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Thomas Nordmark, Rail Road Specialist at LKAB Business & Technology Development – Sweden talks about the similarities of railway operations in Sweden and Australia, and the challenges of increasing axle-load for freight rail in Scandinavia.
Sweden and Australia represent, on the face of it, two very different operating environments – however there are undoubtedly common challenges across both landscapes.
It is always of value to see and learn from each other what work and what doesn’t.
The needs of people in operations can be very similar even if they come from completely different environments. It’s seldom anything big, it´s usually the small invented things such as work proceedings or adapting and utilising new technology.
For example, in the mid-90s, the Australian Railways came and visited us in Sweden to study how we could drive our heavy trains with only one driver; or in early 2000, people from BHP came to inspect our “dry toilet” on the locos. I believe that is now also implemented.
In Europe we have a special situation as our railway used to be State/country-owned. The market is now deregulated, but the rail infrastructure is still under the control of the National Rail Administration in each country, with some small exceptions.
Another issue is that passenger traffic dominates. We have a mixed traffic situation where the freight trains are viewed as less important by the public. This makes it difficult to convince the authorities to increase axle-load, as it will have a negative impact on higher speed for the passenger traffic.
In Scandinavia and especially in Sweden, the standard axle-load is currently 25 tonnes, and 30-ton for new lines or an upgrade. The Iron ore companies are however striving for axle-load up to 40-ton. Right now, a section of the Iron Ore line “Malmbanan” is ready for 32.5-ton axle-load.
The market demands for quicker resources and companies desire for better asset utilisation. These are driving the move to increase axle-load on our network. Two years ago, upping axle-load was purely for capacity reasons, but now it’s also the cost.