KCPM Consulting has shown that the track owner’s maintenance budget can be hugely affected by the way operators maintain their train wheels.

We all know about wheel-rail profiles and their effect on rail wear, fatigue cracking, and the consequent need for rail grinding. But KCPM Consulting has shown that wheel problems can also be tied to the operational cost of maintenance of the track’s sub-rail components, and even to the upfront capital cost of those components.

The key issue here is those many defects that insist on forming on the wheel tread, such as flats, squats and out-of-roundness. Even the best operator’s detection, intervention and rectification policies can’t stop the defects happening nor control the maximum size of those defects. Instead, one can only reduce the likelihood of occurrence of the worst defects, and so in turn the likely severity of damage the defects cause to the fasteners, sleepers / ties and ballast.

Normally, designers and maintainers of sub-rail component mostly ignore these wheel problems. But KCPM Consulting has found that not only operators’ policies but even driver practices can have an influence over capex and opex costs that is equal to the role of more traditional factors such as train speed and axle load.

Track owners, designers and maintainers could ignore these factors at their peril.