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SYSTRA Oversees Implementation of World-First Ballastless Track at Marseille-Fos Port

SYSTRA Oversees Implementation of World-First Ballastless Track at Marseille-Fos Port
photo: SYSTRA/SYSTRA Oversees Implementation of World-First Ballastless Track at Marseille-Fos Port
09 / 10 / 2023

SYSTRA, a global engineering and consultancy group specializing in public transport and mobility solutions, has supervised the implementation of an innovative ballastless track design on the rail network of the Port of Marseille-Fos. This 20-meter-long experimental track, a world first, is now open to rail traffic within the port's right-of-way.

A ballastless track solution tailored to the needs of the Port of Marseille-Fos

Rail innovation is at the heart of the port's modal shift strategy. The number of containers transported by rail has increased by 200% in 10 years, rising to 230,000 by 2022. As part of its role as infrastructure manager, the Port wishes to develop and improve its rail network (excluding the national rail network), in particular that of the Fos-sur-Mer docks. In order to meet the environmental challenges and face up to the increasing costs of maintaining the railway tracks and the limits of current track-laying techniques, the Port has chosen to rely on innovative processes to regenerate its tracks.

An innovative track solution

SYSTRA and STRADAL have designed and patented a new track system on a concrete slab to enable the regeneration and construction of railway lines. This French technology, presented in Berlin at InnoTrans 2022, differs from conventional ballasted track in that its components are interchangeable. These can be laid quickly, offer greater strength and durability, thanks especially to the use of low-carbon concrete, and require less maintenance. This design is for all railway lines, including high-speed lines, whether for passenger transport (High-speed/Regional express trains/Intercity/Metro) or freight transport.

In addition, the track geometry adjustment system integrated into the structure can compensate for platform settlements of up to 100mm in height. Other ballastless track technologies do not have this advantage.

A sustainable solution

The solution is resilient to climatic risks and respects the environment. It is the only ballastless track designed with an entirely prefabricated low-carbon reinforced concrete structure. What's more, the 10-centimetre rise in the level of the track above the roadbed allows water to run off the surface in the event of flooding, limits silting up of the tracks and allows small animals to pass through, making it a real sustainable solution for protected species. Finally, the design has the same permeability as a ballasted track, which avoids the need to resize existing hydraulic structures in the case of regeneration projects.

Easy and economical to lay, with significantly reduced maintenance

The installation of this design does not require the use of sealants and can be laid using existing tracklaying equipment, thereby optimizing the laying schedule and reducing energy consumption. Compared with the ballasted track, maintenance is considerably reduced and is also non-invasive thanks to the fact that heavy maintenance equipment is not used, which guarantees operators a high level of track availability. In addition, the condition of the track can be monitored by sensors and connected objects.

Hervé Martel, Chairman of the Executive Board of Port de Marseille Fos, said, "We are delighted that the port is welcoming a major global innovation in ballastless track on our rail network. With almost 200% growth in the modal shift to rail over the last 10 years, we have proved that we actively support the development of alternative modes of transport to the road. For our clients, this means even faster and safer access to a corridor of 20 million inhabitants over more than 600km, covering 4 French regions.”

Source: SYSTRA