05 August 2019
Railway sleepers made from recycled plastic have been installed on Victoria’s regional train network for the very first time.
The sleepers were installed on July 23 near Wyndham Vale train station, in a brand new storage yard for regional trains.
The recycled sleepers are an innovative replacement for V/Line's current concrete sleepers.
V/Line trains are heavier and tend to run faster than metro trains, so they need incredibly sturdy sleepers. Concrete has always been the most reliable option – until now. Thorough testing shows the recycled plastic sleepers won’t melt, crack or flake off under pressure. They won’t leach into the environment and are much less carbon intensive to make.
For every kilometre installed, the sleepers use 64 tonnes of plastic waste that would've otherwise gone to landfill.
This is the second major milestone in as many months for the recycled plastic sleepers, which were installed for the first time on the Metro Trains network at Richmond Train Station in June.
Made from a mix of polystyrene and agricultural plastic waste, the recycled sleepers are an environmental alternative. Making concrete requires intensive resources and causes higher levels of carbon emissions.
The recycled plastic sleepers last up to 50 years with less maintenance during that time. This means fewer closures for maintenance on V/Line services.
Developed and tested for more than two years by Monash Institute of Railway Technology and Integrated Recycling, we helped fund the project through our Research, Development and Demonstration grants and Resource Recovery Infrastructure Fund.
The sleepers can be recycled once it's time to replace them – a great example of how a circular economy can work.