Brexit and its attendant uncertainties are still casting a pall over economic relations between Great Britain and the rest of the EU. But despite that, companies still have to plan ahead. That is why British infrastructure operator Network Rail is currently preparing to bid out a multi-year contract for the supply of rails. Companies that want to take part in the bidding procedure need to prove their ability to deliver long rails.

Austrian rail manufacturer voestalpine Schienen GmbH is partnering up with DB Cargo to tackle this challenge. Currently, voestalpine is conducting test deliveries. The transports begin in Leoben Donawitz, about an hour north-west of Graz. They continue through Calais and the Channel Tunnel to Eastleigh, while completely under DB Cargo’s direction. The first tests were successful, and others will follow in the coming months. Regular deliveries at three-week intervals would then begin in April 2020.

Transporting rails to Great Britain by train comes with a set of challenges, says Tim Eberhard, who serves the customer voestalpine for DB Cargo. “The rails are 108 m in length, stretching across six freight wagons. That means they have to bend along with the curves. So we checked the radius of the curves along the route and we also tested what would happen if we stopped in such a bend.” During the test transports, the cargo performed in line with expectations: flawlessly.

Since wagons in Great Britain are narrower than their counterparts on the continent, only certain freight wagons can be considered for this application. “We have been trying for a long time to get these transports, and this time we are confident we can pull it off”, explains Eberhard. Rail is the only cost-effective way to transport the long rails.

The destination of Eastleigh is a long-established railway town. A station was built here on the Southampton–Winchester line in the 19th century. Wagon and locomotive manufacturers later set up premises there. Network Rail is headquartered in London and maintains a unit in Eastleigh dedicated to renewing the Wessex route, for which two billion pounds (roughly 2.2 billion euros) have been earmarked over the next five years.

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