Solving the sand challenge for desert railways
EU-funded researchers are developing solutions to shelter train tracks from wind-blown sand, combining architectural, engineering and mathematical modelling innovations to improve safety, reduce maintenance costs and protect billions of euros worth of railway infrastructure.
© #168568740 | Author: javarman, 2018 fotolia.com
With Middle Eastern countries allocating more than EUR 200 billion towards constructing 40 000 kilometres of railway lines by 2030, there is a growing demand for rail infrastructure that can withstand harsh desert conditions. The EU-funded SMART initiative addresses this major issue facing railway development projects.
Wind-blown sand affects railway safety in the Middle East and other arid regions, due to dunes migrating on to the track or signalling controls becoming buried, potentially leading to accidents and derailments. Loose sand also damages train components and wears down tracks over time, substantially reducing service life and increasing maintenance costs.
The SMART project researchers are designing standardised techniques to assess sand hazards to railways, developing new and effective sand mitigation measures and evaluating their performance using computational simulations and field tests.
The work will focus in particular on using innovative curved sand deflectors that can be installed on top of solid walls alongside railway lines. Developed by a team in Turin, Italy, the deflector shape and design can be optimised according to the site conditions, such as average wind speeds and size of local sand grains, using advanced computer simulations.
In the same regions, the sand defector solutions expected to emerge from SMART could be applied to other transport infrastructure, such as roads and airport runways, or even used to protect farmland and archaeological sites.
SMART, supported by the EUs Marie Skłodowska-Curie Innovative Training Networks programme, is also providing interdisciplinary and inter-sectoral training to early-stage researchers over four years, enhancing the European railway industrys expertise in civil engineering innovations.