World’s heaviest haul railway: FMG
Celebrating its 1000th rail journey in May since trains first started running in April last years, Fortescue Metals Group’s (FMG) rail line is the heaviest haul railway in the world and was recently showcased at the International Heavy Haul Association conference in Shanghai.
Fortescue Chief Executive Officer Andrew Forrest aboard the first train loaded with iron ore
By Jennifer Perry
The railway’s 40 tonne axle load even beats the capacity of neighbouring iron ore heavyweights BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto.
The railway runs a distance of 256 kilometres from Port Hedland to the company’s flagship Cloudbreak mine, with trains taking less than 20 hours to cycle from one end of the system back to its start point.
FMG managed to overcome the challenges of cyclone George, accommodation shortages, lack of suitable formation capping material and an overheated construction market to construct the railway in just nine months, going on to achieve a 35mtpa rate of operation within 12 months of start up.
The rail line now has a current capacity of 55mtpa (with no addition to rolling stock), with a record 728,000 tonnes of ore railed over a seven-day period in the last quarter.
FMG’s general manager rail Peter Thomas told Rail Express that with sidings and rail duplication, the line is readily expandable up to 200 million tonnes per year.
Making an average of 25 train journeys a week, Thomas said that eight million tonnes of ore was railed in the last quarter, with the company’s 1100 trains delivering 26 million tonnes to date.
“Each train carries 31,784 tonnes of ore when we start running at 40 tonne axle loads - at the moment we are bedding the rail track in and [are] running at 38 tonne axle loads [with] each train carrying 30,960 tonnes,” Thomas said.
FMG uses locomotives manufactured by GE that have been modified for Pilbara conditions and 976 of the world’s heaviest haul ore cars that were manufactured by CYR.
The 2.6 kilometre-long trains travel at speeds up to 80 kilometres per hour and an electronically controlled pneumatic (ECP) braking system substantially reduces the time and distance it takes trains to come to a stop: a loaded train takes 760 metres and an empty train 486 metres.
“Each train has two head locos [with 240 cars behind them] and two bankers (that help the trains to get out of the mines), Thomas said.
“The banker travels from Cloudbreak to the 190 kilometre mark...and then detach.”
So far the system has had no serious track problems, though Thomas said FMG have had issues with knuckles breaking.
“This has now been fixed by replacing all the knuckles with better and improved cased knuckles,” he said.
The railway also uses remote train control that is based in Perth, which Thomas said was done primarily to ensure that the company had a good pool of train controllers to draw from.
“There is absolutely no reason that train control needs to be near the railway, in fact, the radio voice clarity is improved in our purpose-built train control room in Perth,” he said.
While Rio Tinto is reportedly aiming to make its trains driverless and FMG watching “very closely” what Rio Tinto are doing, Thomas was adamant that this is not the case for FMG.
“We will enhance on-train systems to improve driving behaviour but will always have a driver on the train,” he said.
FMG’s train unloaders can unload two cars every 90 seconds, one train in around one and a half hours and 11,000 tonnes of ore per hour.
Source: Rail Express – www.railexpress.com.au