New study examines benefits of composites in the rail sector

A recent report from the European Pultrusion Technology Assn. predicts growth for pultruded composites in the rail sector.
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Applications for pultruded composites in the rail sector are set to grow, according to a new report from the European Pultrusion Technology Assn. (EPTA, Frankfurt, Germany). Lightweight, durable composite materials offer energy-efficient solutions with lower environmental impact and reduced life cycle costs in rolling stock and rail infrastructure, according to “Opportunities for Pultruded Composites in the Rail Market.”

Due to growing populations, accelerating urbanization, resource scarcity and other drivers, significant investment in rolling stock and infrastructure will be required to create more sustainable and energy-efficient railway systems, says the report. Composites can offer cost-effective alternatives to traditional construction materials like metal or concrete, without compromising safety, and offer benefits including faster train acceleration, increased payload, lower maintenance and customizable solutions.

"As international policies continue to push to mitigate CO2 emissions from global transport activity, demand for lightweight materials such as composites will increase," explains Dr. Elmar Witten, secretary of EPTA. "Increased demand for lightweight, high performance, fire-retardant materials for train interiors will favor pultruded components, and proven performance in interior applications over time will strengthen the case for adoption of composites in structural applications. The rail sector's growing focus on life cycle costs is a further factor improving the competitive position of composites against other materials."

Pultruded profiles can find applications in external and internal parts, enabling multi-functional design. For example, full-span roof panels are possible, from window to window, with integrated air conditioning ducts and heating channels. Partitions, luggage shelves and storage units, tables, window trims, catering and toilet modules, and door components are also applications for pultruded profiles. Unlike metals, glass fiber composites do not need to be electrically earthed, making them ideal for applications such as cable trays, third rail covers, rail joints and trackside cabinets and ballast retention systems. Further infrastructure applications include railroad ties and embankment shoring systems, tunnel lining panels, access platforms, and fencing and barriers. The full briefing,Opportunities for Pultruded Composites in the Rail Market,” can be downloaded from the EPTA website.