EUREKA project E! 1841 EUROBOGIE is developing the use of glass fibre reinforced plastic springs and suspensions for railway wagons to offer increased payloads for reduced costs and a quieter, smoother ride.

Applying the research carried out in EUREKA project E! 888 EUROSPRINGS, the partners set out to prove that plastic reinforced with fibreglass is ideal for rail suspension springs and entire replacement suspensions.

The new springs duplicate the strength, spring and durability of steel but are lighter, quieter and reduce vibration. Replacing the steel-grinding-against-steel contacts of existing suspensions will reduce noise levels and wear and tear, producing quieter trains that will permit the opening of more night-time freight routes.

"Our new process uses preformed glass fibre fabrics which are impregnated with polyester resin within a closed mould. This process is fast and allows complex shapes to be moulded directly to the required final form, whether it is part of a suspension spring or an entire frame," explains Dr Rayner Mayer of Sciotech Projects, the UK leading partner in the project.

"Only EUREKA allows the flexibility to add in new partners and extend the work."

Dr Rayner Mayer
Sciotech Projects

Replacing existing steel springs with the new lighter fibreglass versions allows an additional 2-300 kg in payload to be carried for the same axle load. "This allows operators to carry more freight for the same cost, offering an estimated transport saving of 18 Euros per kilo," says Mayer.

Revolutionary, not evolutionary

The partners are currently developing a design for an entire suspension system for high speed freight wagons which is described as "revolutionary, not evolutionary" and is the first major enhancement in 100 years.

"The new glass fibre frame will bend to provide for primary suspension and offer the same benefits as the springs, but on a larger scale," says Mayer.It has now passed initial tests, but it is estimated that it will take a further five years to complete the critical evaluation required for its use on Europe's railways.

Developing the new technology to underpin this research has only been possible within a EUREKA project, as no one country has all the required expertise. "Only EUREKA allows the flexibility to add in new partners and extend the work that was originally scheduled to last four years but will now continue until 2010," says Mayer.

With over 500,000 wagons in Europe alone, a huge potential market is waiting, but already partners are reaping the benefits. Danish partner EM-fiberglas A/S has recently won a lucrative 10-year contract based on the work done in the project thus far. "We used the knowledge we accumulated during this project to develop injection equipment which won the contract with VW to produce complete roof modules for its transporter vehicles," says Technical Manager Peter Kaasgaard.

Raising the productivity and competitiveness of European businesses through technology. Boosting national economies on the international market, and strengthening the basis for sustainable prosperity and employment.