top-stories sweden

Reinventing Rail: Luleå University's Innovative Testing for Malmbanan's Bridge Capacity

Full-scale trough bridge in Luleå University of Technology's laboratory. Photo: Tomas Bergman.

Researchers at Luleå University of Technology, in a groundbreaking collaboration with Trafikverket, are undertaking a pivotal project to test the load-bearing capacity of bridges along the Iron Ore Line (Malmbanan), Sweden's most heavily trafficked railway. The initiative is part of plans to increase the permitted axle load for trains on the 500 km long Malmbanan, a crucial artery for transporting ore from northern mining towns to European ports.

The university's laboratory is hosting a unique full-scale trough bridge test program, a first of its kind in Sweden. Lars-Olof Andersson, Section Manager for Construction Maintenance at Trafikverket, highlights the importance of this test for gaining insights into bridge loading capacities and planning maintenance. The experiments, spanning approximately three months, will apply both static and dynamic loads to the bridge, mimicking half a century's worth of traffic on Malmbanan. Advanced monitoring sensors strategically placed on the bridge will track various parameters like forces, strains, and displacements.

Gabriel Sas, Professor and Head of Subject in Structural Engineering at Luleå University, emphasizes the project's objectives: reducing structural uncertainties, identifying critical sections, and determining the final load-bearing capacities of the trough bridges. The research will provide invaluable data to calibrate analytical, numerical, and computer models, predicting the capacity and service life of existing bridges on Malmbanan. This will ensure the bridges' readiness for increased loads.

Trough bridges, making up about 50% of Malmbanan's bridges, are a focal point of this study. This research, initiated two years ago in collaboration with Trafikverket and LKAB, holds significant environmental and economic potential. By accurately determining and potentially increasing the load capacity, existing bridges can be preserved and strengthened, reducing the need for replacements. This approach promises substantial savings in costs, carbon dioxide emissions, and environmental impact.

Luleå University of Technology's research project represents a significant stride in railway infrastructure innovation. By enhancing the load-bearing capacity of Malmbanan's bridges, it not only supports Sweden's crucial ore transportation but also sets a precedent for sustainable infrastructure management and environmental stewardship.

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