LKAB's plans for the future require increased efficiency and delivery capacity. Having previously tested and received approval for heavier trains on the Malmberget-Luleå section of the line, testing of heavier axle loads is now also underway on the Kiruna-Narvik section.
Testing is being conducted in a collaboration between LKAB, the Swedish Transport Administration and Bane NOR. The tracks in question have been inspected and reinforced to cope with heavier trains. LKAB is constantly working to increase the productivity of its mines and processing plants. Increased production demands more efficient deliveries. The capacity of the Ore Line is limited, leaving two available alternatives if the infrastructure is to transport larger volumes: more tracks or longer, heavier trains.
"With a maximum permitted axle load of 30 tonnes, LKAB is already operating the heaviest trains in Europe, while LKAB's 750-metre-long trains are already at the maximum length for the line. In our opinion, the quickest solution to increasing deliveries is increased axle height; however, in the long term, we consider double tracks and longer trains to be necessary," says Jan Lundgren, vice president technical and business development at LKAB.
The Malmberget-Luleå section was already being trafficked by one heavier train per day as early as autumn 2015, later increased to two. After this successful trial, in autumn 2017 LKAB received an operating permit from the Swedish Transport Agency to run STAX 32.5, i.e. an axle load of 32.5 tonnes, on the southern section of the Ore Line.
After extensive studies and risk analyses, a number of infrastructure measures have been implemented by the Swedish Transport Administration, the public authority responsible for Swedish railways. These include the strengthening of bridges, embankments and culverts.
"A good collaboration between all involved has been a prerequisite for preparing the line for higher axle loads," says Håkan Äijä, head of the Swedish Transport Administration's Maintenance District North.
LKAB has prepared a special train equipped with new, more powerful bogies that can withstand the increased loads. An extensive wheel-change programme is underway for all rolling stock.
Bane NOR, the state-owned company responsible for Norway's national railway infrastructure, began implementing a number of reinforcement measures along the Ofoten Line in 2015. Measuring equipment and satellite surveillance has been installed and inspection programmes have been prepared.
"This combined investment effort places us at the forefront in Europe," says Thor Brækkan, area director for Bane NOR North.