19 September 2022
As one of the measures to make work on the tracks more sustainable, Strukton is keen to move away from fossil-driven machinery. This includes small mechanical tools as well as larger equipment. As such, Strukton Rail acquired its first electric locomotive, Loc Nicole, at the beginning of 2019. Three more electric locomotives were purchased in 2020. Strukton is in the process of converting these electric locomotives into hybrid locomotives so that they can also be used when there is no power supply. Strukton is the first railway contractor to make its locomotive fleet sustainable this way. As is the case with many innovations, this poses several challenges. But Business Manager Rail Machines & Logistics Aad Onderwater is confident it will be a success!
The relocation of a diesel locomotive to the Italian branch of Strukton Rail contributed towards the need for a new one in the Netherlands. Driven by its sustainability ambitions, Strukton set its sights on electric locomotives instead of the far more polluting diesel locomotives. “That’s not an obvious choice,” explains Aad. “Rail contractors have traditionally deployed diesel locomotives, because the overhead lines are often switched off when work is being carried out on the track. And even though some 75% of the Dutch rail network is equipped with overhead lines, some routes still haven’t been electrified. So, your electric locomotive can’t access every work site.”
Nevertheless, Strukton decided to go for electric locomotives. Sustainable and future-proof. Currently, the e-locs are deployed regularly in the Netherlands. And in those instances where the work site is not accessible to e-locs, Strukton can still rely on its diesel locomotives. “Initially, our operators weren’t exactly enthusiastic about electric locomotives. They thought diesel-powered locomotives were cooler and easier to deploy. Now they don’t want anything else but electric! The e-locs accelerate smoothly and quickly and don’t need to warm up beforehand.”
Our operators don’t want anything else but electric! The e-locs accelerate smoothly and quickly and don’t need to warm up beforehand.
The next step is to supplement the locomotives with an external battery on a railcar. This will convert it into a kind of hybrid locomotive. For this project, Strukton is seeking to cooperate with ProRail, the inspectorate and other parties. The hybrid locomotive gets its power from the overhead line whenever the overhead line is operational, and switches to the battery when it needs to. The battery recharges on tracks with overhead lines. This way, Strukton will be able to reach all work sites in a sustainable way. From a technical point of view, the hybrid locomotive works. But it will still be a while before it can actually be put into operation. “Hybrid locomotives haven’t been used for track maintenance before, which means that each and every step is new for the industry. So there is still a long way to go in terms of authorisations,” says Aad. “We’re making progress, so I’m confident we’ll get there!”
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