The half-century-old Monash Institute of Railway Technology has been awarded an $500,000 R&D grant by the Victorian government, which will assist in development of a next-generation recycled plastic product to use in place of concrete sleepers.
Monash IRT has been involved in a collaboration with Integrated Recycling since 2015, which has produced the Duratrack sleeper. Duratrack contains repurposed plastic, with a kilometre of sleepers using approximately 100 tonnes of recyclable plastic and saving $3,000 in landfill costs.
Duratrack (pictured) has been installed in low-speed railway yards and sidings in regional rail upgrades in the state, and trialled at multiple sites in Victoria and Queensland.
According to a statement from Monash University on Wednesday, the NextGen sleepers would be an Australian first, and a fit-for-purpose alternative to current concrete sleepers in mainline railways.
The Monash IRT will develop the new sleepers in collaboration with Integrated Recycling, Advanced Circular Polymers, Pandrol Australia and ARTC, with assistance from the funding from Sustainability Victoria and the Major Transport Infrastructure Authority.
Institute Director Professor Ravi Ravitharan said about 32 million of the nation’s 52 million railway sleepers are concrete, adding that the project would be another chance to shift the railway industry’s mindset, which was “quite conservative and slow” adopting innovative products.
“It’s also exciting because if you show households that the contents of their recycling bin are being put to good use, they’re much more likely to continue making the effort to recycle.”
He also added the new sleepers had a number of benefits, including “lower carbon footprint and a reduction in noise and vibration, which makes for a smoother ride for passengers, and a more peaceful environment for those living near train lines.”
Monash IRT has been operating for over 50 years, the first 28 of them as the Railways Engineering Group at BHP Research.
Picture: credit Integrated Recycling