Austrak, Laing O’Rourke and USQ join forces

Posted on 31 Oct 2018 and read 434 times
Austrak, Laing O’Rourke and USQ join forcesAustrak (, Laing O’Rourke ( and the University of Southern Queensland (USQ) ( have joined forces to develop polymer composite solutions for ‘bridge transoms’ in a US$10 million project titled Polymer Composite Transoms for Rail Bridge Deck Replacement.

The consortium secured a US$3 million grant from the Australian Government Co-operative Research Centre Projects
initiative, which aims to increase innovation and develop new technologies for industries in Australia.

The fibre-reinforced polymer composites will replace traditional timber bridge transoms, which are subject to warping and rotting, proving costly and disruptive due to constant repair.

Moreover, Australia has the sixth-largest rail network in the world, and it is estimated that nearly 90% of the existing transoms will need replacing in the next 10 years — including those on the rail deck of the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Rail sleeper and timber transom replacement is a global industry worth over US$1.3 billion per year, and it is projected that Australian rail-track ‘asset owners’ will move in the next five years from a traditional timber-based system (with a limited lifespan of 15 years) to that of an engineered composites system (with a lifespan of 50 years).

The project will build on existing research at USQ’s Centre for Future Materials, to commercialise materials and manufacturing technologies where it has been proved that using polymer composites results in sleeper/transom technology that requires “significantly less volume of material, while complying with all strength and stiffness requirements of a railway system”.

The USQ’s Peter Schubel said the research partnership is a successful collaboration that will bring a step-change technology to an otherwise conservative sector.

“A major gap in the rail industry market was identified, leading to numerous research activities for a cost-effective, robust and sustainable technology.

"For the past 20 years, USQ has put significant research effort into developing innovative sleeper and transom technologies based on polymer composite materials, so it is extremely rewarding to see the culmination of this work formulate the design and manufacturing of this new technology.”

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