CZ/SK verze

Winter's Approach: What Does Railway Track Maintenance Entail?

Winter's Approach: What Does Railway Track Maintenance Entail?
photo: ÖBB / Public domain/ÖBB
31 / 12 / 2023

For the safe operation of trains and the transportation of people and goods, all railway tracks must be in good condition. But how is track maintenance managed during snow showers?

What does winter maintenance of the tracks involve?

The approaching winter season is often marked by snowy landscapes in the mountains. What responsibilities does the railway have during winter maintenance? The primary task of the Railway Administration is to ensure uninterrupted traffic flow, which includes clearing snow from switches and switch heads during snowfall. A vital part of winter maintenance is also the removal of snowdrifts on the broad-gauge tracks using snow plows or snow blowers. Railways are responsible for clearing snow and ice from platforms and applying anti-slip treatments.

Winter maintenance work extends to clearing snow from access roads to platforms and workplaces. This includes care for parking lots that are part of ŽSR or SŽ property. Railways also clean crossing gutters and the structure of crossings, removing snow accumulated from road vehicles. They ensure the removal of snow and ice from overhead power lines and from buildings to prevent static disturbances.

ÖBB / Public domain

The state has long neglected the maintenance of railway infrastructure. Although rail transport is the most environmentally friendly mode, it has not yet been prioritized over road transport.

A survey conducted three years ago in Slovakia revealed that up to 30% of the tracks do not meet the required standards in terms of geometric positioning. All tracks are regularly inspected, and if operational values are exceeded, temporary speed restrictions are imposed. "The overall condition of the railway track infrastructure is such that new defects are emerging, necessitating the introduction of new restrictions, even as ongoing maintenance removes existing speed limitations," stated ŽSR spokeswoman Feik Achbergerová.

Experts indicate that two-thirds of the main lines in Slovakia are older than 28 years. Additionally, a fifth of the tunnels are in disrepair and require immediate maintenance or reconstruction. The technical condition of bridges on railway lines is continuously deteriorating, mainly due to lack of funding. Modernization would improve the technical condition of the track sections, as well as traffic flow and safety.