The consortium comprised of Azvi, Tria and OGI has completed the first phase of testing of variable gauge axles for freight trains at the Cetest facilities in Beasain, Guipúzcoa. Testing consisted of carrying out 6 million cycles in fatigue bench testing.
Testing was undertaken in accordance with the “Technical Specifications on the Standardisation of Railway Rolling Stock/Coaches” (ETH) published by the General Directorate of Railway Infrastructures of the Ministry of Public Works, and consisted of applying 6 million cycles with a load of 33.75 tons per axle, 150% above maximum nominal load, proving the robustness of the axles.
The company Cetest has one of the most advanced laboratories in the world for railway rolling stock testing and certification and has manufactured a specific bench test for the new variable gauge axles, in accordance with prevailing standards.
After dismantling and checking the axles, the bench tests will be completed by applying another 4 million cycles, with a maximum load of 170% of the nominal load, in order to demonstrate the validity of the solution under extreme load conditions over the entire useful life of the axle.
The variable gauge axle switcher developed by the Azvi-Tria Joint Venture is already installed in the Assembly Base at Gineta in Albacete, where the axles have already undergone over 100 gauge switches, testing that the switcher and the axles are functioning correctly.
The 500 gauge switches required by the ETH will be carried out in March and April and in May the track testing required by the ETH will commence, with two freight coaches at maximum load, one MMC3 intermodal freight container coach and one auto train, both with variable gauges for freight adapted for two types of wheel: 920 mm and 760 mm.
The two phases will cover 100,000 kms, both at national gauge (1,668 mm) and at international gauge (1,435mm), and at least 50 gauge switches to maximum load and maximum permitted speed.
Once the 100,000 km are done, commercial service will be permitted and the major issue currently faced with the changing of track gauge, particularly in Spain and France, and the widespread use of large cross-border train axles, will be resolved.