This is a R&D project uniting partners across Europe including: axle manufacturers, railway operators/IMs, system integrators, technology suppliers, universities, rail sector associations and aconsulting firm. The consortium is well-positioned to provide a common R&D approach to axle design, protection, inspection and maintenance which will have an impact on standards, regulations and on the market.
The EURAXLES project aims to develop innovative, safer solutions for railway wheel sets with improved reliability in a cost effective way.
The research is summarized below:
- A design approach will be developed, including a risk analysis method which could offer a simple design route by combining loads with difference occurrences including loading specificity of vehicles and service conditions together with the axles resistances, including new materials and methods in order to predict the failure probability;
- New developments will also include: (i) improved axle protection against corrosion, including protection of already corroded axles; (ii) improved adhesion of coatings with a study of the roughness influence (adhesion and fatigue behaviour); and (iii) new, innovative coating solutions. The new solutions will also aim to fulfil environmental requirements to avoid or limit VOC emissions;
- New/improved NDT inspection methods will allow the in-service inspection of axles in order to guarantee safe service conditions with a low impact on the vehicle availability;
- RAMS/LCC analysis of the solutions will be carried out.
The railway transportation system requires a risk analysis of the safety components. Activities will improve design validation and inspection technologies of axles which will optimise costs, safety and environmental compliance to be shown with RAMS/LCC analyses. Results will be disseminated to the different stakeholders, and the European standards and regulations for railway axles and wheel sets will be improved across Europe.
Minimising axle failure in rail transport
The safety of wheel sets and axles is critical to Europe's rail sector. An EU initiative introduced novel ways of monitoring and maintaining rail wagon axles that will reduce rail-related accidents and help unify European rail standards.
A broken axle could lead to significant rail catastrophes, causing the loss of lives as well as major economic costs from compensation to repairs.
Overall, the aim of the EU-funded project 'EURAXLES: Minimizing the risk of fatigue failure of railway axles' (http://www.euraxles.eu/ (EURAXLES)) was to reduce railway axle failure to the maximum extent possible.
EURAXLES worked on novel axle design based on new materials and methods to help predict failure probability. It furthered axle protection against corrosion, developed better coatings and improved adhesion of coatings while keeping in mind environmental considerations. In addition, project members worked on assessing new and improved non-destructive testing inspection methods.
Existing axle standards were assessed to determine restrictions for the testing and validation of protective coatings. Focus was also placed on the operating conditions of wheel sets in service.
A benchmark was carried out of existing and promising innovative solutions that might enable reliable inspection without the train needing to stop for several days.
EURAXLES examined the technical aspects involved in implementing axle design solutions, including coated and non-coated surfaces, protection types, coating thickness and corrosion impact. In addition, project members investigated suitable inspection tools, technologies and systems to identify defects in axles in real settings.
The team created a tool to compare different solutions developed during the project and their market uptake. Achievements also included a new online database of axle load measurements to understand real in-service loads, as well as new methodology to analyse axle load.
Lastly, recommendations were formulated for updating European standards and regulations for railway axles and wheel sets.
The innovative design approach and methods of EURAXLES will result in safe and cost-effective railway axles. With about 3.5 million axles currently in operation throughout Europe, threats to rail transport safety should be greatly minimised.