in-service and maintenance monitoring scheme for safety parameters,
- A number of successive “test loops” with technical evaluation after each loop. 16 runs were completed.
- Covering all operational conditions relevant for Europe including running on different gradients with different operational modes and extreme weather conditions (high and low temperatures).
Conclusions and perspectives
The “EuropeTrain” test campaign managed by DB for UIC in close cooperation with UIC member railways, enables the following main conclusions to be made:
1. The conclusions already summarised in the UIC Synthesis Report LL – B 126 RB 36 in 2009 were also confirmed by the results of EuropeTrain:
- All the requirements regarding braking are fulfilled,
- The thermal burden on the wheels is uncritical by following the rules defined in the “Usage guidelines for composite brake blocks”.
2. And the perspectives for final homologation of “LL” brake blocks based on the results of the “EuropeTrain” campaign can be summarised as follows:
- “LL” block products are available on the market to be homologated,
- The homologation can be finalised taking into account all operational constraints,
- The homologation is related to regular inspections of the wheel profiles and possibly reprofiling.
The results of the “EuropeTrain” testing campaign with “LL” brake blocks can be assessed as extremely positive from a technical perspective, and still need to be assessed from an economic perspective during the remaining life cycle of the wagons.
Jean-Pierre Loubinoux, UIC Director-General, warmly thanked DB and particularly the “EuropeTrain” Project Manager Johannes Gräber, and the other participating partners for the successful experimentation campaign and concluded:
Through “EuropeTrain” UIC proved its ability to act on behalf of all its members and to provide a neutral and general framework to manage and coordinate a wide-ranging technical project of vital importance for the rail freight sector. The “EuropeTrain” testing programme monitored in close cooperation with the 27 associated railway undertakings and industry partners during the two-year experimentation, provides the railway community with a very important basis for decision-taking in a strategic issue: the retrofitting of the existing freight wagon fleet in order to significantly reduce the noise level of freight traffic and take a new step towards more sustainable rail freight transport.”
Speech by Mr Jean-Pierre Loubinoux available here: