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Look to the causes

Letters

The diagrams in your article (NCE 26 October) showing the pattern of cracking in train rails, are without doubt indicative of high stresses at the interface of wheel and rail brought about by the use of rail vehicles with too heavy axle loads.

Up to privatisation, criteria were laid down to regulate the maximum effect of loadings from trains and quite rightly influenced the design of traction and all railway vehicles. The use of these safeguarded the infrastructure relative to the condition of rails and underline structures and at no time was rail fatigue experienced.

While there is the immediate need to renew all damaged rails, the most effective long term measure thereafter is to eliminate the cause of the effect. Railtrack should impose immediate restrictions, even to the extent of banning existing offending vehicles from the railway, pending modifications to bring the rail loads down to a level that does not induce fatigue.

TF Leng (M), 1 Christ Church Road, Cheltenham, Gloucestershire, GL50 2NY

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