Zero emissions: a possibility for track maintenance?

Alternative drives are becoming increasingly popular in the transport sector. Environmental concerns are an important factor driving this development. The FFF study (Fossil Free Future for Track Work Machinery), conducted by TU Graz in cooperation with Plasser & Theurer, examines the possibility of achieving zero direct emissions during maintenance and construction work on railways.

Currently, track maintenance machines are predominantly powered by diesel engines. According to the Institute of Railway Engineering and Transport Economy (TU Graz), track maintenance work on Austrian Federal Railways amounts to 9,600 t CO2e per year (fuel consumption, machine transport, material transport, and production). This indicates the huge potential for reducing greenhouse gas emissions by switching to alternative drives for track maintenance machines. It in can also be assumed they will be subject to stricter regulations the future. The goal of the FFF study is to analyse different solutions developed in the transport industry to assess their applicability to the railway sector and to track maintenance machines. This analysis considers market-specific aspects and risk factors. Based on the results and on the outputs of a calculation tool, the FFF study recommends alternative solutions for different track maintenance machines. 

The market analysis looks at the technology trends of various alternative drive systems for different modes of transport. Special focus is placed on the railway and construction sector. It also evaluates the institutional landscape, such as regulations and the political incentives to be expected. As part of the project, TU Graz developed the CalCAS tool (Calculation of Comparison for Alternative Solutions) that uses data from different kinds of track maintenance machines.