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Report: KTX Rail Devices Chosen Without Field Tests

Posted March. 12, 2009 07:55,   


Rail-fastening devices installed in railways belonging to the first and second sections of the bullet-train KTX linking Seoul, Daegu and Busan were tested only in indoor environments, a report released yesterday said.

Other countries usually field test the devices since those that link rails and railroad ties play a critical role in distributing the load of trains to railroad ties.

Ruling Grand National Party lawmaker Chung Hee-su, who belongs to the Land, Transport and Maritime Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, released the report.

The report said the Korea Rail Network Authority asked the Korea Institute of Machinery and Materials to test SFC, a rail fastening device made by the British company Pandrol, and Sys 300-1 of Germany’s Vossloh between March and July 2005. Both of the two products passed the test.

The institute chose SFC since its price was around four billion won (3.91 million U.S. dollars), lower than its competitor. The test, however, was only conducted indoors.

In indoor tests, rail fastening devices are applied with a regular amount of vertical load several million times under a temperature range between 18 and 28 degrees Celsius. In a real environment, however, rails are exposed to snow, rain and ultraviolet rays and applied with irregular amount of load under a temperature range between minus 30 degrees and plus 70 degrees. This means the real environment is completely different from an artificial one in an indoor test facility.

When Germany adopts a new railway system or lays railways, it conducts indoor and outdoor tests. Final approval is granted only after devices work in field operation tests for more than three years (when more than 80 million tons are accumulated) after indoor and outdoor tests.

In Seoul, the Board of Audit and Inspection said, “We’ve conducted a sample survey on 26 rail fastening devices installed in railways linking Seoul and Daegu. According to the survey, built-in rail pads (shock absorbers) of SFC wore down two or three times more than those of new products. Similarly, rail pads installed in railways linking Daegu and Busan also rapidly worn down, raising fears over distorted and damaged railways.”

The machinery institute said, “It is practically hard to establish separate rails to test high-speed trains running at 300 kilometers per hour. We’ll make more efforts to conduct field tests.”

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