Pooling digitalisation expertise, counteracting the shortage of skilled workers, and finding answers to the challenges of railway construction in the face of climate change.

The motto of the three-day 28th International Exhibition for Track Technology (iaf) in Münster was "Track to the Future": on a global level, the railway will lead us into the future. It comes as no surprise that major topics such as environmental and climate protection, decarbonisation and sustainability, digitalisation and automation were the key issues at iaf.

Five years had passed since the last iaf, which is one year more than usual, due to the pandemic. As a result, many highlights were presented to the world for the first time. And there was a great deal of anticipation surrounding iaf 2022. Among the more than 12,000 trade fair visitors from 72 countries and the 140 plus exhibiting companies, a certain phrase quickly made the rounds:  "Great to see you again!" Due to travel restrictions in some countries, there were fewer visitors compared to the 27th iaf in 2017. However, this year’s trade fair was still just as big of a success.

19 exhibits and new concepts

Once again, technology leader Plasser & Theurer was the largest iaf exhibitor. With its 19 machines on the tracks directly on the exhibition grounds and another one being demonstrated live nearby, its presence was unrivalled. Each machine was a highlight, and there were also other components, collaborations, and concepts to experience. In line with "future track technology - NOW", the company’s trade fair appearance offered new solutions with concrete answers to current market needs. Today for tomorrow.

ModularCustomizing

It is not necessary for every machine to be a one-off down to the last detail. "ModularCustomizing" shortens delivery times and reduces life cycle costs. Thanks to standardised interfaces, upgrades at a later date are easier. Plasser & Theurer revisits the design of its tamping machines and combines the components into modular assemblies. A Duomatic 08-32 C from the Plasser CompactTamper group featuring this modular design heralded this approach at iaf, where it was handed over to the customer.

The new Unimat 09-8x4/4S BR Dynamic E³ was another example. The longest maintenance machine at the entire fair demonstrates what is possible with modularity, full electrification, and only five operators: integrated ballast management and ballast distribution, an integrated dynamic track stabiliser, and only one tamping cab with a new approach to the operating concept and highly attractive equipment and furnishings. Eight essential innovations are built into this machine. From surveying to post-measuring, it does all the work needed for a track that can be used immediately. Now in real-life use, it is proving to be ideal for short sections of track under repair with tight track possessions.

The 17,000th machine

The 17,000th machine built by Plasser & Theurer in the company's almost 70-year history was handed over to a customer from the iaf partner country Poland. More than half of all Plasser & Theurer machines are still in operation today. The road/rail Plassermatic 08-275 ZW is a classic for urban networks. 

Other highlights on the track

The ATMO, prototype of a rail grinding machine for urban networks, celebrated its public début at iaf. The UST 79 S, a road-rail machine, and the Plasser FlashWelder, a rail welding machine with improved dimensions and ease of use, were its next-door neighbours at the exhibition site. Also newly designed are the Plasser BallastMaster, a successor to the SSP, and the DGS NG, an all-round closed track stabiliser. The digital measuring vehicle equipped by Plasser Italia, the EM120VT, is already the second of its kind. And if a machine is getting on in years, extended retrofit and eco-fit programmes await it. Conversion to electric tamping units is possible, as are many other technical updates that extend the service life of machines. 

The next iaf is in 2025

Every day of the trade fair, many visitors flocked to the presentations highlighting company collaborations and the iaf salon, which detailed the background of new developments. The next iaf will take place again in Münster in three years’ time, from 20 to 22 May 2025.