At the leading Asian trade fair for rail technology, developments intended to make rail operations safer and less prone to disruption were not the only things in focus, as topics such as climate-friendliness and air quality have become ever more important to manufacturers. Companies are also giving increasing thought to the social aspects of train travel, such as the treatment of pregnant passengers in full trains. The scope of innovations on offer ranged from a hydrogen-powered e-tram produced by the Korean manufacturer Hyundai Rotem to the niche product Austroroll, an optimised roller device for railway points made by Wieland Austria GmbH. Exhibited alongside this was the new ‘Pink Sign’, a creation of the Busan Transportation Corporation (Humetro) Busan Transportation Corporation (Humetro) that is designed to help pregnant women find seats on public transport in future.
Electric fuel cell tram – presentation of the first hydrogen-powered tram by Hyundai Rotem
Hyundai Rotem used RailLog to present the test vehicle of its first hydrogen-powered electric fuel cell tram. Thanks to its good energy usage, the tram is also suitable for long distances, and it is able to travel up to 200 km on a single tank of hydrogen gas. In addition to its alternative drive system, this new tram has an air cleaning system that allows it to filter fine particulates out of the air, helping to improve air quality in cities. While in operation, a single tram can remove the fine particulates produced by four diesel cars during the same period of time. According to Yon-ho Cho, Senior Research Engineer for Hyundai Rotem, the company has also been working to achieve autonomous operation of this train at a test track in South Korea.
Austroroll – a smooth operator
Just how many individual parts are required to ensure that trains and tracks are perfectly coordinated and that everything runs as it should do? One of these components is certainly the assembly that makes it possible to operate the points. With Austroroll by Wieland, the elastically suspended roller device not only ensures that points can be switched smoothly, but it is also maintenance free and – something that sets it apart from other systems – it does not have to be lubricated. (see interview with Robert Kollouch, Head of Railway Engineering for Austroroll at Wieland)
Pink Sign – a seat for pregnant women
At this year’s RailLog, Korea’s Busan Transportation Corporation (Humetro) debuted their new development in the field of ‘human metro’: the ‘Pink Sign’. This is a small transmitter carried by pregnant women in trams and buses that triggers a light signal on a seat reserved especially for pregnant women. The system has already undergone a test phase in Busan and is now being implemented throughout the city. Plans call for the Pink Sign to be deployed in Seoul, and Humetro reports that numerous other Asian cities expressed their interest in this new development during RailLog.
Interview with Robert Kollouch
During RailLog in Busan, South Korea, we had the chance to talk with Robert Kollouch, Head of Railway Engineering for Austroroll at Wieland.
Mr. Kollouch, what exactly are the advantages of roller devices such as Austroroll compared to conventional railway points?
Robert Kollouch: A train driver once told me that driving a train would be a great job if it weren’t for the points. Points are one of the biggest sources of disruption in train travel due to equipment failures, difficult operation etc. Normally, the chairs on which the switch blades slide have to be lubricated on a regular basis. Upgrading the points with Austroroll renders this lubrication process, which is subject to error, entirely superfluous. Our system is special because Austroroll is equipped with a large roller that, in contrast to comparable systems, is permanently elastically mounted. The advantage of this is that it does not wear as quickly, it is maintenance free and very resistant to malfunction – even under extreme conditions. It also helps protect the point drive, because it reduces the level of force needed to operate the points. The result: point drive systems enjoy a longer service life and malfunctions are sharply reduced. This means fewer disruptions, fewer delays and more satisfied customers.
Rail travel is clearly a more climate-friendly alternative to car travel. As a manufacturer in the rail sector, what role do environmental protection and carbon footprints play for you and your customers?
Robert Kollouch: Our focus on environmental protection continues to increase, but I’m afraid that this alone is far too little for a successful sales pitch. While this certainly varies from country to country, it is clear that most points are lubricated in the conventional fashion around the world. Depending on how heavily a rail line is travelled and what weather it is subjected to, it is very possible that a point may need to be lubricated once or twice each week. In Asian countries with monsoon-type rains, it can even be necessary to lubricate points on a daily basis. This simply is not necessary for our system, and results in a savings of approx. 25 litres of lubricant per point, per year. If you add this up for a country with 1,000 points, for example, this amounts to 25,000 litres of oil that end up seeping into the gravel on a yearly basis. In many countries, gravel that is contaminated with lubricant is considered to be hazardous waste, and it has to be cleaned before anything can be done with it. This treatment process actually costs more than the rollers themselves. That is why Germany and Austria, as well as many other countries, have already switched to equipping all new points with rollers. We have been supplying Deutsche Bahn AG for many years now, for example.
In your opinion, what will be the next technological advance for trains and rail networks?
Robert Kollouch: Naturally the topic of digitalisation and big data is ever present today. To me, however, the question is what we can do with all this data. After all, it has to be assessed and put to worthwhile use. Some interesting solutions are possible in the field of preventive maintenance in particular, with systems automatically determining where problems are occurring so that we can react at an early stage. In other words, instead of waiting to repair something after it has broken, we could take preventive action in advance, allowing operation to continue. This is certain to be an important issue. Even with all the digitalisation, however, one should not lose sight of the fact that the basics have to function properly, and even with digitalisation, a steel wheel is still travelling on a steel track. Yet with track capacity, for example, there are also opportunities available for optimising processes – by increasing travel frequency by means of dynamic train management. A great deal will be happening here in the next few years, because rail travel is the wave of the future.
About Robert Koch
Following engineering studies at the Wiener Neustadt University of Applied Sciences, Robert Kollouch studied marketing and sales, and he has been the Head of Railway Engineering at Wieland Austria for the past twelve years. Kollouch is frequently in Asia as part of the business development process for Austroroll.
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