New RSSB rail freight coupler ratings to provide “huge environmental and financial benefits”

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A research project by the Rail Safety and Standards Board (RSSB) means freight train operators in Great Britain can safely haul more goods wagons per train than current practices allow, improving their environmental impact and financial efficiency.

The research has enabled existing couplers, which connect freight wagons, to safely connect more load. The evidence means a 34.5-ton coupler rating can increase 16% to 40 ton, and some 56-ton rated couplers increasing 13% to a new 63-ton rating.

Crucially the uprated values can be applied to wagons in use today without the need to upgrade or undertake a detailed engineering assessment, RSSB noted.

As a result of the research, more than 12,000 rail freight wagons, over 50% of Britain’s fleet, will receive an increase in traction rating (the amount of weight it is able to safely haul).

RSSB’s real-world case studies found that increasing coupler strength ratings will provide huge environmental and financial benefits.

On a typical Anglo-Scottish journey, over two tons of carbon dioxide emissions can be saved, as well as considerable amounts of nitrogen oxides and particulate emissions. Significant financial efficiencies are also delivered due to the train length increase.

A 235-mile journey (each way), for example, with 19 wagons, can now be increased to 23 wagons, providing environmental savings of 2.1 tons of CO2. The projected annual financial savings were £364,000.

According to RSSB, the rail industry is now implementing the improved freight coupler load ratings and identifying routes suitable for longer freight services.

“It’s good to see the results of our research directly helping freight train operators,” said RSSB’s lead research analyst, Aaron Barrett. “By enabling longer trains, more goods and materials can be hauled per journey. This will have a hugely positive impact on emissions and financial efficiency.

“This research project is the first in a series, funded by the Department of Transport, designed to help the rail freight sector in Great Britain. Our freight research program is currently focusing on the safe operation of rail freight, raising the average speed of services, enabling the operation of longer trains and reducing emissions.”

Read the full freight coupler research here: