Trafikverket (the Swedish Transport Administration), together with LKAB and Bane Nor, is conducting tests on the Swedish and Norwegian sections of the Ore Railway to enable heavier transports in future. Therefore, the axle load for ore cars is being increased from 30 tonnes to 31 tonnes.
“The purpose of the tests is to determine which stretches of the railway must be upgraded to enable an increase in the payload weight of cars operating on the line and thereby create a more efficient and environmentally friendly transport system. Quite simply, through testing, we want to determine how higher axle load affects wear on rails and switches. Testing is beginning now and we will assess the results on an ongoing basis,” says Staffan Ökvist, maintenance manager for Trafikverket's northern region.
Testing will be carried out on both the Swedish and Norwegian stretches of the railway that runs between Kiruna and Narvik (Malmbanan and Ofotbanan). For some time, testing has also been under way on the southern section of the line, between Malmberget and Luleå.
In business and industry there is a great demand for increased capacity on the Ore Railway. By upgrading the railway, more freight can be hauled without increasing the number of trains operating on the line. The tests are part of a forward-thinking strategy, the ambition of which is to be able in future to operate trains with an axle load of 32.5 tonnes along the entire Ore Railway.
In 2020 LKAB hauled over 34 million tonnes on the Ore Railway, mainly iron ore from the mines in the orefields, to the ports in Luleå and Narvik for onward shipment to customers. The mining company now wishes to increase production further and, with such great volumes, even a few percentage points in capacity increase can have a significant impact.
“With an increase in maximum axle load, in theory, we can increase the payload of a train by four percent. Eventually, the axle load will be increased to a point when we can load ten percent more without having to run more trains. In the longer term we plan to increase production even more, which will require double track on the railway. For us, the Ore Railway and Ofotbanen, on the Norwegian side, constitute a single system,” says Jan Lundgren, General Manager LKAB Logistics and CEO, LKAB Malmtrafik.
LKAB has begun the transition to carbon-dioxide-free production. Hydrogen will be used to reduce oxygen from the ore iron at the mine sites, which means that the resulting sponge iron that is to be hauled by train will have a higher volumetric weight.
“Together with an increased axle load, this greater density is an advantage, since we will be able to haul more payload per car," explains Jan Lundgren.
Norwegian Bane Nor also sees benefits in the tests that will be conducted.
“With the need for an increase in ore transports, it is important to be able to utilize the existing infrastructure in the best way possible. An increase to a maximum axle load of 31 tonnes is a new step in this development. This will give us valuable experience for assessing the need for further measures that will enable a further increase in axle load to 32.5 tonnes in the long term,” says Thor Brækkan, Director Northern Region Infrastructure, Bane NOR.
LKAB is an international mining and minerals group that offers sustainable iron ore, minerals and special products. We are committed to developing carbon-free processes and products by 2045, leading the transformation of the iron and steel industry. Since 1890 we have developed through unique innovations and technological solutions and are driven forward by more than 4,500 employees in 12 countries. In 2020, the LKAB group had sales of about SEK 34 billion.
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