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Future-proofed solutions on German railways

Rail
  • Supplier: Fiberline A/S
  • Material: Structural profiles
  • Advantages: • Electrical insulation • Easy to fit • Great strength • Low weight • Corrosion-free material • Easy maintenance

Faster trains demand improved railway infrastructure. When improvements to track access arrangements were required near Kassel, Germany, the result was the installation of two GFRP stairways. The client, Deutsche Bahn, now intends to commit heavily to GFRP composite in the future and has revised its technical standards accordingly. The company's reasons are both financial and practical.

Although GFRP is essentially more expensive, the final cost of the project in Kassel was similar to that for a steel solution. This was because composite is lighter than steel, and at the same time is non-conductive, which means that no earthing is required. For the contractor this adds up to a saving on both manpower and working hours.

Pafos Busch, construction manager for contractor BeMo Tunnelling:
"We were quite surprised that composite could compete with traditional steel or timber solutions. But once we included all the costs for labour, equipment, and overall installation, there was little difference in price. When you also factor in GFRP's long service life you have the reason why we opted for Fiberline's solution."

Easy installation

Track access on railways is usually difficult, and this project was no exception. So being able to do most of the assembly work on the GFRP stairways in advance was a distinct advantage, added to which no earthing was required. This is unlike, say, steel solutions for which earthing is mandatory.

Dirk Haake of KBM-Wiwemo GmbH, responsible for design, assembly and documentation:
"Fiberline's GFRP solutions are incredibly easy to work with as they are light and easy to assemble. With a relatively small crew and no special equipment we were able to assemble the stairways into modules in our factory and then install them on site. GFRP is also simple to machine so final adjustments can be done on site, and as composite does not rust, no after-treatment is needed."

Future-proofed solutions on German railways

In autumn 2016 Deutsche Bahn revised its technical standards for GFRP composite with view to making it easier to use innovative solutions. Deutsche Bahn's positive experience with the Kassel project and its outcome also means they will in future be more comfortable with choosing GFRP solutions:

Jutta Heine-Seela, project manager, Deutsche Bahn
"We still have only limited experience with GFRP, and when a project runs as smoothly as this – both in terms of installation and our relationship with Fiberline Composites – we appreciate it. Fiberline has high-quality solutions and has got its paperwork in order. That's something we value highly in a supplier."

GFRP has the further advantage of being corrosion-resistant and incredibly strong. It is not harmed by dynamic traffic impact and changing weather conditions, and this means long life with minimal maintenance – a key financial benefit in the long term.

Technical specifications

Stairway North
Material: GFRP composite
Length: Approx. 18 m
Height of handrail: 1.1 m.

Location: Nr. Kassel, Germany

Trappe Syd
Material: GFRP composite
Length: Approx. 20 m.
Height of handrail: 1.1 m.

Location: Nr. Kassel, Germany