Adif and UZ to test automatic gauge system

Adif and Ukraine Railways (UZ) signed a Memorandum of Understanding for infrastructure conservation and maintenance, the piloting of the automatic system for gauge changing well as power supply systems and the introduction of variable gauge.

The agreement was signed by the president of Adif and Adif AV, Ángel Contreras, and the president of Ukrainian Railways, Yevhen Liashchenko, during a visit of the Ukrainian delegation to Spain.

One of the objectives of this collaboration will be the launch and testing of a pilot in Ukraine of the automatic variable width freight system promoted by Adif with Spanish technology.

The development of a solution that facilitates the access of freight trains between networks of different gauges. The implementation of this system represents an opportunity to strengthen the interoperability of the Ukrainian transport system with Europe and highlight the capacity of the Spanish industry. The cooperation between Adif and Ukraine Railways includes other activities, such as the accessing funds from the European Union to finance the pilot project.

“One of the important tasks of the infrastructure team is to reach stable export figures at the level of 2021. Solving the technological issues related to the replacement of wheel pairs will significantly revive the flow of goods and passengers with the EU countries. In the conditions of the ongoing war, speed is becoming one of the important factors of our defense capability and economic stability,” said Oleksandr Kubrakov, Deputy Prime Minister for Reconstruction of Ukraine.

“Currently, we are working out all possible technological solutions to create a continuous logistics process during the transport of goods between Ukraine and EU countries. Due to the different track gauges our Spanish colleagues have been successfully using technological developments for a long time to minimise the impact of track deviations, and we are ready to cooperate to extend this technology to our rolling stock. The implementation of such a task is a rather complex technological project that takes time, but it is much faster and cheaper than rebuilding the rail infrastructure with European gauge [1435 mm] and this is another step in the integration of Ukrzaliznytsia into the European transport network,” Yevhen Lyashchenko, Chairman of the Board of Ukrzaliznytsia, said.

It is planned to conclude implementation agreements that will determine specific tasks, terms, etc. In addition, the parties will cooperate on the development of high-speed traffic in Ukraine. For this, the specifics of the railway infrastructure of the European network, traffic management and many other parameters to be taken into account when implementing the project in Ukraine will be analysed in detail.

Adif has been developing an innovation project to extend the potential of gauge change technology to rail freight transport. With this solution, certified in Spain, a freight wagon will be able to run through countries with different gauges, as the axle automatically changes width. In this way, freight travel times are shortened and associated costs are reduced. This system is made up of a set of wheels and axle, which automatically changes between track widths; and a gauge changer installed on the track.

After certifying a prototype axle (for 920 mm and 760 mm diameter wheels of freight wagons) and the gauge changer, Adif is launching a second phase, the Mercave project, to evolve the technology, financed with European funds.The Ukrainian delegation has visited the facilities in Córdoba where Adif carries out the associated tests.

The Mercave project was co-financed within Pluri-regional Operational Program of Spain 2014-2020, managed by the Ministry of Science and Innovation (MCIN). The project has a budget of EUR 10 million with ERDF co-financing 64%.

The overall objective of this project is to address the need for goods trains to be able to run on both Iberian and standard gauges. This requires goods trains equipped with variable gauge axles, as well as gauge changers on the track, technologies which do not yet exist on the market, which would enable the transit of goods between one gauge and another without the need to build new tracks that incorporate both gauges on the same track (mixed gauge), which is costly and inefficient as it reduces the capacity of the line and the running speed.

The Spanish and Ukrainian railway networks have different track gauges than the rest of Europe (1,668 mm in the Spanish case and 1,520 mm in the Ukrainian case, compared to 1,435 mm in the European standard).

This technically resolved challenge in passenger transport has been addressed in recent years in the area of goods, which is more complex because the rolling stock supports greater loads.In fact, currently, changing from one gauge to another requires the exchange of axles of different widths or the transfer of loads between wagons.

The agreement signed by the two companies includes cooperation for high-speed and station development. Adif will advise Ukrainian Railways on high-speed issues and on the study and evaluation of the technical parameters of the Ukrainian network in comparison with European standards.Cooperation on power supply systems, procurement of materials for track superstructure, etc. is also planned.


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