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Aluminium is the future of railway architecture

Aluminium is the future of railway architecture
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“In rapid transit and suburban rail systems, where trains must frequently stop, significant cost savings can be realised by using aluminium body coaches.”

Air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions that have resulted from the fast growth of human civilisation have threatened people for many years. Energy conservation and pollution reduction are becoming increasingly important as the transportation industry develops. The railways are a significant part of the transportation sector. Our trains continue to be the preferred mode of transportation, carrying millions of passengers and tonnes of freight every year because of their more reasonable prices, comfort, and convenience.

As a result, railways have continued improving their services and modernising their mechanics, emphasising energy conservation and pollution reduction. Since their beginnings as a mode of transportation during the 19th century’s Industrial Revolution, the railways have undergone continual development, improving speed and safety while incorporating newer technology.

Reducing aerodynamic resistance, transmission loss, tyre rolling resistance, and weight are just a few strategies to increase energy efficiency and lower CO2 emissions. A light weight but robust structure is one effective option to make trains more efficient. Metals, particularly cast iron and stainless steel, have historically been the primary material used in transportation machinery, the railways included.

Due to its weight, corrosion resistance, formability, high specific strength, and comparatively low price, Aluminium could replace traditional metals. Using Aluminium reduces the overall weight of a rail car body by 50 percent. It is one of the critical raw elements enabling a transition for the railroads. As a primary building material used in new-age trains, Aluminium is now also being used in the contrails that join the train’s floor to the sidewall, the ceiling, the sideboards, and panels.

After successfully using Aluminium in its metro trains, India is now interested in using it in long-distance trains such as the Rajdhani and Shatabdi Express trains. While the Government of India has cleared the use of Aluminium for next-generation trains that will be part of its vast railway networks spanning a total route length of 67,956 km, Japan and several European nations have already been enjoying the benefits of using aluminium train coaches for over 15 years.

Versatile benefits
Because there are fewer parts and it has strong corrosion resistance, Aluminium is more accessible to build than steel. With its qualities of being lightweight, having strong
corrosion resistance, having good formability, having high specific strength, and being relatively inexpensive, Aluminium delivers a balanced performance. Aluminium weighs about a third as much as steel. However, because of strength requirements, most aluminium parts used in the transportation industry consider around half as much as the equivalent steel parts.

Aluminium has several benefits over other metals in applications ranging from rapid transit and suburban rail systems to high-speed trains and freight trains. In rapid transit and suburban rail systems, where trains must frequently stop, significant cost savings can be realised by using aluminium coaches since less energy is used for acceleration and braking. According to a study published by Aluminium Insider, new aluminium waggons’ energy consumption can be reduced by up to 60 percent by combining the lightweight of trains with other similar techniques. On average, 5 tonnes of Aluminium are used by each of these waggons.

Green Future
Aluminium is the material of the future in railway architecture, whether it is used for coaches and waggons or other signalling infrastructure and station furniture. Since Aluminium is corrosion-resistant, it can extend railway coaches’ lifespan, which can last nearly 40 years with less maintenance. The existing trains in use by the Indian Railways have a 35-year lifespan, with Aluminium adding another five years.

This also ensures that coaches and waggons made of aluminium benefit from a higher salvage value when the metal is reused at the end of its life cycle. The other use that makes Aluminium a sought-after metal is that the production process is faster, so coaches or waggons can be delivered in a shorter time frame.

Even though it is asserted that Aluminium initially costs more than standard coaches and waggons, the railways will undoubtedly benefit in the long run. Aluminium waggons can carry 7-8 percent more weight, up to 70 tonnes, than a stainless-steel waggon, which can only transport about 65 tonnes.

Finally, any project that generates a rate of return of more than 15 percent is seen as commercially feasible by the Indian Railways, which have made enormous strides in their offerings to their users. But with a higher rate of return of 25–30 percent, Aluminium is a material that can be an effective collaborator in a bright future for railways worldwide.

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