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Grinding extends track life

FAILURE OF the broken rail which caused the fatal train crash near Hatfield, UK could have been prevented if Railtrack had adopted a North American rail grinding technique, where it has been used since the 1970s.

Four people died on 17 October after a train derailed after a section of track snapped away.

The track operator said the cause of the railbreak was gauge corner cracking, a problem experts in the UK and US agree can be dramatically reduced by preventative grinding of the rails.

Gauge corner cracking - a form of rolling contact fatigue which experts say accounts for 30% of railbreaks - is currently dealt with by replacing the whole rail after intervals as short as five years.

The more systematic US strategy is to grind the surface of the rails lightly at regular intervals, slowing deterioration.

Using this technique North American freight rails can typically carry volumes of 1,000Mt before they need to be replaced.

It is thought that the Hatfield rail failed after only 200Mt of traffic.

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