Over the next six years, £47.9 billion is set to be spent on the operation, maintenance and renewal of railways as part of a government initiative to become more focused on issues that matter most to passengers. The use of composites within the rail industry is predicted to grow by up to 40% (£100 million) between 2015 and 2020 according to the Composites Leadership Forum.
Composites are widely used in a number of industries: aerospace, automotive, marine and many more where the strength to weight ratio is critical. Other industries are now moving to adopt composites at a rapid rate, one such example is rail.
The rising interest in and use of composite products in rail has led Composites UK to join forces with the Rail Alliance to help companies understand these new materials and how they can be used to solve industry challenges.
The key properties of composites that are helping solve these challenges are their strength to weight ratio, durability, longevity and customisability.
Composites high strength to weight ratio means that smaller items like trench covers can be moved manually instead of requiring lifting equipment, larger items like train doors can operate faster and more efficiently, while even larger items like bridges can be built using less material reducing costs. Their durability means they perform year after year in all weather conditions and can withstand exposure to corrosive materials like salt and fuel. Their longevity means they last longer than traditional materials, reducing disruption which is especially important for products like sleepers. Finally, composite products can be custom manufactured to suit the application, instead of building on site, which enables fast installation, allowing products like FRP bridges, which can be installed overnight.