Railway applications

Arguably, passenger safety is the foremost consideration when designing passenger railcars. Thankfully, serious collisions are very infrequent these days, but higher operating speeds increase the likelihood of injury when they do occur.

Many railcar operators have chosen to construct carriages from austenitic stainless steel, in preference to alternative materials such as carbon steel and aluminium alloys, and this choice carries several safety-related benefits:

  • high energy-absorption at impact
  • a greater level of fire-resistance
  • less likely than carbon steel to be weakened by corrosion.

It is important, however, to recognise that increased passenger safety does not have to carry a cost penalty.  Although stainless steel is inherently more expensive than some competing materials, its strength and corrosion-resistance enable thinner sections and panels to be used, which makes it more cost-competitive.  In some cases, operators may choose to leave all or part of the carriages unpainted, which offers further savings in cost and weight. 

A further attraction of lighter railcars is their impact on operating costs. Significant energy savings, especially on “commuter” and “metro” routes, result from overall weight savings.

In some cases, stainless steels such as the ferritic 12% Chromium types, have even been employed for the rail transportation of freight where they directly compete with carbon steels.

In this section, further details can be found of the experience gained from stainless steel passenger and freight railcars over many decades, and of their relative performance in terms of safety and economics.

Railcars in stainless steel – a sustainable solution for sustainable public transport

Utilising stainless steel to create railcars increases the sustainability profile of the rail industry. Its durability and minimal maintenance requirements make stainless a good choice economically. Energy saving lightweight designs, a high level of recycled content and 100% recyclability at-the-end of life are the cornerstones of stainless steel’s environmental profile. Add the bright contemporary finish of stainless steel and the sustainability profile of the rail industry is further strengthened. Stainless steel in railcars is a good example of how the social, economic and environmental factors of material selection interact to make a technical solution sustainable.

This brochure is available in English and Chinese [clicking on the language will open the pdf]

The case studies from different countries are also available separately: Switzerland, Germany, Spain, Japan and India

Stainless steel applications – railways

A short description of the various grades of stainless steel used in railway applications.

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A review in design and manufacturing of stainless steel sandwich panels

The demand for bigger, faster and lighter moving vehicles, such as ships, trains, trucks and buses has increased the importance of efficient structural arrangements. In principle two approaches exist to develop efficient structures: either application of new materials or the use of new structural design.
Source: Stainless Steel World

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