Network Rail has fitted sleepers made of recycled plastic to one of its main line tracks for the first time after an impending ban on creosote limited its options on a weight-restricted viaduct.
The composite sleepers recently were installed across the restricted Sherrington Viaduct between Salisbury and Warminster. Previously, wooden sleepers would have been used, as concrete would have been too heavy for the structure.
The infrastructure operator said the EU-wide creosote had at exemption for use in railway sleepers. However the exemption terminated at the end of July, meaning softwood sleepers will not be used in this country from that date, while hardwood sleepers are mainly sourced from Brazil and are not sustainable.
Route director Mark Killick said: ‘This is an exciting development; use of these recycled sleepers on the Network Rail Wessex route is a first for the overground railway network in Britain.
‘Rail is already one of the greenest ways to travel, but we’re committed to even greener and better journeys whether this be changing how we maintain the lineside or finding innovative ways to improve the railway by reusing materials and reducing landfill.’
The new sleepers are manufactured by Sicut Ltd in the UK using a blend of locally-sourced plastic waste.
CEO William Mainwaring said: ‘Having proven that our products meet the performance required of modern rail track infrastructure we look forward to working closely with every Network Rail Route and Region to deliver the commercial and environmental savings promised by our technology, while at the same time helping the UK deliver on its commitments on carbon reduction and plastic waste proliferation.’
Network Rail said the sleepers offer an increase in service life and reduced maintenance compared with timber and that unlike wooden sleepers, composite sleepers do not split, rot or degrade over time and can resist water, oil, chemicals and fungi.