Composite Plastic Railway Sleepers

Tested by the Institute of Railway Technology, Monash University

Rigorously tested by the Institute of Railway Technology, Monash University and in the field for over 2 years. Duratrack sleepers are fit for purpose within the Tourist & Hertitage railways operating parameters.  Being a similar weight and characteristics to timber sleepers, Duratrack utilises existing railway tooling and infrastructure. Duratrack sleepers have a design life of 50 years which is 3-4 times longer than timber. They are resistant to termites, rot, fungal attack, water and sun damage and can be drilled to adapt to different track gauges.

Key Sleeper Characteristics

In July 2017, after extensive field trials and testing by the Institute of Railway Technology at Monash University, Duratrack sleepers were deemed fit for purpose for use in Tourist and Heritage Railways.

→ Design life of of 50 years
→ Timber sleeper replacement cycles reduced by 3-4 times
→ Track maintenance levels reduced
→ Totally compatible for integration with existing timber sleepers
→ Suitable for use with Dog screws or spikes
→ Can be drilled to adapt to any track gauge
→ Similar weight to a comparable timber sleeper
→ Non-conductive in track circuit locations

→ Same maintenance techniques as timber sleepers
→ Same discharge, handling and insertion methods as timber sleepers
→ No special tooling required
→ No extra training required
→ Available in various sleeper cross sections
→ Available up to 3m in length
→ Non degradable in any environment
→ Resistant to termites, other pests and fungal attack
→ Non-toxic when handled cut or drilled
→ Sides/underside patterned to engage ballast for lateral stability
→ Will not self-propagate fire
→ Low water absorption

50 Year Design Life

Duratrack railway sleepers have 3-4 times the design life of timber sleepers

Lifecycle cost comparison

A lifecycle cost comparison is dependant on the life of the sleepers. The clear advantage of a Duratrack sleeper is its 50 year design life, but its serviceable life may be longer depending on the maintenance of the track. The average life of an A grade timber sleeper is around 14-15 years.

The purchase price of a sleeper will vary according to its material type, the operating parameters of the railroad and the volume purchased. The price of a Duratrack sleeper should be compared with an A grade timber sleeper and not a B or a C grade serviceable sleeper that are gang nailed across the ends to delay splitting and whose lifespan will be considerably shorter, more like 8 years.

To compare favourably with the price of a Duratrack sleeper, an A grade timber sleeper will need to be approximately 1/3 of the price of a Duratrack sleeper, without taking account of the cost of two or three extra sleeper installations or inflation.

Environmental Benefits

Duratrack composite plastic sleepers are manufactured from plastic waste sourced in Australia. Recycling waste plastic reduces landfill or the use of other harmful disposal methods.

One tonne of waste plastic will be used to produce approximately 30 Duratrack sleepers. Every kilometre of Duratrack installed will recycle approximately 45 tonnes of waste plastic.

Compared to concrete or steel sleepers, Duratrack sleepers require less energy to manufacture and thereby produce significantly less greenhouse gases.

Over logging and/or preservation of remaining forests have reduced the availability of quality timber. Using Duratrack sleepers relieves the unsustainable pressure on scarce timber resources.

Duratrack sleepers are recyclable at the end of their lifespan.

Summary of Technical Report

Public Transport Victoria funded the Institute of Railway Technology, Monash University to develop Guidelines for the Design and Testing of Plastic Sleepers for Tourist and Heritage (T&H) Railways Victoria. These Guidelines have been used to test and validate that the Duratrack sleeper is fit for purpose for use within the T&H railways operating parameters.

The references used in the establishment of the Guidelines and testing criteria are:

→ AREMA Manual for Railway Engineering (2003) – chapter 30, part 5: Engineered Composite Ties.
→ AREMA – Manual for Railway Engineering – Chapter 30, part 5: Engineering Composite Ties, American Railway and Maintenance of Way Association (2016).
→ AS 1085.14 (2012) Railway Track Material – part 14: Prestressed Concrete Sleepers, Standards Australia.
→ AS 1085.17 (2003) Railway Track Material – part 17: Steel Sleepers, Standards Australia.
→ AS 1085.18 (2003) Railway Track Material – part 18: Screw spikes and threaded inserts, Standards Australia.
→ AS 1085.19 (2003) Railway Track Material – part 19: Resilient Fastening assemblies, Standards Australia.
→ Hetenyi, M (1967) Beams on Elastic Foundations, the University of Michigan Press.
→ Jeffs T and Tew, G (1991) A Review of Track Design Procedures – volume 2: Sleepers and Ballast Railways of Australia.
→ Sims, J and Tew, G (1998) Steel Sleeper Performance, Conference on Railway Engineering, Yeppoon, Queensland.
→ Ajax Fastenings (2014) Pull out tests on Ajax Dog Screw II M19 mm in Recycled Plastic Sleepers.

War on waste

ABC Mildura/Swan Hill, Kelly Hollingworth & Emma Brown – 15 May, 2017
Recycled plastic sleepers have a 50 year lifespan which is over three times longer than timber sleepers >> Read More

Mt Eliza pedestrian crossing

This installation enables the railway to have a durable, cost effective long life alternative to traditional timber sleepers >> Read More