Wednesday 12 April 2023

UIC and KTMB held the first Asia Pacific online workshop on Challenges for Metre Gauge Operations, 20 March 2023

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The long-awaited UIC Asia Pacific online workshop on Challenges for Metre Gauge Operations was finally held on 20 March 2023. Co-organised by UIC Asia Pacific and UIC Malaysian member KTMB, it provided the occasion to introduce an important subject concerning many countries and UIC members, not only in Asia Pacific, but across the world.

The Asia Pacific Region has the world’s largest railway network, and it also hosts various track gauges on a large scale, from broad to standard to metre gauge. Many railway operators face gauge changes within their own network or at border crossings with their neighbours, for example when travelling from Kazakhstan or Mongolia to China (1,520 mm/1,435 mm) as well as within Australia (1,600 mm/1,435 mm/1,000 mm/1,067 mm). The ASEAN Sub-Region alone has about 80% of its railway network made of metre-gauge type lines (1,000 mm and 1,067 mm), and there is a real need to establish specific standards related to the metre system and the 1,000 mm/1,435 mm gauge changeover system. India and the subcontinent, as well as Australia, have both 1,000 mm and 1,067 mm (3’6”) gauges.

After various discussions held over recent years between UIC Asia Pacific members, as well as other operators and railway entities, this inaugural event was set up with a view to introduce a project to create a dedicated Working Group on these issues, in order to help reinforce/establish clear guidelines for metre-gauge standards and break of gauge in general.

Various experiences were shared during the session, and up to 110 connected participants were recorded, from 22 countries (17 in Asia and the Middle East and 5 in Europe), ranging from Japan and Turkey to Poland and the Philippines. 18 UIC member entities and 3 UIC institutional partners also attended the event.

It also went beyond the simple debate of metre versus standard gauge, with presentations related to the issue of broad versus standard gauge.

Jointly moderated by Ms Anizah Wahab, HR & Administration Manager, Signalling & Communication Department, KTMB, and Mr Milko Papazoff, UIC ASEAN Representative, the workshop was officially opened by Mr Nizam Amin, CTO, KTMB, and Mr Vincent Vu, Asia Pacific Coordinator.

It was followed by six presentations from:

  • Mr Milko Papazoff, UIC ASEAN, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:
    “Introduction to the Working Group on Metre Gauge Standards and Development of AGCS (Automatic Gauge Changeover System) for APRA”. Purpose of this WG (sharing experience and best practices), European example of AGCS, UIC standards, and development of new standards.
  • Mr Nguyen Quy Duong, VNR, Hanoi, Vietnam:
    “Operational experience of dual-gauge track by Vietnam Railways”. Dual-gauge railway lines of Hanoi-Dong Dang: typical characteristics and difficulties encountered (in operation (freight and passenger trains) and maintenance for tracks and rolling stocks), and regular needs (detailed and scientific operating procedures).
  • Mr Saibaba Ankala, Indian Railways, New Delhi, India:
    “Challenges in design and construction of dual gauge: a case study”. Example of a cross-border project between India and Bangladesh, including the conversion of metre gauge to dual gauge (1,676 mm and 1,000 mm) between Parbatipur and Kaunia. Options of straight conversion and construction of parallel dual-gauge lines. Review of track and bridge structures. Proposed new standards.
  • Mr Yerzhan Araltay, KTZ, Astana, Kazakhstan:
    “Technical compatibility of 1,520 mm and 1,435 mm gauge at railway junction points” (on behalf of Mr Batyr Kotyrev, Chief Engineer, KTZ). Case of border crossing between Kazakhstan and China (Dostyk and Altynkol stations). Compatibility problems of automatic coupling devices of China Railways and KTZ. Interest in developing new solutions for freight transport.
  • Dato’ Dzulfadly Abdullah, DS Rail Mobility, Seremban, Malaysia:
    “Conversion of standard-gauge axle”. Development and local manufacturing of shunting locomotives. Wheel gauge conversion procedures (1,000 mm to 1,435 mm – axle, wheels, brake mounting, brake piping systems).
  • Mr Sandeep Jain, UNESCAP, Bangkok, Thailand:
    “Break of gauge: corridors and policies in place across Trans-Asian Railway (T.A.R.) network”. Growing needs of intra- and inter-regional trade and transport, essential role of T.A.R. corridors, related to 28 countries. Intergovernmental agreements, across the whole Asian continent, and regional co-operation framework for the facilitation of international railway transport (border crossing, technical interoperability and change of gauge). Cost issues, needs of international partnerships.

The session concluded with a poll (questionnaire) for the participants, covering the main issues and concerns they may have regarding break of gauge. The first one was related to rolling stock (narrow body, stability vs vibration), followed by limitations in operation (speed vs tighter curves, vicinity of houses, etc.). About 35 participants gave their opinion.

The next step is to officially implement the proposed Working Group project which was formally approved at the UIC Asia-Pacific Regional Assembly in 2021.

For further information, please contact Milko Papazoff, UIC ASEAN Representative:

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