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Harsco delivers benchmark for European market

Harsco Rail Europe hands over maintenance vehicles for the Gotthard Base Tunnel to Swiss national rail service Schweizerische Bundesbahn SBB

In total, Harsco Rail Europe will deliver 31 highly specialised and innovative rail vehicles for the maintenance of the Gotthard Base Tunnel to the Swiss national rail service Schweizerische Bundesbahn SBB. The American market leader successfully won the contract for this order in 2013. Delivering best in class track maintenance solutions, the handover of these vehicles is a key milestone for Harsco Rail Europe and its highly trained and specialist engineers.

On 15 December 2017, Harsco Rail handed over the first six of a total of thirteen base vehicles constructed especially for the challenging maintenance work in the Gotthard Base Tunnel, the world’s longest railway tunnel, marking the occasion with an official ceremony. The vehicles, which weigh 80 tonnes each, use “green technology” and can be powered by electricity only or a combination of diesel and electric power. The featured equipment is also unique. Besides a crane, the so-called base vehicles are also equipped with an air-conditioned personnel module that includes a kitchenette and a combustion toilet. The base vehicles can be operated not only from the driver’s cab but also via remote control. The unusual aspect: The locomotives can even be controlled from other wagons.

Besides the base vehicles, the company is also supplying some additional module flat wagons which can all be coupled with the aid of an automatic wagon coupling system to form maintenance trains that are three to four hundred metres long. Beneath the wagons are not only the largest lifting platforms in Switzerland but also the unique mobile sealing gate (MET). This gate can seal the tunnel for maintenance work to prevent wind turbulence.

For Andreas Göbbels, who heads the Harsco Rail Europe maintenance vehicles for the Gotthard Base Tunnel project, the vehicles are not only “an impressive entry into the European market”, but also the “industry-wide proof that it is possible to construct such complex vehicles.” He explains that Harsco Rail developed solutions with ground-breaking multifunctional features in collaboration with the customer SBB. As this was not a one-off but instead a “large-scale order”, their construction was quite a challenge, according to Göbbels. He says that is why Harsco Rail is particularly proud of the fact that it managed to realise this technically complex large-scale order.

At the handover ceremony, the six base vehicles that were delivered on 15 December were named after the communities of Erstfeld, Wassen, Airolo, Ambri-Piotta, Giornico and Biasca, which are all located along the old north-south route across the Gotthard.

Harsco Rail Europe GmbH is a subsidiary of Harsco Corporation, a group of American companies with 100 years of experience and leading in the development and construction of rail vehicles. Alongside track construction and maintenance vehicles, the company’s product portfolio includes after-sales services such as training courses, spare parts, vehicle servicing, and vehicle refurbishments. Harsco Rail also develops its own vehicle monitoring and control systems as well as numerous products in the area of alert and safety technology.