Railway project midway to completion

13th October 2023

By: Nadine Ramdass

Creamer Media Writer


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Japan-based railway signal and track maintenance equipment manufacturer Hayashi Soji is midway through the second phase of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) railway project in South Africa.

The project is aligned with the JICA’s aim to help promote international cooperation and the development of the Japanese and global economies by supporting the socioeconomic development, recovery or economic stability of developing regions.

The focus of the project is to use Japanese technology in official development assistance projects, Hayashi Soji international business VP Joe Younosuke Kawana explains.

The JICA project in South Africa entailed the donation of sleeper anchors – designed and manufactured by Hayashi Soji – to railway company Passenger Rail Agency of South Africa (PRASA), he adds.

The equipment was donated by the Japanese government through JICA and Hayashi Soji. The equipment donated for the second phase of the project amounted to about R25-million.

The Project
Hayashi Soji augmented the sleep anchors’ design specifically to meet the requirements and specifications of PRASA railway tracks. Newly designed aspects of the sleeper anchors include anti-theft features. No sleeper anchors have been stolen since installation to date.

The anti-theft measures include limiting the access to the bolts by putting a bracket around the boltheads. The company added epoxy to the boltheads, which also creates more resistance when attempts are made to loosen the bolts.

The first phase of the project entailed Hayashi Soji and the JICA conducting a feasibility survey, which was completed in 2018. Hayashi Soji evaluated the track maintenance situation of PRASA’s passenger train operating area. The company then selected the installation points for sleeper anchors.

The installation for both phases of the project was completed by local teams led by engineers from Hayashi Soji. This approach enabled the company to provide technical knowledge transfer on installation and maintenance.

“We installed 60 units of proposed sleeper anchors [in] Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg to verify the effectiveness of the devices,” says Kawana, adding that the survey has provided “excellent” results.

In the survey, the company measured the track displacement figures and lateral resistance values before and after installation of sleeper anchors. The survey measured 0.0 mm to 0.1 mm of track displacement movement at the locations after its installation over a three-month period.

Additionally, the survey’s lateral resistance value was 1.28 to 1.48 times bigger after the sleeper anchors had been installed.

The second phase of the project entails the verification survey with the private sector for disseminating Japanese technologies to prevent railway track accidents.

The project’s second phase is expected to take three years, from 2022 to 2024, and involves the installation of 2 107 sleeper anchor units. It has taken most of the three-year period to understand the potential long-term benefits of the sleeper.

Kawana notes that while the first phase of measurements was promising, the tracks did not have enough traffic to determine the potential long-term impact, owing to rail infrastructure damage, which has prevented trains from using the railway until it is fixed.

Therefore, the company and its collaborators deemed it necessary to measure the effectiveness of the sleeper anchors over a longer period.

Sleeper Anchor Specifications
Kawana says Hayashi Soji chose South Africa as a starting point to expand its reach into the African market following various considerations.

In particular, the South African railway system is based on the UK railway system, which the Japanese railway system is also modelled after. Therefore, the company’s sleeper anchor could be easily adapted to the local system.

He adds that while Japan and the UK have sleeper anchor requirements and regulations, South African railway systems have not used sleeper anchors and, therefore, do not regulate it.

However, he stresses the benefits of integrating sleeper anchors, as it decreases the number of times that tracks need to be realigned which, in turn, decreases maintenance costs. The anchors also assist in preventing train accidents.

Train tracks need to be realigned regularly, especially in curved sections, to avoid trains being derailed, particularly when trains are traveling at high speeds.

Sleeper anchors are installed on curved areas of railway tracks to further stabilise them. A combination of thermal forces from the expansion and contraction of the rail in curves, as well as traffic-generated forces, result in lateral forces acting on the track. These lateral forces are significantly increased in continuous welded rails with tight radius curves, Kawana explains.

Therefore, sleeper anchors are fitted to the sleepers to increase the lateral resistance of the track and prevent buckling.

Hayashi Soji’s sleeper anchors are made with ductile cast iron, which is corrosion- resistant material, allowing its being used semi-permanently.

The sleeper anchors can be installed without digging out the ballast, which prevents the loosening of the ballast and the lowering of the rail. The anchors’ upper plates are low profile, thereby reducing a tripping hazard for track maintenance workers.

Track realignment can be undertaken without digging out the ballast and removing or refitting the sleeper anchors, Kawana concludes.

Edited by Nadine James
Features Deputy Editor




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